Does Rasta fashion trend trivialize cultural icons? Some fear images' overuse may blur their true meaning to Jamaicans

By Joyce Caruso Corrigan
Updated March 14, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

When John Galliano added red-, green-, and gold-striped ”Rasta” skis to his fall 2004 Dior collection, we had to wonder if the Jamaican-inspired trend had gone completely downhill. Turns out, it’s still peaking. Look at Gwen Stefani, who wears a hat fit for Bob Marley in her ”Rich Girl” video: Her Rasta-ribbon bags for LeSportsac sold out. Or Prada, whose spring ’05 show was a parade of Rasta-striped knits and crocheted hats.

The homage isn’t appreciated by everyone. ”I really wish they would stop,” says designer Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s eldest daughter. Although her Catch a Fire Clothing incorporates Rasta stripes and likenesses of her famous dad, she objects to the watering down of her culture. ”I understand, businesswise, that Rasta’s happening in fashion,” says Marley, whose fans include Janet Jackson and Eve. ”But when it’s out there too much it’s not special. [Designers] don’t realize that the red stands for blood, the gold for the sun, and the green for the earth. Wearing these colors is about Jamaican pride.”

Pride may be why Jamaican-born reggae star Sean Paul almost always performs wearing a Rasta-striped wristband (which stores can’t keep in stock). But, as Richard T. Ford, author of Racial Culture, says, Rasta is a one-two punch: ”The Rasta image combines political activism and partying on the beach.” A combo that’s made it a longtime staple of college kids — and a new favorite of stars like Beyoncé (who collaborated with Sean Paul on ”Baby Boy”) and Jamie Foxx (who wore Jamaican-flag colors at the Grammys). But Rasta skis? ”There’s more irony in that than in a year of the Jon Stewart show,” says Ford.

Still, if you’ve just gotta have those Rasta Dior sneaks, you could do worse than grooving to the message of Rastafarianism — and its dedication to overcoming oppression — immortalized by Bob Marley’s music.

Speaking of Marley, what would the late legend make of urban fashionistas shelling out nearly a thousand bucks for a Balenciaga Rasta bag? It wouldn’t have stirred him up. Says his daughter, ”he was strictly a jeans-and-leather-jacket man.”