I spent much of the past two years researching the remarkable story of Clarks shoes in Jamaica for a new book: Clarks in Jamaica.
The book explores how Clarks became part of Jamaican culture, from their arrival in the West Indies a hundred years ago, to their adoption by rudeboys and Rastas in the 1960s, and their subsequent and numerous mentions within reggae and dancehall song lyrics. It tells the story of how producer Junjo Lawes was once paid by his record label, Greensleeves, in a quantity of Clarks shoes, and how badman policeman Joe Williams would beat men just for wearing Clarks (reasoning: they must be a criminal – how else could they afford such expensive shoes?) Much of the content is the result of a trip to I took Jamaica in September 2011 with photographer Mark Read and Pierre Bost of Special Delivery Music. There is also a variety of archival material, much of it previously unpublished, from sources such as the Alfred Gillett Trust Archive (Clarks’ archive in Somerset) and photographers including Beth Lesser, Dave Hendley, Nicketa Thomas, Ryan Lue-Clarke and Tim O’Sullivan.
Clarks advertisement for the Jamaican press, May 1941. © Alfred Gillett Trust Archive
Particular focus is on the Jamaican producers, singers and deejays who have worn and sung about Clarks over the years: Little John, Vybz Kartel, Trinity, Henry “Junjo” Lawes, Junior Reid, Bunny “Striker” Lee, Jah Thomas, Dennis Alcapone, Popcaan, Ossie Thomas, Half Pint, Jah Stitch, Hugh Mundell, Billy Boyo, Michael Prophet and many others.
Jah Thomas wearing Desert Treks, better known in Jamaica as “bank robbers”, New Kingston, September 2011. Photo: Mark Read
The book is available now from YMC (London), Oi Polloi (Manchester), Dub Vendor (London), Opening Ceremony (London/NYC), KK Outlet (London), Miss Lily’s (NYC), Colette (Paris), Commonwealth (Washington DC), Present (London), Good Hood (London), Amazon and all good bookshops. Signed copies of Clarks in Jamaica are available here.