Traditional Jamaican Clothing: Everything You Need to Know

Jamaica doesn’t only turn heads with its music, way of being, and exotic beaches. More than once, tourists have been mesmerised by Jamaicans’ taste in clothing. In this article, we’re going to talk about traditional Jamaican clothing, and how they mirror the country’s rich and often tumultuous history.


A Few Considerations on Traditional Jamaican Apparel

They say that even a mere rag has its own story. Well, imagine what kind of story a traditional Jamaica costume can tell us – a story with no beginning but with such a colourful, vibrant and ever-changing ending.

For some, traditional Jamaican clothing may lack refinement, but the simplicity of Jamaican attire and their modesty, have such a great impact on the eye. Be mindful of the fact that traditional clothes were and are designed with a very well-defined purpose – being able to move about in a country where the sun always shines, aka in the tropics.

Jamaican clothes are gauzy but well-tailored. Most of the fabrics used to create colourful outfits, such as the quadrille dress, the Kariba suit, or the so-called Yucatan shirt, allow the skin to breathe during hot weather without compromising style.

If you are still wondering what do Jamaicans wear, the colonial era’s influence is still visible, as you can see if you follow the link. Although Jamaicans have a strong bond with their past, they didn’t mind incorporating elements belonging to other cultures. Called fusion, an artistic style popularised by music and theatre has also inspired fashion designers to create unique pieces.

For instance, the Kariba suit, which was introduced in Jamaica during the 70s, is actually the more formal version of the safari jacket, a versatile and lightweight suit designed specifically for tropical climate zones. Just imagine enjoying a cup of perfectly brewed coffee from one of the best coffee grinders for French press while wearing this comfortable and stylish suit.

The same can be said about the quadrille, a bright-red dress worn by women dancers, which is a simplified version of the more complex flamenco dress.

Jamaican clothing stores online aren’t so easy to come across, but if you’re looking for Jamaican clothing online, such as the quadrille, then your best bet would be Etsy or Zazzle, where you might just find yourself a little treasure. However, if you’re concerned about online privacy while browsing these sites, you can download VPN to encrypt your internet connection. It will protect your personal information and ensure your online security as well.

Let us now talk a little about the rich history behind Jamaica’s most popular clothes: the quadrille dress, the bush jacket, and the Kariba suit.

1. Quadrille Dress

traditional jamaican dress

Image source: Wikipedia

The quadrille dress is a Jamaican folk costume, worn by women during celebrations, specifically when they perform the so-called quadrille dance. Interestingly enough, Jamaica’s not the only Caribbean country where women wear quadrille dresses. This type of women’s clothing has also been observed in Haiti, where it’s called karabela, in St. Lucia, where it’s called a Kwadril dress, and in Dominica.

The quadrille dress or bandana skirt, as Jamaicans like to call it, is made out of white and red cotton plaid. Another version of the bandana skirt incorporates white and maroon plaid.

During the quadrille, women typically wear this skirt with a ruffled blouse with sleeves and a head tie. The male dancers wear shirts and white pants made from the same material as the quadrille dress. Some versions of this folk costume include a headscarf that resembles a turban.

The quadrille dress closely mimics the 18th-century Jamaican clothes worn by a peasant.

2. Bush Jacket

Bush Jacket

Image source: Pinterest

Also called a guayabera or a Yucatan Shirt, this type of summer outfit is not a Jamaican folk costume, nevertheless found its way into the people’s wardrobes. The bush jacket can be described as light summer shits, typically worn outside of the pants, with two rows of vertical lines running along the front and the back of the shirt.

Guayaberas can be made from cotton, silk or linen, and can be either long or short-sleeved. Men typically wear this type of summer shirt to formal events, like weddings or during office hours.

Although the tuxedo’s worn during a typical Jamaican wedding, in some instances, the groom could appear dressed in a white bush jacket made from linen and black trousers. The earliest versions of the Yucatan shirt also included complex embroideries, which were later removed to simplify the outfit.

3. Kariba suit

Kariba Suit

Image source: Wikipedia

One of the best choices in men’s formal attire is the so-called Kariba suit, a two-piece suit adapted for Jamaica’s tropical climate. History reveals that the design has been introduced in the early 70s by fashion designers who grew weary of having had to follow the European standards in style suits.

Few know this, but the short-sleeved version of the Kariba suit was popularised by the People’s National Party’s leader, Michael Manly. Interestingly enough, in 1972, Manly declared during a Parliament session that Kariba suit is the perfect alternative to the more conservative European black suit and went on meeting Queen Elizabeth II in one.

Pattern-wise, the Kariba suit is considered the formal version of the bush jacket. Jamaican men will typically wear this type of suit without any kind of accessories such as ties. Furthermore, given the fact that the Kariba is a two-piece suit, it’s worn with no shirt.

4. For Babies & Toddlers

Now that we’ve talked about traditional clothing for men and women have a look at these Jamaican styled baby onesies for your little one or some Jamaican flag coloured outfits for your toddler.

Jamaican Style Accessories

Custom patches from GS-JJ

The red, yellow and green colours are the emblematic colours of Jamaica, and each colour represents the unique history and culture of Jamaica. Jamaican style custom patches from GS-JJ have many options, you can customise shoulder patches, clothes decorations, etc. You can attach them to jackets, T-shirts, mens straw hats and shoes, and show your unique style and love for Jamaica. This custom patch is perfect for local souvenirs to sell to tourists.

Another market leading custom patch maker Vivipins from where you can make a patch at the lowest price with no minimum order quantity. Their specialised team can advise you to make an extremely profitable patch business.


As you can very well see, Jamaica’s fashion was powerfully influenced by European culture. However, this did not stop them from creating unique styles and attires that reflect the Jamaican’s way of living and, of course, thinking.

13 thoughts on “Traditional Jamaican Clothing: Everything You Need to Know”

  1. “For some, traditional Jamaican clothing may lack the refinement associated with civilization…”. You know what’s uncivilized? ENSLAVING people like the British did to the Jamaicans. As a Jamaican I must say that the tone of this entire article is belittling, disturbing, and racist. Shame on you.

    • I am very sorry to read that you felt this was a racist post, it was certainly not meant to come across that way. It was supposed to be about fashion. I have edited the parts of the posts which I felt might not come across how they were meant to.

    • Uh, how exactly did the British enslave Jamaicans? You realize, I hope, that the original inhabitants, Taino, were eradicated by the Spanish; and that the Spanish introduced African slaves. When the British took over, most of the black slaves fled to the mountains. Of course, the British then brought many more slavers until they abolished slavery.
      I’m afraid you’re the racist, by assuming that white people can’t be equally Jamaican as black. Time to get over your simplistic BLM style racism, eh.

    • Many people don’t realise that those jacobite political prisoners were black!.. yes!… Black people were in Europe. Our history has been whitewashed! Research the Moors, spainish inquisition, and the Black people of England, Germany, Russia etc. We are still in their artwork of the time. We bought wealth and civilisation to the world and then there was a ‘reset’ a transfer of wealth and a enslavement of a great people.

  2. Thank you for such relevant information. I personally have found it to be very informative. Colonization has done a lot in ones identity.

  3. Traditional Jamaican clothing is a rich blend of African, Indigenous, and European influences, reflecting the island’s diverse history and culture. From colorful dresses to the iconic Rastafarian style, Jamaican attire is as vibrant and unique as the island itself. Explore the fascinating world of Jamaican fashion and its cultural significance.

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