BOB MARLEY'S IMPACT ON MUSIC AND FASHION

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

When you talk about some of the greatest and most iconic artists of all time, who comes to mind? If you ask this to almost anybody, I guarantee one of the first people they name is Bob Marley. From his long dread locks and reggae fashion, to his super catchy and likable music, Bob Marley represents everything that a Hall of Famer is.


Photograph by David Burnett


Robert Marley was born on February 6, 1945 in St. Ann Parish Jamaica. Marley’s love for music started early when his close childhood friend “Bunny” introduced him to the guitar. The young reggae singer grew up in extreme poverty moving from St. Ann to Kingston as a teenager in the late 1950’s, to peruse his music dreams. Marley was specifically in Trench Town Kingston, which was one of the poorest towns in the city, but there was plenty of music inspiration. Although Trench Town was so impoverished, it was considered to be the “Motown of Jaimica” with many successful local artists coming from there. Marley eventually met his future bandmates in Kingston being Joe Higgs and Peter Tosh (Marley already knew Bunny Wailer). 


Bob Marley came out with his first recordings in 1962 under the name Bobby Martell. These songs included “Judge Not”, “Do You Still Love Me”, “Terror”, and “Cup of Coffee”. After very little recognition from these 4 songs, Marley decided to get his friends back together and create a band called “The Wailing Wailers”. The groups first single came out in 1963 and was called “Simmer Down”. The new group saw immediate success, with their newest single being at the top of the Jamaican charts by January of 1963. By now, Marley had added a few other members to his group. Marley eventually moved to the United States after becoming a sensation in Jamaica. The Wailers finally got their “big break” in 1972 when they signed to Island Records.


After the groups big break, they started working on their first album titled “Catch a Fire”. After touring for a while, Bob Marley and The Wailers released their second album titled “Burnin’”. This album included songs such as “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Burnin’ and Lootin’”, and the hit song “I Shot the Sheriff”. These songs helped launch Bob Marley and The Wailers into stardom. Bob Marley would eventually become an Icon in America and Jamaica releasing songs such as “Is This Love”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Buffalo Soldier”, “No Women, No Cry”, “Stir It Up”, and many more. Marley also performed at the iconic festival Woodstock in 1969, where he gave a breath-taking performance calling for peace to the world. Unfortunately, Bob Marley’s career was cut short dying at the young age of 36 due to Melanoma. Marley’s final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can't buy life” which is a perfect representation of who he was as a person, and what his music represented.


Even after Bob Marley’s death, he still influences people in so many ways. One way he still influence's people is through fashion. Marley’s long hair was a staple for Jamaican and reggae culture but there was more to his fashion. The first thing that Marley helped pioneer was Track Jackets. Being such an avid soccer fan, Marley loved to wear track jackets. He had been seen on plenty of occasions sporting different colored track jackets whether he was performing, playing soccer with his friends, or making music in the studio. Another look that Bob Marley often suited was knit caps, and denim. Marley loved to wear denim on denim, often times wearing denim jackets unbuttoned with a shirt underneath. As for the knit caps, that is now become a staple for the “Rasta” look that Bob Marley pioneered. Marley would wear these caps with a number of different outfits and it would take up his whole head because of the length of his hair.


Photograph by David Burnett


The style choices that Bob Marley sported during his life, still heavily influences fashion today. You can find Bob Marley shirts, hats, etc. pretty much anywhere you go. Whether it’s Amazon, American Eagle, H&M, Hot Topic, Bob Marleys website, or at any vacation gift shop, there is sure to be something with Bob Marleys face on it somewhere. 


If I could describe Bob Marleys style in just a few words I would say “Unintentionally good and timeless”. Though Marley’s fashion was very impactful, it seemed that he didn’t care much about material items. It goes back to his last words being “Money can't buy life”. Marley dressed how he wanted, and his attitude towards his fashion was what helped make it so timeless. This is also a perfect description of how he lived his short life. He always did what he wanted, while looking out for the good of humanity. This is why Bob Marley is an icon, and still has so much influence today.



Article by Zach Smith

Instagram: @zachsmithh4

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