Let’s embark on the beginning of Black History Month by looking into how Black culture’s impact on global fashion and beauty often goes unnoticed, despite its consistent influence. Black communities and African fashion regularly introduce significant trends. Despite the abundant availability of African prints, many renowned designers incorporate these elements into their collections without proper credit. Let’s take a look at some Black influences on brand and fashion.
Acrylic nails gained prominence when African-American model Donyale Luna sported them on Teen magazine’s 1966 cover. They became a sensation in salons, with stars like Diana Ross rocking them. The ’90s witnessed their popularization, courtesy of R&B and hip-hop artists like Missy Elliot and Lil Kim. Lil Kim’s ‘money manicure,’ designed by Bernadette Thompson, even earned a place at the Museum of Modern Arts, marking an early instance of nail art. Subsequently, the concept of ‘nail art’ surged, evolving into the prominent trend we observe today.
The foundation of sneaker culture is deeply glued to Black culture. While some versions of tennis shoes have been present for over a century, made from canvas, this changed by the late 1960s. Many Black basketball players, realizing the inadequacy of Converse sneakers for protection, prompted the evolution of sneakers as we know them today. In the 1970s, with brands like Nike and Puma entering the scene, the recognition of the Black community’s demand for styles sported by their basketball icons solidified the framework for the contemporary sneaker culture. Thus, credit is due to the Black community for shaping the sneaker culture we currently witness.
All thanks to the era of Hip Hop. The ultimate in African American culture. Fashion underwent a dynamic evolution during the 80s and 90s, signifying a fashion shift. Departing from the 70s flares and snug blazers with shoulder pads, the era embraced the beloved “oversized” trend. This transformation mirrored the progression from the hippie era to the onset of the hip-hop era.
The fashion landscape was characterized by vibrant and unified colors, with iconic figures rocking the style. an example could be found in “The Fresh Prince” starring Will Smith. The 80s and 90s marked an era of vibrant cultural expression, leaving an unforgettable imprint on music, dance, visual arts, and fashion that is reflected through the cultural narrative today.
SnapBack origin can be traced to the 1800s, but it gained prominence in the late 80s and early 90s, notably spiraled by influential figures like Tupac Shakur, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Ice Cube in their music videos, TV shows, and movies. In 1993, New Era Cap Company sealed a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB), solidifying the snapback as a foundational piece in streetwear throughout the 2000s. Iconic artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mac Miller, and Eminem further contributed to its popularity, linking the snapback to their fashion choices and their music lyrically.
The bucket hat was known around the 1900s to protect fishermen from rain, but the bucket hat took on a more sophisticated and rigid form as a women’s accessory in the 60s. However, its popularity came in 1979 when rapper Big Bank Hank showcased it on a TV show, a trend embraced by subsequent influencers like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and Jay Z. Experiencing a revival in 2020, the bucket hat has now transcended its origins and is being embraced by esteemed brands such as Prada and Fendi.
The practice of wearing gold and silver caps on teeth could be traced to ancient Etruscan and Mayan cultures, where wealthy women displayed their wealth through these precious jewels made of gold and jade. The trend gained popularity in the 1980s with Jamaican dancehall musician Shabba Ranks, who flaunted a gold tooth. It then migrated to New York through hip-hop artists like Raheem the Dream and Kilo Ali. Grills became a notable fashion statement in the 2010s, embraced by celebrities like Kanye West, RZA, and Chris Brown, and is currently a fashion style now all over the world.
Hoop earrings have ancient origins tracing back to Mesopotamia and were favored by men in ancient Egypt, their cultural prominence grew in the 1960s through celebrities, eventually becoming a widespread fashion choice.
In the 1960s and ’70s, many Black female activists proudly adopted hoops as symbols of strength and unity. During this era, hoop earrings became a vital element in the Black community, featuring intricate and excellent designs crafted by Black designers. In the 90s, media criticism targeted Salt-N-Pepa for wearing door-knocker hoops, labeling them as “ghetto.”
However, fashion trends came full circle, and after a few years of ridiculing Black women’s fashion choices, door knockers resurged in popularity and have since remained an enduring fashion statement.
Logomania, which is the extensive use of logos on clothing or accessories, originated in the 80s at Dapper Dan’s Harlem boutique. Dapper Dan creatively customized leather jackets and other items by using logos from well-known designers in unconventional ways. Unfortunately, legal actions from these brands led to the closure of his business in 1992.
Logomania has shifted from controversy to acceptance, recognized as an innovative trend. In 2018, Gucci released a jacket resembling Dapper Dan’s work without proper credit. Following social media backlash and subsequent apologies, Gucci initiated an ongoing collaboration with Dapper Dan.
By Hilary Nwachukwu