Category: Fashion (trends)

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.

Hip-Hop Needs New Style Icons

A couple of weeks ago Beyonce was Lil Kim for Halloween, and it was everything. Bey recreated just a few of Kim’s iconic looks, but she had plenty to pick from. Lil Kim’s reign as Queen B has been marked by unforgettable looks; from the colorful “Crush on You” video looks, to the purple jumpsuit and pasty at the 1999 VMAs. It’s also no secret that Kim brought styles such as logomania and bright colored hair to the hip-hop community.

However, she isn’t the only hip-hop style icon. We can’t forget Andre 3000 who’s been pushing gender norms and giving uniquely stylish looks since the early 1990s. There’s also trendsetter, Missy Elliot; self-proclaimed pretty boy, A$AP Rocky and even the OGs, Salt-N-Pepa. All of these people brought their dynamic personal style onto the scene with them when they entered the spotlight.

These artists found their place in a long tradition of Black celebrities setting fashion trends for their peers in their respective industries as well as their fans. Another industry where this is common is sports, specifically the NBA. Interestingly enough, many style icons in sports find their fashion inspiration in hip-hop stars and vice-versa. This is a longstanding relationship between fashion, hip-hop, sports and the Black community.

This brings me to a question: “Who is taking on that legacy now?” One could argue that A$AP Rocky, Kanye and Rihanna are today’s hip-hop style icons, but that answer isn’t sufficient for me.  A$AP Rocky is great, but he’s one person who represents one niche of hip-hop at a time when the genre is arguably more diverse than ever. Kanye simply isn’t a style icon anymore, you can look at any Yeezy runway and see what I mean. His “designs” have essentially become the material for Twitter jokes. Finally, there’s Rihanna. Rih is undoubtedly a style icon, but despite her feature on N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon,” she’s not a rapper, and I can’t count anyone who is hip-hop adjacent as a true hip-hop style icon.

This gross lack of someone to take the torch is dissatisfying, to say the least. The worst part is that a style icon is nothing more than someone who consistently dresses strangely and does it well, and I’m convinced plenty of today’s rappers could do that. Today’s rappers are weirdos, but for some reason, they’d rather wear jeans and a t-shirt or poorly curated head to toe designer than display that weirdness in their wardrobe. In an industry where everyone works so hard to prove that they’re different, no one really wants to be different anymore.

Fashion is a huge part of building a brand. There are plenty of past names in the hip-hop industry that are still identifiable by the fashion that was unique to them, but we don’t see that anymore. This lack of style makes artists forgettable and leaves fans like me bored. We all know that fashion needs hip-hop, but it seems that we’ve forgotten that hip-hop needs fashion.

Be the zeitgeist.

 

 

Undressing The Dress Shirt, The Modern Working Girl’s Favorite Piece

A relatively unspoken rule of fashion is that when a woman wishes to look more powerful or to be taken more seriously, she attempts to look more masculine. From the shoulder pads that businesswomen wore in the 1980’s, to Hillary Clinton’s serious bob and pants suits. This has led to menswear on women, like many other trends, going in and out of style various times throughout the decades.

Currently, plain white dress shirts with a twist, whether that be wearing a corset over the top or intricately tying the sleeves and wearing it off the shoulder, are in style. Before I examine this trend, I would like to note that I’m counting the white dress shirt as a men’s item because although women wear them, that’s usually only in a business capacity which reverts back to my original point of women dressing like men in order to be taken seriously.

However, this trend is different. The way women wear white dress shirts now is sexy. Taking your dad’s 2XL shirt which would usually hide your figure and styling it in a way that accentuates your femininity sends a powerful message: “I’m serious, I’m a woman and the two are not mutually exclusive.”

Before now, women venturing into menswear were doing so to hide their feminine side because “woman” (for some reason I can’t comprehend) wasn’t associated with “powerful.” This shift is one that’s particularly exciting for me as a woman who takes pride in being feminine, but also has aspirations of being the boss.

This one small trend tells me that women are realizing that wearing a skirt in a board meeting isn’t a death sentence and that red lipstick can be just as fierce and bossy in the office as in any other setting. Millennial women are fighting the idea that womanhood is an obstacle on their way to professional success.

Now, depending on your field, the white dress shirt with a twist may or may not be appropriate to wear to work; but it’s not about the piece, it’s about the mentality. It’s about being a confident woman who takes herself seriously without toning herself down.

 

Be the zeitgeist.