Culture Changes and We’re Just Going to Have to Accept It

Things are getting weird. Michael Kors purchased Versace for $2.3 billion and the hip-hop scene is becoming unrecognizable. Other than being odd, those two things are seemingly unrelated, but in actuality, they’re both indicators of the same occurrence: a shift in culture.

Every generation has them. It’s the time in which an era’s trends are defined and in most cases, they come with some opposition. Change, especially in the things we hold dear such as music and family fashion business, is hard to accept, but not accepting it problematic. The spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, will persist, even if you disagree.

It’s also worth noting that those changes are often less dramatic than we realize, but the fear of the loss of tradition can cloud judgment even when in reality, it’s not that bad.

Concerns that Michael Kors’ acquisition will ruin the brand are valid only when you don’t consider the facts. Firstly, Versace was bought by Michael Kors Holdings, which will soon be changing their name to Capri Holdings, not the MK brand. Secondly, Donatella isn’t going anywhere. She will remain creative director as well as become a shareholder in Capri Holdings and according to her, Versace will remain a luxury brand.

What is concerning, though, is Kors’ plans to increases Versace’s revenue by adding more stores. Exclusivity is an important element of luxury. But this is still only a minor issue as going from 200 storefronts to 300 is hardly the nose dive from caviar to McDonald’s that Twitter is pretending it is.

Hip-hop is a different story. Accepting that shift is understandably harder because, for now at least, it’s more evident. The vague and divisive term “mumble rap” has become a bane for hip-hop heads, icons such as Kanye aren’t who they used to be and rappers have lost their sociopolitical voice.

It’s clear that the genre has changed into something very different and arguably more careless. However, that change can also be viewed as growth. Maybe mumble is just a subgenre of hip-hop– maybe it’s not. Maybe this really is a completely different phase in hip-hop’s evaluation.

Either way, ignoring (or fighting) it is probably a bad idea. At some point, being a purist makes your viewpoint obsolete if you’re completely unwilling to accept change. Yes, we’d all love for monumental names like “Versace” to maintain their grandeur and yes, we’d all love for hip-hop to always sound the way it did that summer we fell in love with it, but those things could only happen in a perfect world.

In the real world, things change and from the standpoint of a cultural critic, those changes are worth embracing and exploring. Finding the balance between appreciating how things were and appreciating how things are is just something we’re going to have to learn to do or soon we’ll turn into our parents, regularly reminding anyone following what’s popular that “things just aren’t how they used to be,” and honestly, no wants to hear that.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Melania Trump Really Doesn’t Care

The big story about Melania Trump for Thursday, June 21 was supposed to be about her visiting immigrant children in Texas. Instead, it ended up being about her wardrobe. The ever-watched First Lady chose to wear a ZARA jacket with the words “I REALLY DON’T CARE. DO U?” printed on the back. This was bizarre, to say the least.

While Melania is often depicted as somewhat ditzy and not fully aware of what’s going on, I find it hard to believe that the impact of wearing such a jacket was truly lost on her. The Trump era has been and remains to be a tense one, with many minorities and lower class individuals voicing their feelings that the president simply doesn’t care about them. Therefore, Melania’s wardrobe choice comes off as confusing and somewhat taunting. It seems as if she’s making light of citizen’s grievances, which honestly wouldn’t be surprising considering the behavior of her husband.

However, he claims that the message on the jacket was aimed at the media rather than individuals feeling isolated by the Trumps. “[the message] written on the back of Melania’s jacket, refers to the Fake News Media. Melania has learned how dishonest they are, and she truly no longer cares,” tweeted the president.

This doesn’t coincide with the statement given by Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokeswoman, though. Grisham responded to questions about the jacket, “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

While I agree that there certainly was no hidden message behind the jacket, being that it was clearly and boldly printed on the back, I can’t accept the idea that Melania’s team didn’t intend for this to be a story. The First Lady doesn’t simply wear a jacket saying she doesn’t care and expect it not to be a big deal.

