Un-ringing The Bell: Elle France And Obama Style

By Fashion Correspondent Joseph Lamour

Thanks to the Obamas are in order, fellow African Americans! Black people–like me!–can look in a closet and not immediately reach for the saggy jeans and other “street wear codes.”

At least, according to Elle France.

For the first time, the chic has become a plausible option for a community so far pegged [only] to its street wear codes…

-Nathalie Dolivo, in French Elle
Tendance [Trend] – Black Fashion Power

Nathalie Dolivo, a writer for the magazine’s blog, seems to think that since the Obamas are so fashion-forward, they serve as a public forum to inspire African Americans to dress more fashionably in 2012. First of all, lady, this is the fourth year of Barack’s term. You’re a little late with this intensely racist idea, aren’t you?

That’s not even the worst of it. Dolivo goes so far as to coin the term, and this hurts me to type it, “black-geoisie”.  Now, we really should institute a “Sh-t Fashion Magazines Say” to add to the hundreds of others on YouTube. We have a wealth of material to work from. First we had Slave Earrings. Then we had the whole Rihanna, N*ggabitch debacle. To which Rihanna herself replied with a heartfelt “F*CK YOU”. And now this. It seems like American magazines are on their best behavior! Good work.

Dolivo uses a picture of Janelle Monae in the post to show how far we’ve come from over-sized pants, but Monae is a musician who’s particular style existed since her music was first released in 2003, well before this “black fashion renaissance” (Dolivo’s words, not mine) was to have taken place. And of course, much before public consumption as well.

The post has since been removed from Elle France’s website. Without an apology, I believe the magazine is hoping they can deny the post was published–or published in error, at least , if caught (too late for that!). Elle, you can’t un-ring a bell.

  • Liselotte

    Stupidity like this is common in France. And with economic crisis, things are only getting worse.
    Americans & Anglo saxon in general have at least political correctness. Plus POC  are organised in vigilant lobbies which pinpoint any insult. In France, black people & Caribbean have no lobby. Therefore, there are easy prey to any racist stereotypes.

    Check French TV and you will see they have an issue with educated/ middle class black. They love the kind of POC they can despise- the polygamous muslim living on benefits, the Caribbean French whose “funny” accent they ridicule, the illiterate illegal immegrant who is so desperate to live in their country because they have everything (civilisation, culture, human rights, etc.).

    It took Obama election for us to have a French POC on national TV as an anchor-Harry Roselmack. He was only on interim. And lasted 3 years. Check POC roles onFfrench TV and you’ll be appaled at the roles offered- gansgstas & mammys. They treat French  Blacks like dirt.

    Mind you, if you guys back in the States are ever victimised, they will broadcast it. Every offense made to Black America evidences that USA still has a lot to learn in terms of dealing with its minorities. Why else would they be such ardent josephine Baker fans? French love exotic Black people (American, Caribean, etc.). Their locals ones are too smelly, poor & dirty.

     

  • Anonymous

    The faux-pology is global. SMH…

  • Anonymous

    What’s the next plausible fashion option?  Burnt cork?    

    • Mickey

      Or how about Fire Engine Red lipstick to wear outside the borders of one’s lips? Amos N Andy wear? Buckwheat overalls? Josephine Baker’s banana skirt? The possibilities are endless! SMDH.

  • Anonymous

    But thanks to the Obamas and this magazine, I now know I no longer have to limit myself to those oh-so-gangster cable-knit cardigans and flip-flops.

    Oh, k. eli, you have officially deaded me. <3

  • Anonymous

    What I am opposed to, Kat, is what I said in my initial comment, which I will restate here:  Dolivo failed to due her due diligence as a media writer and researched what she wrote. After all, she *is* writing about US style and African Americans and our alleged lack thereof until the Obamas arrived on the scene. O_______o 

    If she needed to understand what the word “bougie” means in US terms, she *is* at Elle–which more than likely has access to databases and/or fact-checkers–and should have held off on the story to get some understanding of what it meant. She could have familiarized herself on how we US Black folks talk about our class stratifications. By doing this, she could have avoided the whole “black-geiosie” term altogether because “bougie” covers that term.

    Also, not all middle-class Black people in the US consider the term “bougie” a negative. As evidenced by one of my favorite blogs Black ‘n Bougie.

