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1. Introduction and background

Although, not so very long ago, a sociology of art, embracing the various forms of art, was unknown and indeed almost inconceivable as an independent branch of the social sciences, ever larger numbers of sociologists are now engaging in this steadily expanding discipline which is devoted to such special subjects as literature, music, the theatre and painting. Yet in art, whether music, artifacts or even dressing to come to learn so much about the culture of others. The Jamaican culture is one dominated by its attire - dress and straps that portray a unique culture.

Jamaican culture is so dynamic. People are mixed up with ethnicities that have landed on the island's shore over the past years. Weather enslavement or oppression, Jamaican are survivors and their origin culture have been influenced by western lifestyle and island's unique culture as well as European, American. Islands have mastered a style on their own art form. Music is another cultural aspect of tradition rooted in culture of slavery, where songs were use to pass messages. However games are also sung and children are gathered in a circle to sing and clap.

From painting to music, and from language to food, people of Jamaican have so much to offer to the rest of the nation, Jamaican's influenced multifaceted culture. The clothes of the Jamaican people are generally vibrant, colorful loose and comfortable. The women in Jamaica prefer long skirts and scarves. Men prefer trousers and shorts which are bright colored just like those worn by women and children. The footwear for all the people is open and sandals like shoes. The times are changing and the Jamaican people are evolving. The dressing style is being affected largely by such factors as tourism, the internet and media and exposure. When the scholars and other Jamaicans go outside their country they see designs that are preferable to them and end up changing or modifying the ideal form of dressing.

Capturing the Issues

In Jamaica, black people are categorized as being uncivilized ignorant lazy and untrustworthy. Symbols depicting African cultural is rated at the bottom while lifestyle, language food clothing and residential patterns reflect closeness to European culture have been ranked to the top of the social ladder. In the 1970s failure to meat social life as caused urban poor who earn inadequate living in the informal, largely small-scale trading sector thus engaging in extralegal means of survival also globalization has led to the growth of the international drug trade.

We could try to understand the Jamaican through its traditions and dressing in particular. Does their dressing depict their current social values? Modern trends are influencing the Jamaican like most people around the world because of media and the internet. The traditionalist must be resisting the change. The question arises as to the perceptions that become evident when society has internal conflict.  Those who do not conform may have their challenges but western culture is overwhelming because of internet and both audio and visual media. The modern society must cope with this dynamics if it is to move harmoniously with the times.

Critical Review

This research paper, examine the cultural sociological art of dressing in Jamaican. Jamaican mode of dressing has a unique aesthetic ensemble. Their dressing generally represents multicolored and multihued decorations which represent their multi cultural ethnic diversity.

1.1 Whether Dress is Body Dominate or Subordinate

The dresses in the photo A, B, and C portray divergent modes that draw diverse attention from whoever looks at the wearers. Photo A and B portray traditional dress and as they cover most part of the body, they are body dominate while Photo C is body subordinate. The latter photo is western style dressing that would portray a different lifestyle and a foreign culture that is uncomforting to the traditional lifestyle.

2.1. Dress: Does it Exemplify Social Values or Trends?

The current dressing style portrays changing times. When change normally occurs, everything else normally changes. People's traditions become affected either positively or negatively. More often than not, impact it negatively. People's social values change. Traditional way of living have a way of protecting moral values of a society but when people deviate from their culture even their values change. The society becomes submissive and negative external culture creates internal contradiction. That is why we see crimes increasing in certain society's especially in third world countries where western culture or foreign culture for that matter will have negatively impacted the people's way of life.

3. 1. Unique Aesthetic of Dress

The Jamaican mode of dressing has a unique aesthetic ensemble. Their dressing generally represents multicolored and multishaped decorations which represent their multi cultural ethnic diversity.

