Fashion Trends Rooted in Black Culture
It's no secret that many trends in today’s fashion world originated from Black culture. What is most popular today—streetwear, oversized clothes, sneakers, hats, jewelry—has a rich history. While clothes have always been a form of expression for the Black community, the relationship is complicated and appropriated with the fashion industry. This is where cultural appreciation rather than cultural appropriation is vital, yet it is an issue that resurfaces often. There is no credit and little respect given to Black creators and Black culture, but their culture is stolen to then be brought into mainstream fashion as a “trend.” From everyday clothes to brands to accessories, much of what we see being worn today did not begin as a fashion statement, but rather for functionality, necessity, and culture. What seem like staples—sneakers, camouflage pants, oversized shirts—were originally popularized by Black influencers, rappers, and athletes. With overarching popularity in the 2000s, streetwear has become a luxury and a status symbol. With respect for Black History Month, we are here to give the credit where it belongs with historical and cultural roots.
Predominant today in fashion are oversized clothes. Pants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and jean jackets are all highly sought after to be baggy and oversized. Beginning in the '80s rap era, baggy clothes were sometimes due to clothes being handed down to save money through financial hardships. Therefore, clothes were often too big. Rappers continued this familiar way to dress and it then became popular to emulate this oversized clothing look. Today, mainstream fashion emphasizes this oversized/baggy look, specifically seen in streetwear. What some once got a hard time for, people are now paying money for.
Bucket hats were originally utilized by Irish farmers and fishermen in the 1900s for protection from the sun and rain. As soldiers in the ’40s and women in the ’60s gravitated towards bucket hats for function and fashion, the popularity rose in the ’80s with rappers embracing bucket hats. Perhaps this can be accredited to rapper Big Bank Hank after wearing a bucket hat during his performance of “Rapper’s Delight” on Soap Factory in 1979 (which was also the first recorded music video). Shortly after, bucket hats were sprouting in the hip-hop community. LL Cool J brought recognition to Kangol's bucket hats that will not be forgotten. While it took time for bucket hats to appeal to mainstream fashion, they are once again a popular accessory.
Taking over the fashion world today: sneakers. While sneakers have been around far longer than our years, sneakers as a part of fashion were introduced in the '80s. Michael Jordan was the pioneer of creating high quality sneakers that doubled down on fashion and athletics. Air Jordans were high quality, functional, and collectable items that took sneakers from shoes to a status symbol. Since then, sneaker culture has only grown into an integral part of fashion (debatably the most important). With influences from around the world, big sneaker brands such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance, and designer brands flourished. And leading the sneaker world are Black creators—Virgil Abloh and Kanye West are two designers leading in designing hype sneakers, which is now a world of its own.
When a piece is adorned with a brand’s monogrammed logo, the LV, GG, or FF catches your eye; it’s flashy, known worldwide, and you want to show off where your outfit is from. In a boutique in Harlem, one of the OG influencers of streetwear, designer Dapper Dan, was using knockoff designer logos to design clothes. He was styling hip-hop artists and gaining much support. His designs were covered in monogrammed logos of designer brands such as Gucci, MCM, and Louis Vuitton. While his work was later halted for legal issues, he continues today as a highly respected designer, along with his partnership with Gucci. With designer brands, the monogrammed logo patterns have stood the test of time.