By: Ashley Rose
As we enter Black History Month, it is important to take a moment to educate ourselves on Black contributions to society. From fresh acrylic sets to hoop earrings and bucket hats, western culture has historically found trends within fashion styles popularized by the Black community. Read on to learn about the historical context of many fashion trends you may love.
Our modern-day streetwear has heavy roots within the Black community. This fashion style was prominent in the late 1970s and rose to fame in cities like Los Angeles and New York City. The trend partially grew in these urbanized areas due to a large portion of the Black hip-hop community living in these areas, with artists like Tupac, Snoop Dog, Aaliyah and more popularizing the style. By the mid-1990s, street fashion was recognized as a method of self-expression for Black youth.
Street fashion includes motifs like heavy layering, sneaker culture and baggy clothes. More notably, the heavy layering and baggy clothing trends indirectly are results of socioeconomic disparities within Black communities. While baggy clothes specifically stem from the Black and Latino community, they were normalized by these communities due to financial hardships and not receiving substantial resources from the government.
Originally adopted in the late 1980s, bucket hats became a mainstream fashion item within hip-hop culture. Primarily worn within the Black community, we see Black rap artists rep bucket hats in music videos and on album covers, including LL Cool J and Jay-Z. Due to their association with streetwear, fashion brands world-wide normalized the accessory, leading brands like Prada to produce their own versions.
Now often referred to as a “fresh set,” the origin of acrylic nails dates back 5,000 years ago to Egyptian culture. Nails have been a style deeply rooted in Black culture, as women of this time used ivory and bone that were painted in various shades of red, Black and gray.
While fake nails are a historical concept for the Black community, they were discouraged and made fun of heavily in the 1980s and 90s until White women began getting acrylics. Unfortunately, like many fashion trends, acrylic nails were often deemed ‘ghetto’ until they became popular among White people and were seen as more fashionable and acceptable.
Like acrylic nails, the use of hoop earrings dates back to Egyptian times, when they were often worn as a form of social status. With this history rooted into the jewelry, hoop earrings hold a heavy value in the Black community. In the 1960s and 70s, the wearing of hoop earrings by Black female activists became a symbol of unity.
In the 1990s, hoops gained a bad rap when Salt-N-Pepa was presented in the media as being ‘ghetto’ for wearing large hoop earrings. In the past few decades, since being worn by White European runway models and being made ‘trendy’ in pursuit of jewelry layering, hoop earrings are now a staple for many jewelry wearers.
Representation in the fashion world is necessary to properly credit Black artists. A historical trend within historically Black fashion trends is for them to be discredited and deemed ‘ghetto’ until they are appropriated by western culture. Understanding the history of items that are now considered mainstream is an important step in appreciating Black contributions to society.
IU South Bend senior I’Vory Woods had a lot to say on the topic.
“Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for fashion. Unfortunately, I did not see many, if any, women that looked like me in the fashion industry,” Woods said. “I’ve always admired my culture’s sense of style; big hoops, long nails, the classy brunch ‘fits and vibrant colors on our melanin skin.”
Woods said she hopes that the future of the fashion industry continues to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for people of color.