This fashion statement, while odd, is exactly the kind of non-traditional and arguably disrespectful thing we’ve come to expect from the president, but not so much the first lady. Early on in Trump’s presidency, there was much speculation about whether or not Melania fully understood or agreed with her husband’s policies and leadership style. I think she answered that question today. She doesn’t care.

Be the Zeitgeist.

Why Are Black Women Cutting Their Hair?

My hair journey has been a long one. Like most every other little Black girl, I grew up with poofy braids and twists done by my mother. On the rare occasion that I did wear my hair straight or in his naturally curly state, I would always receive comments reminding me that I had “good hair,” a term that I now know is problematic but used to swell me with pride as a child. In any case, I can now see the ways in which that shaped my hair journey.

At about twelve I convinced my mother to let me get my first relaxer so that I could wear my hair straight, just as I had seen most of the Black women in my life wear theirs. However, my hair quickly became damaged, so I grudgingly went natural, but I maintained a blowout most of the time. Eventually, though, I grew to love my afro and it became a major part of my self-identity. I gave up blowouts because I thought this was a good thing until I realized that I found all of my beauty in my hair. This, and damage caused by my mismanagement when I first began caring for my own hair prompted me to cut it all off.

This was something I never thought I would do because my hair had always been so important to me, but even though I admittedly hated it at first, I grew to love my lack of hair. While this remains true, I eventually grew bored and decided to start wearing wigs. My wigs give me an opportunity to try anything which is something I love, but now I never know how to answer people ask what I’m “doing” with my hair. The truth is, I’m not sure what’s next.

So, I’ve decided that the best way to determine whether I should keep my hair short and continue to alternate between my practically bald head and wigs or grow my hair back is to explore why I and other Black women cut their hair in the first place.

Despite the numerous protests of my father, this trend has garnered much popularity. Young Black women across the country, but especially at Historically Black Colleges, have decided to trade in their bonnets for du-rags. This is an interesting phenomenon when you consider how important hair is to the perception of femininity.

Grace Jones, an obvious style icon, was one of the early pioneers of Black women wearing their hair in masculine cuts as it fit her persona, which was not at all traditionally feminine.

During an appearance on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, Jones said that cutting her hair was a “sacred thing.” She went on, “It’s something that one really never does, and so when you do it, it’s so–I feel like a nun.”

While not everyone is crafting an image like Jones, many other Black women also note cutting their hair as a significant experience or life change.

Rebecca Johnson, a friend of mine and a proud baldie, says “I cut my hair because at the time I was getting rid of things that I felt weighed me down. My hair took up too much space in my mind and in my life, so I got rid of it.”

However, the decision isn’t that serious for everyone. Olivia Miles, another friend of mine and proud balide, says “I cut my hair initially because when I was 16 I shaved off a portion of my hair on the right side of my head and when I got to Howard I wanted to cut it all off so it could grow back evenly, but I ended up falling in love with the bald look.”

My personal conclusion is that everyone cuts their hair for different reasons and it was a bit naive of me to think I could condense everyone’s experience into one. Where does that leave me as far as what’s next for my hair? I’m still not sure, but what I do know is that cutting my hair has taught me much more about myself than I ever expected and because of that my emotional connection to my hair has evolved immensely.

Be the zeitgeist.

 

Angela Davis, Prada and the Romanticization of the Revolutionary

Prada is selling $500 t-shirts and $1700 coats with Angela Davis’ likeness on them. That sentence is ridiculous for various reasons, so just let it sink in for a little bit.

According to the description of the t-shirt provided on Prada’s website, the design is meant to be a continuation of  Miuccia Prada’s “feminist” sentiment for Spring/Summer 2018. Clearly, Prada’s co-chief executive officer and lead creative designer has a different understanding of feminism than I do. Ironically though, the release of these pieces is exactly what I would expect from a “feminist.”

Feminism (more blatantly white feminism), has been riddled with insensitivity towards women of color and queer women since its inception. This is why Alice Walker invented the term “womanist” and why Angela Davis herself identifies as a “black feminist,” to offer a more inclusive option.

