The Caribbean island nation of Jamaica is known for a vibrant blend of cultures that has been formed over hundreds of years by the people that have inhabited and visited this tropical locale. The beautiful setting coupled with the laid-back style and carefree spirit of this country make it a popular tourist destination. Many aspects of this rich culture are translated into the vibrant and colorful traditional clothing. Modern dress in Jamaica is a fusion of the traditional Jamaican style combined with modern styles from Western cultures.
Traditional clothing for women in Jamaica consists of a dress or skirt and top which are constructed using calico fabrics. Calico is a lightweight fabric–similar in pattern to plaid–that is made locally in Jamaica, and commonly used in the local fashion. Much of the traditional clothing in Jamaica is made by hand by the local villagers. According to Maps of the World, women generally accompany their outfits with a headscarf which they wrap around their hair to keep their locks off their shoulders. Traditional Jamaican clothing for men consists of trousers, which can be long or short, and a short-sleeved shirt.
Bright infusions of color are an element that is present throughout traditional and modern Jamaican attire. The colors of the fabrics are vibrant and symbolic of the spirit of the Jamaican people and homage to the colorful and beautiful surroundings of this tropical paradise.
The climate has a significant effect on clothing trends in Jamaica because the weather is consistently warm and humid throughout most of the year. The central theme of traditional Jamaican clothing is that it is lightweight and breathable. The warm climate is the main reason that Jamaican clothing tends towards light and airy fabrics like cotton and linen. According to the Jamaica Guide, synthetic fabrics are generally avoided in traditional Jamaican garb. Because the mentality on this island is traditionally laid-back, comfort is the main goal of Jamaican clothing.
In spite of the heat, the traditional Jamaican clothing adheres to a strong sense of propriety that was instilled by the English influence from Jamaica’s time as a British colony. According to Jamaica Guide, most traditional styles worn by the conservative island people are modest and do not show much skin. The modern trend towards westernization is causing Jamaican fashion to stray from its conservative roots, but traditionalism remains an important aspect of the clothing.
In addition to British and Western influences mentioned, Rastafarian culture has become an influential style in Jamaica. This laid-back African inspired style incorporates colors such as red, green and gold (the colors of the Ethiopian flag) into its casual clothing styles. The items are crafted using natural fibers, much like the traditional Jamaican clothing, and are popular among locals and tourists. Possibly the most recognizable element of the Rastafarian style is the knitted hat known as a “tam” which is often worn over dreadlocks, a popular hairstyle in the region.