Clothing and Attire in Jamaica

The right clothes can help make your vacation to Jamaica a breeze

Photo credit: © Marcin Ciesielski / Sylwia Cisek |

Jamaica Clothing

In some of the most secluded resorts on Jamaica, clothing may not be required at all, but if you're staying where clothing is not optional, keep some of the following fashion tips in mind.

The clothing you'll see around Jamaica is vibrant and striking, but the overarching theme in this tropical climate is comfort. No matter your plans, comfortable clothing is essential. Lightweight cottons and linens are advisable, while light woolens are suggested for evenings. Try to avoid synthetics, which may not be as breathable as woolens and linens.

Hats, particularly with large brims, and sunglasses are also highly recommended for travelers to keep the unrelenting sun at bay. Sun block is also a must-wear for most vacationers. Some have also said that, while skimpy clothing may sound appealing to those looking to tan, the mosquitoes can be as much of a deterrent as social custom. Sundresses and lightweight pants are particularly recommended, though sweaters may be a necessity in the evening.

Additionally, waterproof clothing and rain wear are a necessity all year long. Rain showers in Jamaica usually come up suddenly, come down hard, and then are over fairly quickly, so you need to be prepared with a waterproof jacket or umbrella everywhere you go. Opt for attire that is easy to carry around that you can quickly slip on and then put away again when the sun reappears.

What to Wear

Although one of the most culturally independent islands in the region, Jamaica still retains some of the influences from its days as a British colony. The following tips will help you fit in, and avoid accidentally offending more conservative islanders:

  • If you are traveling for business, a suit jacket and tie are expected, and the usual formalities and courtesies are observed;

  • Shorts and bathing suits are acceptable on beaches, but should be avoided in town without cover-ups such as a long t-shirt of sarong;

  • Generally speaking, travelers should consider long shorts or skirts and pants, and men may want to bring button-up shirts;

  • Club attire is generally more revealing than clothes worn any other time during the day or night, particularly for women (but it is best to err on the side of caution!).

As always, it's best to be aware of the attire expected at a specific location. Many all-inclusive resorts have little to no dress code in place, but some resorts and hotels require women to wear dresses or slacks and men to wear suits and ties at their restaurants. Kingston is known for being a bit more upscale, and women particularly may want to avoid wearing jeans in this city, meanwhile Negril has a more laid-back side.  To be safe, stick to packing clothing that is considered to be resort casual -- that is, collared shirts, sundresses, an linen or khaki bottoms that are clean and pressed.  Bright prints and bold colors are welcome. 

Traditional Clothing

While visitors may want to come prepared for all possible weather, there are many styles of island dress that are appropriate. Traditional garb may be worn by some, but Rastafarian wear is also well-known. No matter what the clothing, you can be sure it will always be infused with color.

Although these days it has become commonplace to see men and women in global fashions, traditional clothing remains popular among a decent amount of locals.  The traditional clothing style of Jamaica draws from both British and slave culture.  

Commonly, traditional garb for women was made from calico cloth and was always very colorful, from the tiered dresses to the ever-important head scarfs, which helped to keep hair in place and protect from the heat of the sun.  These scarfs were very specifically wrapped and placed by folding a piece of material in half, tying it around the crown of the head, and then tucking it in in a particular way to keep it from slipping off.    Clothing of the past was always loose and comfortable.  

Men's clothing tended to be loose fitting pants and shirts made of natural, organic fabrics.  They did not dress as colorfully as women, and bold designs and clashing colors were rarely found – they preferred a more subdued style in their every day dress, but also chose comfort over all else.  

In more modern times, Rastafarian-influenced clothing has become a part of the culture.  These items are colored to represent the Ethiopian flag in red, green, and gold, and are made of natural fibers to reflect the views of the religion.  To top it all off, the tam hat would be worn on the head to cover the dreadlocks. 

Remember that Jamaican locals have adopted many of the same Western trends and fashions that you are used to back home, so fitting in should not be a problem. As long as you pack clothing that is cool and comfortable, you won't look back and regret the clothes you wore on your Jamaican vacation.


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