Like many other feminist acts, Prada’s t-shirt and jacket ignorantly miss the mark for the sake of being cute. Yes, wearing a shirt displaying an image of Angela Davis saying “Right on” would be a fashionable way to state your political stance, but it also just doesn’t make much sense.

The obvious issue is that Davis’ adult life has been mainly dedicated to Black liberation, so a white-owned company profiting from her aesthetic is odd, to say the least. It’s also worth mentioning that when you consider the price of the t-shirt and the fact that Black people are historically less affluent for various reasons, you can easily come to the conclusion that Black people likely won’t even be the ones purchasing this shirt.

The second and probably more overlookable issue is that Davis has long been noted for her communist sentiments. To sell a $1700 jacket celebrating an icon whose views call for the dismantlement of capitalism is the definition of irony.

However, I’m sure that those issues were never even considered during the production of Prada’s two latest buzzworthy pieces, and if they were they were apparently decided to be not that serious. What was seemingly considered, though, was the current trendiness of activism.

It seems as if being a revolutionary is the new cool thing. Everyone wants to march, everyone wants to protest and everyone has faced some form of oppression that they simply must fight. As someone who advocates for civic engagement, I should find this inspiring, but I can’t because I know that in far too many cases it’s not genuine.

Somewhere along the way being mistreated and having to work for your liberation became beautiful and people began to romanticize the idea of being a revolutionary. Angela Davis and her peers have become the icons of people who don’t know, and probably don’t care to know, how difficult and dangerous their work was.

Truly pushing for change requires a level of commitment that anyone who would wear Prada’s Angela Davis t-shirt or jacket probably just doesn’t have. There’s no problem in looking up to a woman as resilient and intelligent as Davis, but one should do so holistically. You can’t aspire towards the triumph if you’re not willing to go through the struggle.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

In Defense of J. Cole Fans

As you probably know by now, J. Cole dropped an album entitled “KOD” on April 20, 2018, and if you know me then you know that there are few things that I get more excited about than a J. Cole album. My love for Cole began when I was in the seventh grade and now I’m in college, so it goes without saying that my feelings for the Fayetteville rapper are pretty serious.

As I listened to “KOD” for the first time last Friday “lost in a cloud of marijuana, a young Carolina nigga,” just as Cole described himself, I found myself thinking about how his music had grown with me. The parallels in subject matter and mindset between my life and whatever music he released at the time have been consistent for such a long and significant time in my life. From 12 to 20, a period in life where you really mold who you’re going to be, I was able to evolve alongside my favorite rapper.

Feeling that kind of connection to your favorite artist is honestly an amazing feeling that I’ve heard few others say they’ve experienced. However, even when you don’t consider the personal connection, I’d argue that it’s still understandable why Cole fans are so serious about his work.

Even many who aren’t fans of his regularly admit that the man is talented. His way of manipulating the English language to write stories you can’t help but relate to, even if you’ve never been through something similar personally, is something worth applauding. The emphasis he places on the lyrics, as well as production, create an entire experience that other artists simply aren’t creating.

This is why in my younger years I genuinely believed that anyone who didn’t enjoy listening to Cole simply wasn’t intelligent enough to do so. Obviously, I and other fans have matured to understand that taste in music and intelligence don’t necessarily coincide, which is why many of us retired the borderline religious tweets, but let’s stop pretending that the logic behind proclamations with that sentiment is absolutely absurd.

At this point, even most Cole fans say such things jokingly anyway because we’re able to acknowledge that we sounded somewhat silly. However, if you don’t get the joke, maybe we were right and you really are simply too dense to get it. In any case, any musician who can grow with me as a person, consistently employ an artistic use of words and genuinely stand for the people the way that J. Cole does deserves respect. If we as fans didn’t get a little passionate in discussions from time to time we’d honestly be being disrespectful.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, The Biggest Story That Shouldn’t Be a Big Story

It was announced on Monday, March 26 that Virgil Abloh has been named Men’s Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton. Unsurprisingly, the announcement was met with the usual excitement that comes with such news. Virgil Abloh, a Black man from Chicago, has made history by becoming the first ever Black man to hold his new position, that’s a big deal.

