It features 21 hardcore reggae tracks recorded between 1978 and 1988, each paying lyrical tribute to the English shoe, and none as a result of product placement.
Al “Fingers” Newman, who wrote the book and put the album together, says… “I’ve always been fascinated by the Jamaican love of Clarks shoes and the way the brand is referenced within reggae and dancehall music. Vybz Kartel’s tune ‘Clarks’ brought the phenomenon to many people’s attention in 2010, but the relationship goes back a lot longer, and I wanted to bring attention to that, highlighting the work of artists such as Dillinger and Little John who sang about Clarks many years before.”
“It could be argued that no country loves a brand more than Jamaica loves Clarks,” he adde.
He said that as a British schoolboy raised on the Clarks children’s range, “I was so glad when I could stop wearing them”, but then, as a reggae fan, “I started hearing Clarks reflected not just in a few tracks but in hundreds”.
The phenomenon is more remarkable given that Clarks withdrew from retailing on the island in 1973 when the left-wing leader Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley imposed a ban on foreign shoe imports in 1973. However, demand for styles such as the desert boot, wallabee, and desert trek (known in Jamaica as the “bank robber”) remained.
Controversial Jamaican artist Vybz Kartel had a huge 2010 hit with the chorus “Everybody haffi ask, where mi get mi Clarks”.
In 2014, Jamaican police’s intellectual property vice squad raided a fake Clarks factory, which had been operating for two years, producing thousands of pairs for retail outlets across the island.
Michael Pao, director of Clarks Originals, said the raids enhanced prospects of the shoe brand officially returning to Jamaica to meet the obvious demand.
“The opportunity is definitely there,” he said.
“It seems every generation of music artist in Jamaica picks up on the desert boot and wallabee and sings their praises. When you hear them speak about what Clarks means to them, you get an understanding of how important it is to their identity.”
The new album is now available on CD/LP from Dub Vendor, Rough Trade, HMV and all good record shops, including digital download.