On an island as small as Jamaica you can assume two things 1. That someone is probably sleeping with your boyfriend and 2. That someone is always judging your outfit. Jamaica, an island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and an ocean of judging eyes of those who have known you and your family since time began. We are the indulged island children living in a small sandy vortex where “More is More” is the golden rule, (and I literally mean golden, and lots of it at that). Excess is law, and more is always the answer. More swimsuits, More rum, , More partying, more relaxing, more scandal, more luxury, More champagne please. Welcome to Jamaica ladies and gents, where with surnames like ours it’s always “no problem mon”. We are the indulged island children, and our paradise comes at the cost of a thousand intricate non-negotiable rules, traditions and social etiquettes. Individual choice has long been washed away to sea at one of our several beach houses.
All good Jamaican children are sent to boarding school to be given a proper education and opportunity to shop for their non-stop social obligations during the holidays. My first Christmas home from boarding school I fell hard for a devilish pair of sausage legged bright blue Aladdin pants was in serious violation of the “don’t wear anything that makes you look like a lesbian or hippie” clause of the island child code. For a blissful month hidden away in foreign lands, I could be with my beloved anywhere I wanted because no-one cared that JH’s daughter had worn psychedelic baggy pants in public. I was like Alice in bohemian-homeless-chic wonderland.
This steamy liaison unleashed the opinions of a thousand family friends, neighbors, relatives, aunties, next doors cat: “Don’t you know good Jamaican girls only wear clothes that accentuate their shape (but not toooooo much, be careful of your reputation now) in very bright colorful shades of polyester? My God! Next thing you’ll be one of those drunk girls at those private island beach parties in Kingston.(#whoops) Disgraceful!” Always quickly followed by the eternal question of any proper family “Who are we going to get to marry you now! Can’t you just wear a dress like a good girl? Neckline low enough that you can find a man but hemlines high enough that he’ll actually marry you? Should one just push social norms and be a man-repelling trend testing badass ninja warrior princess? It’s a hard choice between being respectful of your family or trying to bring a new perspective to a geographically isolated island that’s stuck with ideals of 50 years ago.
The concern is not that people in the community get upset when someone dresses like a grungy androgynous lesbian alternative type, it’s that they actually have a problem with grungy androgynous lesbian alternative types. And it’s not going to be socially accepted to dress like one, until it’s actually socially acceptable to be one. Despite the weather and the reggae and the laid back vacation mindset, the Jamaican elite and not so elite are some of the most conservative, judgemental, and homophobic in the world. It’s going to take some time and some brave wardrobe choices to see a change. It’s not just about the pants people.
The hippie pants are so last season, but whatever style they have been reincarnated as this fashion week you bet I’ll be wearing it and you should be too. Are we done here yet? Good ’cause I’ve got to get back to the beach.