I got my first gold hoop earrings the second after I was born –– a widely followed tradition in South America. I have been wearing the same small hoop earrings basically my whole life, with the occasional changing of earrings to fit my outfit. Gold hoop earrings across the world have been adapted as symbols of power and wealth, worn by both men and women.
Although dating back to the 1600’s in Egypt, it was not until the 1960’s that hoops became a symbol of popular streetwear culture. Hoops became a fashion icon during the black power movement in America when African American women wore them to embrace their African culture. After this, it became an activism symbol embraced by artists such as Tina Turner and Janet Jackson. The gorgeous fashion icon was then adopted by the Southern California Mexican working class in the 1980’s. Since the embracement by these two cultural groups, hoop earrings have been commercialized and designed in every way imaginable across the world.
Bucket hats were adapted as women accessories in the 1960’s as elegant accessories. However, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that they were adopted as street style––an introduction attributed to the hip hop community. This is attributed to rappers like Big Bank, Run-DMC, LL Cool J and Jay Z. Since, the Bucket Hat has been featured on major runways across the world by reputable brands such as Fendi and Prada among many others.
The 100-year old staple, became a fashion trend as we know it, in the early 2000’s after the release of the movies “Biker Boyz”. The off-screen trend is mainly attributed to Meagan Good, who was often seen sporting a personalized biker jacket. However, it’s true origin dates back to the 1920’s when brothers Irving and Jack Schott, owners of Schott NYC, released the first zipper functioning leather jacket in 1928, for Harley Davidson.
The pattern as we know it today was put in the map by Destiny Child’s 2002 video “Survivor,” where they are featured wearing the pattern in different ways. Becoming an iconic pattern for street wear and pop-art, it has been worn by virtually every iconic rapper over the past 30 years, including Clipse, Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and The Notorious B.I.G.
The logomania trend is without a doubt credited to black culture. It is linked to one of the founding fathers of streetwear, Dapper Dan, who began to illegally screen print popular logos, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, all over his clothes. Following this, others started copying with different brands, logos and designs. With its ever-growing popularity, brands noticed how much consumers embraced logo mania that they decided to capitalize on it. This is basically why LV covers pretty much every inch of their products with their logo.
Streetwear + Personalization
The formula for streetwear was straightforward and very much male-dominated: T-shirts + hoodies. This ‘uniform’ was tied to both comfort and self-expression.
The defining subculture that has been key in the formation of streetwear is hip-hop. Hip-hop, orginating from disco, was a revolution and loud-cry led by marginalized African Americans in New York as a form of expression against political and class-related injustices. The force behind the movement was to make the most of what little the communities had at the time, while not giving away social status.
This notion quickly transferred and inspired into a fashion trend. It led to individuals experimenting with their clothing by changing, moderating, and revamping what they already owned. Much of what was born out of nothing, are THE most popular trends today: clothes bleaching and cutting.
With the widespread of Hip Hop, companies jumped at the opportunity of associating their brand with the style and trend. This was fundamental in bringing “athleisure” and sports companies to the mainstream, and explains why brands like Nike, Adidas and Fila are identifying tropes of streetwear today.
Florence Griffith-Joyner broke the 100 meters world record three times at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in a single weekend. However, her amazing physical achievements were the least of the medias priority. Instead, her manicure gathered much attention than the fact that she clocked an astonishing 10.49 at the event. A record that has yet to be topped! For decades, the way a woman adorned her fingernails were a direct representation of her race and social status. White, rich and powerful woman were identified for their natural, neat, clean, french nail art. On the other hand, long acrylic nails featuring bright colors and designs were connected with the “ghetto”.
Griffith-Joyner passed in 1998 and more than two decades after her death, the same nails that the media shamed her for wearing were making headlines in a much more positive way. Long, artificial nails filled with colors are design had become mainstream, but not without completely erasing and separating them from its true origin––Black women. Something that now had been embraced by everyone, especially white women, was stolen and uncredited to Black women who had been wearing them for decades while being ridiculed for it.
Nowadays, long, bejeweled, neon acrylic nails are more likely to be associated with celebrities like the Kardashians than with women of color.
Before captured slaves were forced into ships, slave traffickers/owners shaved the heads of enslaved women in order to strip the of their femininity and cultural origin. As the women endured the hardships of slavery in America, braids became a much more functional hairstyle to deal with. This is because taking care was the least of their worries, however, it was also the only thing they had power over.
With close to no resources to style their hairs, enslaved women knew their braids needed to last them at least a week. In order to do so, they learnt how to manipulate the oils from the plants they were forced to worked around, to help them style their hair.
Most historically significant, braids also served another purpose:
Braids became a secret messaging system for slaves to communicate between one another while getting unnoticed. Intricate braid styles were carefully crafted and decoded as a map to freedom. This meant that the number of strands could the time or location to meet for the escape. When aligned side by side, they were also able to decipher the escape route by counting the strands to know road directions, such as streets they needed to cross.
As an amazing historical significance braids have, African American women tried to hold to their history and culture as much as they could until the Emancipation in 1865. As free women, African American women migrated to cities like Chicago and New York to seek the few job opportunities that were available to them, domestics. Living in big cities like New York and Chicago provided the side by side comparison of the clear divided between a White and Black woman in the 60’s, purely by their hair. As a result, braids became a symbol of ‘blackness’ and thus lack of sophistication, education and overall class.
Sick and tired of this humiliation, a grand majority of Black women chose assimilation and traded their gorgeous intricate braids for straight hair.
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