Image via Sports Illustrated
The year 2020 is undoubtedly going down in history, not just because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, but because of the protests and riots that have taken place world-over in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As more and more communities, businesses and individuals reflect on their own actions, opinions and politics, attitudes are evolving and the war against racial discrimination is reaching its peak.
As protests continue to thrive globally, it’s important for industries – such as the fashion and music industries – to commit to making permanent changes in allyship to the BLM movement. Black culture has, historically, produced some of the world’s most prevalent trends and been denied acknowledgement for doing so. In this article, we’re going to look back at the trends that exist thanks to black culture, dive into the origins of them and give credit where credit’s due!
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Historically, the advent of long, false nails wasn’t down to the black community – however, black culture is responsible for bringing acrylics into mainstream culture and popularising the now world-famous trend.
False nail extensions can be traced back to 3000 BC where Egyptian women wore nails crafted from gold, ivory and bone. Ancient royals are even thought to have donned extensions as a symbol of status and power. In 1950, acrylic nails were invented and became instantly popular with Hollywood stars. But, acrylic extensions only became accessible in the salon scene after Donyale Luna – an African-American Model – wore them on the cover of Twen Magazine way back in 1966. When the ‘70s arrived, nail extensions became linked to Disco stars like Diana Ross and in the 1980s, Black athlete Florence Griffith (who is, to this day, considered the fastest woman of all time) was known to have a penchant for statement nails that she was rarely seen without.
Image via Vogue
When the ’90s came to play, hip-hop and R&B culture solidified acrylic nails as a trend that wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. Missy Elliott and Lil Kim spearheaded the trend and Lil Kim’s ‘Money Manicure’ (designed by Barnadette Thompson) was the first set of nails ever to be displayed in the world-famous Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Now, it seems every time you go onto Instagram a new set of creative, statement nails features on your feed. Donned by all your favourite celebrities – from Kylie Jenner to Jada Pinkett Smith – acrylic nails were popularised by black communities and nail techs can show their support by shopping at the black-owned nail businesses listed below!
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One of the biggest trends in the world (and the reason The Sole Womens is able to exist), sneakers made their transition from sportswear to a form of style expression in 1970s America. In the 80s, hip-hop culture, basketball and the rising influence of sportsman Michael Jordan meant that trainers were no longer just a functional staple. Basketball sneakers – especially Jordan’s newly released collaboration with Nike – were mainly worn by black teens who were among the world’s first sneaker collectors. Hip-hop culture secured certain sneaker styles as instant must-haves and musicians such as RUN DMC and NWA were rarely seen out of their signature kicks.
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Bobbito Garcia explains in the ‘Out of the Box’ catalogue that; “In the 1970s, New Yorkers in the basketball and hip-hop community changed the perception of sneakers from sports equipment to tools for cultural expression.” Sneaker culture was born from kids of colour who came from low-income backgrounds and they play a huge part in the history of black urban culture. In the last couple of decades, this culture has been appropriated by white communities and so the history of sneaker culture has been lost in the noise.
Image via @dapperdanharlem
A trend that comes around time and time again, monogram print is synonymous with some of the biggest fashion houses in the world. Back in the ‘90s, the print blew up when high-fashion brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton ironically began to mimic the fakes that were made in their name, adopting the monogram print and making it their own. This turned the fraudulent fashion market on its head and spearheaded the monogram print wave.
Image via @dapperdanharlem
However, the true originator of the logo trend is Harlem’s own ‘Dapper Dan’. In the 1980s, Dapper Dan ran his own clothing boutique in Harlem, New York, where he started illegally screen-printing big designer brands over leather, ultimately creating brand-new designs and trends that Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi hadn’t even thought of yet. Dapper Dan printed world-famous monograms on clothes, accessories, furniture and even car interiors and he counted Jay-Z, P Diddy, Floyd Mayweather and LL Cool J as some of his most loyal customers. This A-list clientele was one of the main reasons why monogramming became such a huge trend in mainstream culture! Dapper Dan was shut down in 1989. So, the trend was set and the big brand swooped in, jumped on it in the ‘90s and made their millions.
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In modern society, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a woman who doesn’t have at least one pair of hoop earrings in her jewellery box, but where did this timeless trend originate? The hoop earring has been a powerful symbol for countless non-European cultured throughout history and this classic piece of jewellery can be traced all the way back to the Bronze age and 4th century Africa. In particular, Sudan (then named Nubia) constructed hoop earrings from bronze, silver and gold and Egyptians also adopted hoops as an essential accessory along with the Gadaba tribe of India and the Hmong women of Vietnam.
Image via @aliciakeys
Modern society saw hoop earrings really take off in the 1920s where they were frequently worn by American-born, black French Jazz Performer and Civil Rights activist Josephine Baker. In the ’60s, hoops were adopted by women of colour who were fighting in the Black Power movement and they were staples in the jewellery collections of Diana Ross and Cher. As hip-hop culture began to take over in the ’80s and ’90s, hoops got thicker, bigger and more statement and were often rocked by iconic black female artists like Missy Elliott, Lil Kim and Aaliyah. These hip-hop legends pushed hoops into the mainstream and women of colour and non-people of colour alike have been wearing them on a daily basis ever since.
Here are some black-owned jewellery brands you can support!
Image via @officialxcape
A favourite in the streetwear scene, ‘baggy’ garments from jackets to jeans and T-shirts are reigning supreme right now, but how did the trend originate? Oversized clothing built up its popularity during the ‘80s hip-hop era and the fit was often due to lower-income families handing down clothes to save money. Hip-hop artists donned their usual baggy street clothes to resonate with their fans and within a year the baggy-fit trend was adopted by mainstream trends.
Now, artists like Billie Eilish have adopted the trend as a stand against body shaming and fashion houses like Supreme and Palace look to skater-style baggy silhouettes to define their brand.
Looking back at the trends set by black communities encourages us to look at our own style preferences and acknowledge the history of our look. Next time you put in your hoops, get that fresh set of acrylics or grab your baggy denim jacket, think back to the people of colour who paved the way for our favourite trends to make it to mainstream culture! We promise to do the same.