Popular songs trace fashion trends, brands
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Clarks is a shoe brand of choice in Jamaica, especially for men, near mythical for its longevity and all-round sturdiness and imbued with the prestige of coming from England. Not only does the individual shoe keep going and going, but the brand has survived changing dancehall tastes, evidenced by Little John and Vybz Kartel doing hit songs about the brand more than two decades apart.
However, with fashion going hand in hand with dancehall, there have been many other brands and fashion trends which have made it on to record.
So, there was a time when the Clarks on the feet required a particular topping on the head to really bring it off - a Kangol.
The furry styles caught the dancehall imagination in the late 1980s and Professor Nuts recorded the ode to the hat, Kangol A Knock:
"Kangol a knock
Kangol a knock knock knock
Kangol a knock you know a my hat dat
Wha kin' a shoes a wear, no Travel Fox
Wha kin' a hat a wear me soon make oonu know dat ..."
Some of the brands - or their styles - have been met with resistance and even derision. In the late 1990s, with the era of the fire-burning Rastafarians gathering steam, Beenie Man spoke about the blazing reaction to the snug cuts of a legendary designer. In Fire Burn he deejayed:
"Imagine. Yu dress up inna de lates' wear
Put on yuh Versace cause a tight pants deh wear
Yuh come out, yuh hear a Rasta man seh bun dung a queer
Yuh feel like yu waan disappear"
Before that, though, the close-fitting men's pants trend had caught the eye of the writer of Cyaan Believe Me Eye, Bounty Killer deejaying, "Me cyaan believe sey tight pants come een again."
Retro was in the air in the early 2000s. Baby Cham, looking back at childhood and also a snatch of Jamaica's political development in Ghetto Story, and Beenie Man, following shortly after with Trendz, focused on dancehall - fashion included. It was a snapshot of bling highlights over the previous decade.
There have been musical comments about what one should not do to be outfitted in the latest clothing gear, Vegas singing in the late 1990s, "Make me see yu han inna de air/if yu neva bow dung fe no Nike Air", and Vybz Kartel deejaying more recently, "Me nah ride pon Karl b...y fe wear John Paul Gotti." There have been songs about the attraction of a particular style for the men, Buju Banton chortling the delights of extra short shorts in Batty Rider, and then there was Rip Up, a late 1980s dancehall ditty about the trend of slicing one's clothing in strategic places.
No matter the brand, a close fit always gets the men, it seems, as Red Rat deejayed, "Hey you girl inna de tight-up blouse", and Richie Stephens sang about going crazy for ladies who dressed in tight clothes. Black Rat sneered at the fraud brand and Lady G dismissed top brand Versace as something that "me fling dung".
In 2006, deejay Black-er gave the ultimate command to demonstrate one's ownership of the clothes they were wearing - or stupidity - deejaying, "Take off suppen, flig e pon de grung/Step up pon it if yu know a your own."