Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
Culture: Jamaican
Setting: Rastafarianism, Jamaican diaspora from mid-20thc 

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Blackburn 1979 p164
"The Rastafarian movement began during the Depression of the 1930s, a time when people felt most severely the pain of their servitude and when they were most in need of some hope of salvation.  To escape persecution by the Jamaican Government authorities a group of between 500 and 1,600 Rastafarians went to live in a commune in the hills behind Kingston.  It was there during the 1940s and early 1950s that the characteristics of the movement were established.  The Rastamen grew their hair long in imitation of the Ethiopian warriors. They cultivated their own crops and lived according to strict codes of diet, cleanliness and dress.  It was during this time that marijuana -- ganja, the Herb -- was cultivated widely and used in all the rituals of meditation.
    "In 1954 the commune was destroyed by the police and a race of wild-looking, religious ascetics came down into the city slums of Kingston.  They established themselves in an area known as Shanty Town and started a new sort of ghetto life, denying any allegiance to the white authorities and living on the edge of utter poverty.  They gathered an ever increasing number of converts; and in spite of attempts to suppress it, the movement survived and grew so that when Jamaica gained independence in 1962 Rastafarianism had become the movement of all the urban poor."

* Polhemus 1994 p78-79
"As 'Rasta Style' grew in popularity, a split developed between 'true Rastafarians', for whom appearance was only an outward expression of deeply held beliefs, and 'false Rastas', who liked the look but had only a superficial involvement in terms of beliefs and values.
    "But this tendency on the part of some young blacks to treat Rastafarianism as 'just a fashion' was nothing compared to what would happen in the 1980s when many of London's trendy white kids (including Boy George) began to sport (usually) artificial dreadlocks.  On Boy George's part this may have been a genuine attempt to advance the ideal of the world as a 'Culture Club' embracing all races and beliefs, but its effect was to take a style which had originally served as a visual expression of religious belief and remove from it all meaning except 'I'm trendy'.  In Babylon, the true is made false, the symbolic is made arbitrary and the authentic is made into fashion."


* Polhemus 1994 p76-78
"By the early 1970s a substantial number of West Indians were demonstrating their Rastafarian beliefs by wearing belts, hats, 'tams' (knitted caps), epaulettes, badges, scarves, wristbands and T-shirts made in the sacred colours of the Ethiopian flag -- red, gold and green.  From the Rastafarian's desire to live in harmony with nature came an emphasis on garments made from natural fabrics and, also, a distinctive hairstyle -- dreadlocks -- which required no artificial products for its creation or maintenance.  The international success of Bob Marley and other Jamaican reggae musicians served to make both the colours and the long 'locks' synonymous with Rastafarian beliefs.
    "Jamaica's Rastafarian population was swollen in the early 1970s by the addition of a high proportion of Kingston's Rude Boys, who aligned themselves with the Rastafarian cause, giving up their two-tone suits in shimmering electric and midnight blues in favour of the looser, more casual Rastafarian style.  In Britain, as in Jamaica, the dreadlocked Rastafarian in a huge 'tam' and often wearing army surplus clothing (in sympathy with Rastafarian Cuban 'Freedom Fighters' in Angola) became a common sight."

* Surfers soulies skinheads & skaters 1996
"During the 1970s the mainstays of the Rasta's wardrobe was [SIC] army surplus clothes, combined with garments in the distinctive colours of the Ethiopian flag.  Green represents 'the rich luxuriant land that is Africa'; gold 'the wealth of the land'; and red 'the one and only true church' (Horace Campbell).  Natural fibres were favoured in accordance with environmental and religious beliefs."​