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  • Writer's pictureFashion and Retail Association

The DNA of Trends: Black Influence

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

By: Emily Ho

History has a way of repeating itself - especially with fashion. Almost all notable trends, such as the 90s baby tees and the 2000s tracksuits, resurface to the mainstream fashion scene due to designers bringing them back and celebrities and influencers wearing them. Often, we either forget or don’t know where these trends originate from, or who popularized them. It’s important to acknowledge the communities and cultures who created these iconic trends we wear today and understand their historical journey. Here, we’ll look into major trends originated and popularized by the black community.

1. All Things Oversized

Everyone loves an oversized look. Today, we have the widely followed small top, big pant outfit, and even the big top, big pant look. Well, this trend was made popular by rappers and R&B singers such as MC Lyte, Aaliyah, and TLC in the late 80s and 90s. The oversized trend stemmed from the financial hardships faced by the black community. To save money, clothes were often handed down within families which led to clothes fitting “improperly”, or baggy. Artists started performing in baggy “regular street clothes” in an effort to resonate with their audience.

Lyte (left), Aaliyah (middle), TLC (right)

Another notable mention:

The oversized, baggy trend can be seen again through Michigan’s Fab Five. The basketball uniform did not always look the way it does today. These five basketball players brought the bigger, baggier shorts to the professional level, altering the NBA’s uniform forever.

Original short shorts look (left) vs Fab Five’s (right)

2. Bucket Hats

The bucket hat transitioned from functional to fashionable in the 80s. The hat was first made iconic by rapper Big Bank Hank and then by LL Cool J with his signature red Kangol bucket hat. Ever since then, the bucket hat has fought to remain relevant in the fashion scene. Although in recent years, we have really seen their comeback, especially with celebrities like Rihanna wearing them. Today we see them in so many different fabrics, styles, and colors.

3. Hoop Earrings

Hoops are iconic, a forever classic. They are so versatile, coming in various shapes, sizes, and metals. A good hoop takes your outfit to the next level. Their significance dates all the way back to the Bronze Age and the Egyptians, but they were not considered a fashion staple until worn by Josephine Baker (left), an iconic Civil Rights activist and jazz performer who symbolized the vibrancy of black culture in the 1920s. Fast forward, the hoop was popularized again by Angela Davis in the 60s, Diana Ross in the 70s, and Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill (right), and Erykah Badu in the early 2000s.

Angela Davis (middle left), Diana Ross (middle right), Lauryn Hill (right), Missy Elliott (left)

4. Sneaker Culture

Before Nike in the 70s, sneakers were viewed solely as a sportwear piece. Not until the 80s did sneakers become a form of cultural expression. The biggest trend influences were hip-hop culture, the growing popularity of basketball, and Michael Jordan’s “Air Jordan” collection. Jordan’s were well received and worn first within the Black community, becoming a symbol of identity, status, and belonging. They still hold their value as a highly coveted piece in today’s market, some colorways going for upwards of a thousand dollars. Rappers were another group to popularize sneaker culture, such as NWA (shown on the right). By the end of the 90s, the trend reached a global level, with collectors worldwide. Today, sneakers are a staple item in everyone’s wardrobe.

5. Logomania

Many attribute “Logomania” or monogram print to Harlem-based designer Dapper Dan, a.k.a Daniel Day. In the 80s, he started to screen print designer logos, like Louis Vuitton, Fendi, and Gucci, onto clothing and furniture and sold them in his store as “knock-ups”, revolutionizing this new print. He received wide support from big artists such as Jay Z and LL Cool J which helped to popularize this trend on a mainstream level. In 2018, he collaborated up with Gucci to create a collection inspired by Harlem and his 80s archive pieces (pictured on the right).

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