For those living in the UK, Clarks might seem like shoes confined to our shores. Seemingly, it’s a brand built on British-made boots, discerning casual shoes and memories of standing sock-clad on one of those weirdly satisfying foot gauges. It might come as a slight surprise, then, that its true spiritual home (or, at the least, second home) lies four and a half thousand miles west: Jamaica.
Ever since the brand’s Desert Boot kicked its way across to the Rock back in the sixties, it became a symbol of counterculture and city-slicker suaveness, travelling from reggae poster to Kingston’s streets with frenetic pace. According to urban myth, Jamaican police enforcer Joe Williams would raid soundsystem parties and divide rudeboys and do-gooders based on who was wearing Desert Boots (it was those clad in Clarks, if they hadn’t quickly swiped them off, who were noted down as potential transgressors).
Stepping from this nostalgia trip into the present, Clarks have shot a new film in Kingston bigging up this special connection, backed with an all-star cast. Cult footballer Raheem Sterling, Grammy-winner Koffee, roots reggae squad The No-Maddz and UK drill star M1llionz have been shot, styled and sound-engineered by a local crew, all weighing in on what Clarks mean to them.
From musings on their power (‘Especially when a woman wears it, it’s like ‘yehman she’s hardcore’, just not pick her purse right now’) to their extreme versatility (‘If it’s a happy event, if it’s a sad event…there’s a Clarks for every occasion’) it’s an ode to the country’s adoption of Wallabees, Desert Treks and Loafers. To those unaware of the connection, the stories are wild: a 70s ban on foreign-made shoes triggered people to fly them over (locals are still asked to ‘carry down a Clarks’), and over one hundred and fifty dancehall tunes namedrop the brand.
Check out the video below to escape for a hot second with Clarks’ all-star crew, and feel for a brief period of time that your local Kingston is in southeast Jamaica, not southwest London.