Jamaican Culture

The fashion industry is one which is evident in all areas in the world. In Jamaica, for instance, modern day fashion is encompassed within the ordinary dress code of people all over the country. Most of the clothes worn by people in Jamaica reflect a significant part of their cultural and religious beliefs.

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However, this fashion sense grows from their connection with one fashionably renowned African country, Ghana. Fashion design and contemporary wear in Jamaica is closely related to the African roots from which most of the inhabitants of Jamaica originate. Consequently, Jamaican culture and fashion are intimately connected to Ghanaian style and fabric utilization.Ghanaian fashion is a significant contributor to the daily dress code of the Jamaican public. Most studies of the history of Afro-American people in Jamaica suggest that they originated from Ghana.

Therefore, most of the traditions such as the use of colorful and African patterned fabric in Jamaica is closely associated with the Ghanaian roots. Ghanaian fashion encompasses a curiously similar system of fabric use that synchronizes it to Jamaican style. For instance, Kente, the cotton derived fabric used in most of the clothing designed in Ghana, is closely similar to the cotton fabrics used in Jamaica. Considering that most of the people in Ghana are black and they originated from Africa, a conclusion that the fashion industry in Jamaica is related to the Ghanaian one becomes apparent. Similarly, the Jamaican fashion industry derives some of its components from the roots in Ghana. The apparels designed in most of the Jamaican tailor shops and fashion hubs reflects a sort of African inspired design.

The fabrics used are often fashioned into a combination of a skirt and top or a dress for the ladies. For the gentlemen, the fashioning of pants and a shirt with short sleeves comprises of their fashion statement. The most evident trait in these designs is that they both encompass the use of short sleeves as opposed to the long-sleeved official wear in other fashion industries. Similarly, the designs are made loose fitting as opposed to entirely fitting. This trait originates from the Ghanaian people both in their homeland and the ones who were transported to Jamaica. Therefore, Ghanaian fashion in Jamaica is a conglomerate of the ideas passed along by the Ghanaian people in Jamaica and the fashion trends they came with to Jamaica (Newman et al. 2013).

Jamaican culture is peppered with several essential attributes from Ghana. The history of Ghanaian culture and fashion and Jamaican fashion is extensive because it began in the times of slavery. The Akan people of the West African region were first brought to the shores of Jamaica by the slave traders (Black 2014). They were then sold to the sugar cane owners in Jamaica, most of them rich white people. The Maroons, as they were labeled back then, served and slaved in the fields of these sugarcane planters for a long while (Reeder 2017). However, with the transfer of humanity came the transfer of culture. The slaves who were brought into Jamaica came with their cultural dress patterns, their food, beverages and cultural economies which they implanted efficiently in the new residence.

The fashion industry in Jamaica back then and more so today, benefitted immensely from this cultural transfer. Jamaica, before the slavery days, had a consistent yet inconsequential fashion industry. The cultural attire encompassed red-dyed clothing which was sewn into one complete dress. This fashion trend is, however, a thing of the past today. The traditional attire for men and women is intricately connected to the influx of the Ghanaian slaves. Considering that about 90 percent of Jamaica’s people are black, most of whom are the slaves, the fashion industry in Jamaica reflects the cultural unloading from the slaves. The most apparent evidence of this fact is the material used in the apparels worn in Jamaica and the design on these clothes.

The design of clothes in Jamaica and the Ghanaian fashion industry is often nearly identical. The black Jamaican community wears loosely fitting entirely covering garments that are made of a breathable cotton fabric (Snodgrass 2015). This material, calico, is locally produced and is cotton derived from fitting the designs which the people wear. This style and choice of fabric are identical to the fashion seen in Ghana thereby confirming that the trend In Jamaica is closely related to that in Jamaica.

Similarly, the current trends in Jamaican fashion symbolize the affectations of Ghanaian traditions and designs (Taylor et al. 2014). The designs that are most popular in Ghana encompass the dress, headscarf and or skirt top and headscarf for the women. These dresses feature African print patterns and vibrant colors such as red, yellow, green and light blue. The men in Ghanaian culture wear loosely made pants and short sleeved shirts as most of their attire. In recent times this fashion trend has been noted as very similar to the one in Jamaica. Most of the Jamaican men also wear pants and loosely fitting shirts while the women wear loose fitting tops and skirts or dresses matched with a headscarf (Quick 2017).