    • TeakLipstickFiend

      In French “bougie” means candle or spark plug, so it might not work. But then it’s not the first time a word has had several meanings.

      Here is the original article with an open letter sent to Elle by Afrosomething (all in French, sorry):
      http://tchip.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/les-femmes-noires-la-mode-et-leur-integration-des-codes-blancs/
      “…fashion, whether black or white, draws its inspiration from various sources, and clothing in all communities and civilisations is a symbol of freedom. (But) it becomes a weapon of racism and a stigma when pseudo-sociological and historical meanings are invented for it, as you have done without having the knowledge of an anthropologist or historian.” (My bad translation.)

      Another thing that irritates me about this article is that somehow streetwear is not stylish. Why not?

  • http://profiles.google.com/kaila.heard Kaila Heard

    in addition to it dripping with racist sub-context, its also just another example of bad “trend” journalism where you take three highly recognized examples of a characteristic you want to write about and then you deem it a new trend. 

  • Soulfulindustry

    Really?!… that’s not what white French people have told me. From the experiences I’ve had in France, this article is just about in line with the general consensus. 

  • Soulfulindustry

    Really?!… that’s not what white French people have told me. From the experiences I’ve had in France, this article is just about in line with the general consensus. 

    • dersk

      Francis Fukuyama had an interesting couple of articles in _The American Interest_ about European identity that can help describe why the French have this misconception about themselves: http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/fukuyama/2012/01/10/european-identities-part-i/

      The Rihanna thing – a Dutch magazine called Jackie (hey, there’s some reverse cultural appropriation for you) had an article about Rihanna where they called her a ‘classic n***ab*tch’ and said that she’s Jamaican. Standard Dutch reply sequence: “You’re too sensitive”, “It was a joke”, “I’d like to sign up for unemployment benefits, please.” So the editor at least lost her job.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Casher-Oneil/100002427586133 Casher O’neil

        Well the Netherlands is a country where they think it’s funny to dress up like “Black Peter,”  Saint Nicholas’ buffonish black “helper” (black face, Afro wigs, bright red lips, etc) so WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED?

        • dersk

          In fairness, that’s the generic Dutch response to any offense, not just racism or sexism or generally just being a jerk. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an Amsterdammer apologize for anything.

          BTW, funny isn’t quite the right word for how the Dutch feel about Zwarte Piet. It’s a bit more complex than that, although still racist and in my opinion wrong.

  • 8mph Ansible

    “”First of all, lady, this is the fourth year of Barack’s term. You’re a little late with this intensely racist idea, aren’t you?””

    I’d say Elle France is AT LEAST 104 years behind the times.

    “black fashion renaissance”?!?! So, before Obama’s election, before the 2000s, before street wear we only wore grass skirts & loin cloths?!

  • 8mph Ansible

    “”First of all, lady, this is the fourth year of Barack’s term. You’re a little late with this intensely racist idea, aren’t you?””

    I’d say Elle France is AT LEAST 104 years behind the times.

    “black fashion renaissance”?!?! So, before Obama’s election, before the 2000s, before street wear we only wore grass skirts & loin cloths?!

  • k.eli

    I’m pretty sure their rationale is based on the classic racial monolith argument – i.e. all you guys are one in the same. And can I add Oprah Winfrey to your list as well? I know the people at Elle France have heard of her and last I checked she wasn’t prancing around in baggy pants. And I too can’t help but chuckle whenever I hear people boast about how Europe is just one big, happy, love train of racial harmony. Ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away – it just allows it to continue to fester. 

  • k.eli

    I’m pretty sure their rationale is based on the classic racial monolith argument – i.e. all you guys are one in the same. And can I add Oprah Winfrey to your list as well? I know the people at Elle France have heard of her and last I checked she wasn’t prancing around in baggy pants. And I too can’t help but chuckle whenever I hear people boast about how Europe is just one big, happy, love train of racial harmony. Ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away – it just allows it to continue to fester. 

  • Anonymous

    The only problem, IMO, is–if Dolivo would have done her journalistic duty instead of exercising her (white-privileged) Adamic duty to name us Negroes, she would have come across some information about that very same class of Black people…like the fact that that class of folks is already called “bougie.” 
      
    “Black-geoisie” indeed. Hmph.