Shoemaker Clarks is enjoying an unlikely boom after a reggae song about the traditional British brand sent sales soaring – in JAMAICA.
Rapper Vybz Kartel released his single ‘Clarks’ earlier this year with the cover carrying pictures of his favourite shoes – Wallabees, Desert Boots and Desert Treks.
The rap features the catchy chorus line ”Everybody haffi ask weh mi get mi Clarks” and even has lyrics about the Queen wearing them.
Since then sales of the traditional footwear have soared on the Caribbean island, with prices doubling and thieves targeting shops which stock them.
Clarks, made by a 185-year-old family company from Street, Somerset, enjoyed a similar boom in 1997 when Noel and Liam Gallagher began wearing Desert Treks.
Kartel, 34, real name Adijah Palmer, has revealed that Clarks are deeply ingrained in Jamaican culture and added that he has over 50 pairs.
He said: ”Clarks is as much a part of the Jamaican culture as ackee and saltfish and roast breadfruit, I swear to you.
”Policemen wear it, gangsters wear it. Big men wear it to their work.
Schoolchildren wear it to school.
”I personally have more than 50 pair of Clarks. I have more than there are states in America.
”The concept for the song came when Vanessa Bling saw my Clarks. She said, ‘Every day you in a different Clarks, and a badder Clarks. Weh you get so much Clarks from?”
Dancehall and reggae artist Kartel became a big star in his native Kingston, Jamaica, after releasing his song Clarks in March this year.
The track features artists Popcaan and Gaza Slim and the chorus: ”Everybody haffi ask weh mi get mi Clarks/ Di leather hard, di suede soft, toothbrush get out di dust fast.”
Kartel claims that ”di queen fi england haffi love off yardi” and adds:
”clarks mi prefer, clarks with the leather yes clarks with the fur, clarks
fi di summer clarks fi di winter, clarks fi di sun clarks fi di water.”
The song has become so popular that shoe shops in Jamaica have doubled their prices from $6,000 (Jamaican Dollars) to over $10,000 – the equivalent of £78.42.
Police have even arrested two men who stole more than $2million of Clarks shoes from shops in Linstead, Jamaica.
Bob Chugani, proprietor of The Shoe Gallery, told the Jamaica Observer
newspaper: ”I sold out because the youngsters came here and bought them all after the song.
Bhoomika, manager of Manhattan Shoes store in St Andrew, added: ”We have noticed a great up tick in sales. Everybody’s coming here asking for the Clarks shoes because of the song that came out.”
The wave of popularity shows no signs of abating and Kartel has now released follow-up singles titled Clarks Again and Clarks 3 (Wear Weh Yuh Have).
Andre ‘Popcaan’ Sutherland, who appears on the single with Vanessa Bling, described the boom as a ”massive change”.
He said: ”Right now you can’t go less than $10,000 Jamaican for Clarks. It was six or seven grand before the song.
”It’s been a massive change, that. People feel dem haffi have ’em.”
In 1996 Clarks bosses were ready to shut their main factory at Street,
Somerset, with the loss of 400 jobs after sales almost dried up.
But they enjoyed a huge boom the following year when Oasis superstars Liam and Noel Gallagher were photographed wearing Desert Boots.
Thousands of indie fans followed in their footsteps and stars including Massive Attack, Blur, Wu Tang Clan and the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft also wore Clarks.
Since then The Beastie Boys, Patsy Kensit, The Spice Girls, Paul Weller and Jarvis Cocker have been spotted wearing the Desert Trek version of Clarks’ classic boot.
Michael Borge, marketing director for Clarks in North America, confirmed the company has seen increased demand in Jamaica in recent months.
However, an ”upswing in the Originals business overall” makes it difficult to quantify the song’s exact effect.
Clarkes UK spokeswoman Gemma Merchant added: ”The company has seen increased interest and demand in particular areas of the UK shortly after the song became big in America.”
The popularity of Clarks is also rising in the Britain as Kartel’s song is
regularly played on black music station BBC 1Xtra by DJ Robbo Ranx.
He explained how the Jamaican love affair with Clarks dates back to the 1940s, but the recent success of Kartel’s song has revived the brand.
He said: ”The generation who had emigrated to England to work after World War II would return home to Jamaica wearing these Clarks and people developed a fascination for them.
”You go back to Jamaica on holiday and the first thing they you for is ‘Bring back a traditional Marks and Spencer string vest or a pair of Clarks’.
”Online, I went to order a pair of black ankle Deserts . . . sold out. You go out to find Clarks, you can’t find Deserts. In my local in west London, there’s none in there.”