Culture corner: Marley à la mode

Marley, a compelling new biopic about singer Bob Marley, co-produced by his son Ziggy and directed by Kevin Macdonald, uses haunting black-and-white portraits, unseen footage, rare recordings and intimate interviews (including with Ziggy) to create a portrait of a performer, a father and a man in possession of a deft style vocabulary. The singer’s influence on fashion is still significant: John Richmond’s menswear collection for spring/summer, for example, was dubbed “couture reggae party”, as the designer appropriated Marley’s image on luminous yellow T-shirts worn underneath casual woollen cardigans with neon lapels.

“I love to refer to Daddy as the rebel for all seasons, not only in his style but the songs that he wrote,” explains his daughter Cedella Marley, a fashion designer, who speaks on camera in the film of her father’s life. “You see the warrior and the lover.” Marley’s style was perpetually casual and he was instrumental in popularising sports clothing as everyday fashion, often favouring a yellow Adidas soccer shirt with trademark three-stripe green cropped sleeves. Another trademark look was the faded denim shirt that Marley chose to wear on stage – many of them emboldened with angular leather swatches across the chest and body of the jean – and handmade exclusively for him by a local Jamaican tailor, according to Cedella. “When you look at how he layered stuff, you know, he had his bell-bottoms, a solid buckle belt, and then he put this Argyll sweater vest over – only he could get away with that!” This hasn’t deterred Christopher Bailey – Burberry Prorsum’s spring menswear collection riffed off the singer’s play on textures via denim jackets crowned with suede panels, jackets with raffia fringing and models sporting jaunty woven bobble caps.

Cedella ventures that Marley was probably “conscious of fit, because his butt looks good in every pair of jeans he puts on”. Take the close-fit flared denim trousers he wore with a leather waistcoat buttoned over a red-and-green stripe T-shirt on the night of a concert to celebrate the independence of Zimbabwe. “His clothes didn’t wear him,” she says.

Shortly after escaping an assassination attempt in Jamaica in 1976, Marley moved to London, where his aesthetic collided with the anarchism of the punk movement. The politically conscious singer identified with the rebellious punk teenagers with shaved heads and ripped clothes. Cedella says Marley felt the punks “accept me for who I am, and what I love, and how I look”.

The film Marley itself is mould-breaking too: out now, it is the first film to be simultaneously released in cinemas and streamed in the US on Facebook.

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