But why? Why is it that his success is viewed as such an anomaly that it had to be the biggest news of the day, and likely the week? It’s not as if Abloh isn’t deserving. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you have to admit that for over a year now his has been one of the most relevant names in fashion.

Even the simple fact that he’s a Black man should be seen as an advantage rather than a disadvantage when it comes to a career in fashion. However, despite all logic, we’ve convinced ourselves that the fashion industry isn’t a place for Black men to thrive. When you really think about it though, we’ve seen enough examples of successful Black men in fashion to have dispelled that myth long ago.

Willi Smith, Patrick Kelly, Dapper Dan, Virgil Abloh and even Kanye West (among others, of course) have shown that the fashion industry is, in fact, a place for Black men. It’s also worth noting that all of the Project Runway Allstars Season 6 finalists (Anthony Williams, Fabio Costa, Ken Laurence and Stanley Hudson) are Black/Brown men. Despite all of this, there’s still a lack of Black men in fashion.

“I believe there aren’t many Black males in the fashion industry because of the stigma that comes with being in the industry. We don’t allow ourselves to venture outside of the norm so we never do anything but normal shit. There also wasn’t any representation in the fashion industry for the longest times, and that’s by design,” says Javier Cousteau of the Cousteau House of Design.

The argument that the lack of Black men in fashion, and the subsequent lack of faith in Black men that are is due societal norms is one with some merit. Black men often do find themselves in boxes, surrounded by expectations of what they should and should not do. While that entire concept is ridiculous, fashion being in the “should not” category is particularly egregious.

There have been countless proclamations that Black people are the most stylish people in the world, and you’re delusional if you’re still not ready to admit that Black/Brown women living in the ghetto are the source of many fashion trends, yet there still seems to be a belief that there’s no for Black men in the industry.

So at this point, you have to ask yourself why. You have to wonder why we’re still shocked that Black men can do great work in fashion. You have to question why Virgil Abloh’s new position at Louis Vuitton is more noteworthy than any other fashion story of the day. Not because he doesn’t deserve the honor, but because he does.

 

Be the zeitgeist.

The Signifgance of “Black Panther” Fashions, Both on and off Screen

As expected because it was so highly anticipated, Marvel’s “Black Panther” has created a lot of conversation since its release on February 16. One of the biggest conversations has surrounded the movie’s fashion. Costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, drew inspiration from various African cultures while maintaining the futuristic integrity of Wakanda to create the mainly green, red and black costumes.

However, the on-screen fashions were not the only eye-catching looks I noticed when I saw the movie on opening night. The audience seemed to have come to a consensus that the proper attire was either all black or traditional African fabrics. Of course, I wore my usual all black, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “Black Panther” in mind that morning while getting dressed.

As someone who cares so deeply about adornment, it was heartwarming to see such adamantly pro-black looks both in the theatre with me as well as all over the country via Twitter. It was clear that the movie had instilled a sense of pride. Such pride is interesting considering the fact that much of the African-American population lacks knowledge of our origins. This was evident in the chosen movie-going attire. Pieces from various African cultures were mixed, most likely ignorantly but not maliciously.

This, however, is not really a negative in my opinion. It’s no secret that Black people were stripped of their culture and that any attempts to preserve practices for their prosperity were punishable during enslavement. Because of this, Black people not only in America, but across the diaspora have resorted to combining various West African cultures.

This is what I would consider self-determination. As a Howard student, I’ve had countless class discussions and written numerous papers about how enslaved people drew what they could from home while creating their own traditions in order to maintain their identities. Self-determination served as a defense mechanism against oppression.

This is exactly what we’ve seen in the theatres over the past week. Being Black in America can be exhausting, but “Black Panther” has inspired pride in African-American people. The moment may or may not be fleeting, but it’s still beautiful. And yes, as an actual Marvel fan, I know that “Black Panther” is not a “race movie,” but that does not change the fact that it was released in a volatile time and has sparked a cultural movement. Such an impact, intentional or not, is noteworthy.

 

Be the zeitgeist.