When Jamaica’s love of an age old English shoe brand was reignited by Vybz Kartel last year, for some it seemed an unlikely link up. Clarks Wallabees, Desert Boots and Desert Treks have actually been popular on the island (and within it’s diaspora) for decades, and celebrated in previous dancehall hits like Little John’s ‘Clarks Booty’ and Richie Davis’ ‘Lean Boot’ (where Richie frowns upon crepe soles that have worn down so much that his Clarks ‘lean and bend’).
That said, it’s not a dancehall LP that springs to mind when the latest Clarks delivery drops at Oi Polloi. The record I always picture is ‘Ironman’ – the kung-fu / comic-book character / crack-dealer concept album with the custom-dyed Clarks workshop documented on the sleeve.
Recorded by Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah (AKA Tony Starks, Starky Love, Pretty Toney, Ghostdini… The Wallabee Kingpin) it’s generally regarded as one of the strongest in the first-round of Wu solo albums. The cover shows the albums main protagonists (Raekwon, Cappadona and The Wally Champ himself) decked-out in luminous (Polo?) garms, inspecting a pile of custom Clarks colour-ways.
Looking back at the photos, I did wonder whether they actually were Wallabees or some of the, fairly snide, Wu-Wear copies. A quick pow-wow with the internet’s premo source on matters relating to shoes / hip-hop (Gary ‘Gwarism’ Warnett) suggests that these are indeed the real deal. Wu-Wear was probably still in it’s infancy at this point, just logo tees and sweats.
Coming back to the original point about the Clarks x Carribean connection, it’s most probable that Ghostface & Co. picked up their style tips from the hot-stepping yardies that flooded into NYC during the 80s (note Cappadona’s red/green/gold trim hat in the image below). Although Ghost does make strong claims, on record, to be the first to get all DIY double-dipped with it.
That’s about as much I’ve got to say on the matter, accept for “don’t try this at home folks!”. Or at least if you do, don’t blame us if you cock it up, ruining your new Clarks / girlfriend’s carpet.