by Tom Stratton

Bob Marley: Unsung Fashion Hero

As a champion of equal rights, a symbol of peace and unity, and ant...
Bob Marley: Unsung Fashion Hero
As a champion of equal rights, a symbol of peace and unity, and anti-capitalist, you might not immediately think of Bob Marley when you think of the fashion industry. After all, this is a man whose last words were "money can't buy life" and we all know what the fashion industry is about. However, it was exactly this outlook and his laissez-faire attitude that made Bob Marley's style so personal and influential. 

From Ska to Rasta

In 1965 Marley achieved some moderate success with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, sometime before they formed the iconic Bob Marley & The Wailers. With fashion more reminiscent of Motown, emulating stars of the time with the Beatles suits and heels, he had not yet found his signature look. 

After moving to be near his mother in America, the young Bob Marley took on work in a factory and it seemed like we would never hear his name again. Thankfully this would only spur him on more and he started to fully immerse himself in the music he loved and the music he was making.

Back to Jamaica

Marley returned to Jamaica some time in the late 60s and, despite being raised Catholic, began to fully immerse himself in the Rastafarian faith. This would prove to be the key to his individual style: he began to grow out his dreadlocks and embrace casual clothing, shunning the formal-wear he had adopted as a young musician. 
By 1972 Bob Marley and the Wailers had been flown to London by Island Records which is where they would make their first big break. Appearing on the proto-Jools Holland music show: The Old Grey Whistle Test in double denim and sporting shorter dreadlocks was a revelation. This will have been the first time many had seen dreadlocks on television and the impact cannot be understated. 

The Windrush Generation

Marley took Britain by storm at the exact right moment. From 1948 to 1971 thousands of people arrived in the UK from Caribbean countries who have since been labelled the Windrush generation. Seeing Bob Marley and the Wailers on the television must have been a revelation: at least 15,000 people of the Windrush generation were from Jamaica. Here was one of their own, right here, on television rocking double-denim and dreads.

The influence on streetwear, culture, and music was immediate. If you view photos of black British youth before and after Marley you can observe the direct influence. As had happened with Marley, suit trousers became jeans, trilbies became rastacaps and starched shirts became t-shirts. The key to Marley's relatable style also had its roots in his faith: the anti-capitalist views he espoused meant that his style was affordable. You could dress like Bob Marley without having to shell out a fortune. 

The Looks

Double Denim

Paired with his famous rastacap and beloved guitar, Marley even managed to make patchwork denim look cool. Widely later derided as the staple of Elvis-impersonator Shakin' Stevens, double denim has gone full circle and is now cool again. You'd just be hard pressed to make it as cool as it looks here. 


Used both as a way of tucking long dreadlocks away and pronouncing your rasta faith to others, the rastacap has come forever associated with Bob Marley. It's not one for everyone yet it has been seen on catwalks with, rightful, accusations of cultural appropriation. You just can't write about Bob Marley's look without a nod to his famous headwear.


Now a staple in streetwear it's hard to imagine a time before tracksuits were acceptable everyday clothing. Probably stemming from Marley's passion for football, he would wear tracksuits both on and off stage. This trend has reverberated through hip hop - most memorably Run-DMC - and right up to the modern-day catwalk. 

Military Wear

Thankfully being a pacifist doesn't exclude you from wearing military wear as Marley shows in his staple khaki green jacket. A popular look at the time - John Lennon (that other peace lover) was often spotted wearing one - jackets such as this one have never really gone away. Timeless.

Flared Jeans

When he wasn't rocking trackies, Marley was often wearing blue jeans with a slight flare. The flare might go out of fashion for a bit but it's certainly back now. He was often spotted in flared jeans or chords usually with a loose cotton shirt: entirely indicative of the mans outlook on and whole attitude to life.