Photo A, shows a Jamaican woman dressed in the traditional attire. She is wearing a skirt, a top, and a head scarf that are made out of Calico which is a sort of cotton cloth. The traditional dress of the Jamaican woman reflects their attitude of being determined. The fabrics chosen for the clothes are light weight, bright and vibrant to keep cool in the tropical climate. There is a particular way that a headscarf ought to be draped and not just any way, that is, fold the scarves in half, wrap and tie them around the head tucking the ends under to keep scarves slipping off.

What happens when the wearer adheres to the prescribed formula? What happens when they deviate? Naturally traditional cultures have internal dynamics that portray not only their culture but also the history of such cultures. The Jamaican culture is no exception. Adherence to the mode of traditional dress receives favorable perception from the immediate society, especially among traditionalist. The mode of dress depicted above (A and B) shows what is accepted in the Jamaican traditional sphere. Such also portrays someone who still upholds the society's values and traditions.

On the other hand, photo C is a wide contrast from the first two. The lady puts on Western style dressing although she tries to maintain the traditional colors. This photo depicts a western life style which may be viewed by traditionalist as a deviation and may be fodder for negative perceptions. It may depict loose morals and a non conformist personality. More often than not such persons are viewed as social deviants and may find it difficult to be accommodated in ordinary traditional settings. The lady in the photo may be trying to innovate and look different. That does not necessarily mean that the lady is unethical or does not follow the local traditions.

4.1. Dress: Approach or Defy Cultural Ideal (of what is attractive)

The two ladies in A and B show their traditional preferences and therefore conform to the traditional dressing code. The dress as we see on photo A is long, loose and comfortable. The headscarf is done to match.  While photo C is a complete deviation and a personality at odds with the traditional attire, while the colors still scream Jamaican. Yet culture has its on challenges.

Bartel M. (1999) quoting Chapman asserts that these are conflicting values. The question is, how much individualism is good and how much conformity is good? How do our design decisions reflect both these needs? Mass produced items tend to show conformity in our culture in spite of the fact that individual freedom of choice is highly valued in our tradition. In many tribal cultures hand crafted items could show individuality, but are often conformist because group identity is most important (Bartel, 1999. pp. 112 - 113). 

Bartel continues to assert that "we value permanence and tradition, but we also value creativity, change, improvement, and relevance to the time in which we live. How do our design choices reflect both these concerns? What are the cultural reasons for our choices? How can we teach about this"? These are fundamental questions on whether should remain static or dynamic in all aspects of human endeavor, including in dress and attire.

5.1. Dress: Individuality or Cultural Conformity (Cultural ideas)?

Individuals within cultures decide to conform to their culture for a number of reasons. Simply because they love their culture or because it much from the coercion that comes with what is acceptable within a particular culture or society. Such persons may be viewed positively by the society and they are rewarded with appreciation and cooperation. Marvel Bartel (1999) says that all people, regardless of culture, have a need for individual identity and for group identity. Some cultures stress individuality more and others stress group identity more. These identity values are expressed symbolically in the design of tools, utensils, clothing, houses, places of worship, and public

This would be the case with the pictures depicted above. Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers. The first two dresses demonstrate cultural conformity and is widely accepted by the traditional Jamaican society. The two portrays the history of the people and the rich diversity of their cultures married from different traditional background.

Photo B portrays that of a Jamaican who, to some extent has been influenced by western culture conveyed through various media: TV, Internet and social interaction with western living lifestyles'. This would have occurred through wide travelling of or the pursuit of education in various parts of the world.   The consequences of nonconformity are chiding and lack of cooperation. This may lead to an individual being isolated from the in group. On the other hand, the individual who decides not to conform may win some admirers and get some followers. This is common in many societies and it may lead to popular subculture of non conformists. These subcultures may continue to grow and overshadow the traditional culture.


The above research paper has illustrated a cultural and social phenomenon on the dressing of the Jamaican people. It has also been shown how the tradition is being affected by globalization and the internet. Despite the influence on the western culture, there will still be those people that will still enforce the Jamaican culture.

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