Headgear, as noted in Jamaica, is a critical part of the attire. Men in Jamaica often have dreadlocks, a symbol of their Rastafarian religious beliefs. Consequently, they wear an encompassing hat which is usually made of cotton and which bears colors associated with Rastafarianism. Another similarity between the Jamaican men apparels and those from Ghana is that they all wear even toned colors primary hues and relatively simplistic designs. The women in Jamaica wear headscarves which often match with their dresses and or skirts and tops. This scenario is replicated in Ghanaian fashion as men usually wear matching kente hats and women wear matching headscarves as an everyday apparel. The transfer of fashion through the slave trade scenario has led to the rising of essential fashion icons in Jamaican fashion industry.

The earlier fashion depictions in Jamaica depended solely on the intricacies of the culture brought by the slaves. However, original fashion designers like Courtney Washington and Jami Lake have shown that fashion in Jamaica is made up of history in current trends. Jami and Courtney are both renowned Jamaican born fashion designers who delve into creating artistic designs for women. These designs, as displayed on various essential fashion shows such as the New York Fashion Week, are an intricate display of the amalgamation of African inspired modern day design. Courtney Washington is a Jamaican born New York-based fashion icon and design guru. Washington, an inspiring young man, designs women apparel for several essential fashion brands (Cleaner 2017).

However, regardless of the fact that his designs project international standards, Washington’s work leans more towards the Ghanaian inspired colorfulness and the full body dresses that are characteristic of Ghana. The apparels that Courtney presented in recent events displayed a mesh of color, subtlety, and flamboyance. However, one common trait stands out from the works of Washington, color. The utilization of several colors, often clashing, in the dresses that Washington presented in the New York fashion week runway lay claim to the Ghanaian inspired fashion in Jamaica. The fact that most of his designs had the leaning towards red, gold and green also lays claim to his roots thereby confirming the connection between Ghanaian roots and Jamaican fashion.

Jami Lake is a fashion designer and entrepreneur from Kingston Jamaica whose field of specialization is women (Leeds 2015). The 19-year-old designer is known the world over for her flowing apparels, most of which reflect a close attribute to the conventional dressing style of Jamaica. Lake’s designs often encompass the free-flowing dresses which are made out of breathable fabrics. Most of these attires, just like Courtney Washington’s have short sleeves and are low-necked.

Considering that the young lake is from the black community within Jamaica, her apparels can be attributed to the Ghanaian origins. Consequently, the modern day fashion industry in Jamaica reflects not only modernity but also the traditional Ghanaian affiliations which have evolved to what these two designers are making today. The fashion trends in Jamaica have also retained most of the attributed of clothes to wear in Jamaica, loose fitting and conducive for the hot weather experienced in the island nation.

Jamaican fashion, therefore, reflects a close relation to the comprehensive study of Ghanaian fashion trends. The relationship between the current and past fashion industries in Jamaica and the present day fashion trends in Ghana is evident and apparently developing each day. Consequently, by determining the way that fashion is growing in Jamaica one can determine the direction of the fashion industry in Ghana. Secondly, by examining the fashion trends in Jamaica, a clear and precise path of historical change can be determined and applied towards the study of Ghanaian fashion. For example, since the slaves taken from Ghana have effected a change in the fashion design facet of Jamaica, studying the impact of history to the present day fashion in Ghana becomes a matter of importance. Consequently, through learning how style in Jamaica is connected with the historically significant occurrences, one can determine the origins of the Ghanaian fashion trends and the current changes within the same.

Jamaican fashion is a combination of the culture accrued from the Ghanaian slaves and their hosts in that nation. This means that the fashion trends in Jamaica are a combination of not only the original Ghanaian traditional garbs but also the Jamaican cultural aspects that the slaves adopted. For instance, the short sleeved clothing that the Jamaicans wear and the designers depictions of loosely fitting apparel suggest that the traditional Ghanaian attire was changed to suit the prevailing weather conditions in the Caribbean. Further the inclusion of red, gold and yellow colors in the fabrics and the use of calico, a local cotton brand suggests the adoption of Jamaican cultural traits to suit the Ghanaian traditions. Consequently, understanding the beginning of the clothing trends in Jamaica opens up the knowledge available about the historical and cultural significance of the fashion industry to human life.

Annotated bibliography:

Black, S.W., 2014. African American Collection: Jamaican Sugar Plantation” Deed of Covenant.” Western Pennsylvania History: 1918-2016, 97(4).

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