Jamaican Culture Clothing

Updated April 17, 2017

Culture and clothing in Jamaica are irrevocably intertwined in the nation's rich diversity. Traditional dress represents the types of people who have lived in the region through the past few hundreds of years, as well as references to Africa, which is the original homeland to many of Jamaica's current inhabitants.

Traditional Dress

Jamaica's tropical climate dictates clothing choices and pieces are typically made with lightweight cottons and linens and with short sleeves or no sleeves at all. The traditional dress is a fusion of cultures and nations. Women's traditional dress includes a handmade top, tiered skirt and head scarf. These are generally made of calico, which is a type of printed cotton cloth with a stripe or plaid-like pattern. Men's traditional dress is not as well defined but typically includes light-coloured trousers, a cotton or linen shirt and occasionally a bandanna.

Western Influence

Great Britain, which previously colonised Jamaica, and the United States have had an immense impact on Jamaican dress through globalisation. Jamaican malls are now filled with jerseys, sweatshirts, flip-flops and baseball caps, so tourists can wear the same type of clothing they wear at home and still fit in. In fact, a trip to the beach will likely find people in swimwear, shorts and sandals in the same styles that would be worn on coastlines of the United States or Great Britain.

Rastafarianism and Reggae

Rastafarian-inspired clothing is generally red, green and gold, which are the colours of the Ethiopian flag. It is made from natural fibres such as wool, hemp and cotton. One of the most popular items is the "tam," which is a knit hat that is worn over dreadlocks, but you can also find references to Rastafarianism in T-shirts, swimwear, vests and bags. The Rastafarian-type clothing also coincides with the reggae music culture, so the styles and colours of the clothing are popular with both singers and listeners.

Relationship to Art

Craft works, paintings and music are mainstays of Jamaican culture and fashion deeply reflects these media. Crocheting, bead work and reprints of the nation's most famous paintings appear on clothing and accessories in vibrant colours. The most prominent examples are the prints of paintings of Bob Marley, a famous Jamaican Rastafarian and reggae singer, which are popular on T-shirts. Beading is prevalent in jewellery, while you can find examples of crocheting on everything from bags to hats.


Jamaica's carefree island attitude can be found in its comfortable and easy-to-wear clothing. The bold and vivid colours used in fabrics and accessories is an extension of the people's vibrant dispositions. Women's dresses are particularly bright and colourful. Beachwear is a significant part of Jamaican clothing, an extension of the fact that basking in the sun and swimming in the ocean waters are popular pastimes.

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About the Author

Misty Witenberg has been a magazine and freelance writer (including "Shape," "Fit Pregnancy," "Natural Health" and "Mom & Baby") since 2004. Her experience is in fashion, beauty, travel, fitness and culture writing.