Category Archives: fashion

Black Freaks, Black F**s, Black Dy**s: Re-imagining Rebecca Walker’s “Black Cool”

By Guest Contributor Darnell L. Moore; originally published at Feminist Wire

15037_10151311871680791_1210328814_nEnter Scene: I am walking in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—where we do more than die, by the way—rocking a close fade with two parts on the side, a full beard and mustache lined up perfectly, eyes protected by a pair of fresh chocolate browline frames (I was two blocks from Malcolm X boulevard, after all). I am donning a fitted button-up white shirt, closed off with a pink and gray striped bowtie, form-fitting charcoal gray blazer, dark blue kinda-skinny jeans, and a pair of hot pink and silvery gray kicks.

Passerbyer 1 checks out my footwear.

Passerbyer 2 offers up the obligatory, “Yo, son, your kicks are hot.”

Passerbyer 3 is looking at me like I’m way off, as if to say, “Really, you got on pink sneakers, sucka? That’s gay as hell. You are doing way too much!”

Passerbyer 4, my neighbor repeats, like he always does, “You cool, brother.”

My representation as a certain type of black man often transgresses the accepted boundaries of black masculinity. The ways I cut my hair, shape–or refuse to shape–my beard, style my clothes, walk, talk, and gesture tend to confound some folk and, on occasion, anger others because of my seeming transgressions. Sinning ain’t easy.

Indeed, some will stare at me as I make my way down any street rocking a beard, frames, “man bag,” and a little less than loose clothing because my gender presentation seems to be read as a sign of non-heterosexuality, deviance. In fact, most folk are okay with what they “see” until they notice that I am wearing something like hot pink (!) sneakers. According to some, a black man wearing hot pink sneakers, like a black woman wearing a suit, ain’t at all “cool.”

The notion of “black cool,” in particular, seems to be limited, limiting, and quite “straight” (as in hetero and rigid). I am thinking, for example, of one of the inspirations that motivated Rebecca Walker’s investigation of “Black cool.” She mentioned during an interview on NPR that an image of then-Senator Barack Obama exiting a black Lincoln Town Car during the 2008 campaign “was really, at that moment, the epitome of black cool.”

She went on to say that she was “drawn to that image because [she] wanted to decode it and to see where it fit into this Afro-Atlantic aesthetic.” And while that image is but one of Walker’s inspirations (and while her book, Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness, actually includes critical and beautiful essays that think through the gendering of “black cool”), that particular picture of Obama locates the quotidian “black cool” in a male-bodied, masculine, straight black man and leaves me to wonder: does coolness exist anywhere beyond black masculinity, maleness, and heterosexuality? As some of the writers in Walker’s Black Cool argue, I think so.

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Beauty In Color: Oscar Highlights

by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

Quvenzhane Wallis and Halle Berry bond at The Oscars. Image via Buzzfeed.

We’re trying something new here at The R. In coverage of awards shows I’ve noticed fashion writers tend to completely ignore people of color, since there are so few nominated for the big awards. This holds true much more so for white-centric awards like The Oscars–less so for The Grammys. Unless you’re Halle Berry (and even then), beautiful people of color have to clamor for the spotlight. That’s where I come in.

There’s so much beauty in the world and, while I love Jennifer, Anne, and Jessica, I would like to shine a light on Inocente, Quvenzhane, and Octavia–some of the best dresses of the night. Beauty in color, under the cut.

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Uh, Yes, Franca Sozzani, Racism Is A Problem In Fashion

By Guest Contributor s.e. smith; originally published at Tiger Beatdown

The cover of “Vogue Italia” has an important face on it this month: Chinese model Fei Fei Sun, who is the first Asian model to appear on the cover of the magazine. I’d note that US and British editions have yet to feature an Asian woman on their covers, although US “Vogue” did do a spread featuring Asian models in 2010.

Fei Fei Sun on the cover of Vogue Italia

Writing on the “Asia Major” spread that ran in the US, Samantha V. Chang said: “How I wish I could have seen the Asian models of today staring back at me from magazine pages or television screens when I was a Korean-American teenager in the Midwest, wrestling with foundation shades of ‘bisque,’ ‘honey,’ and ‘sand’ in my local Walgreens.” Diverse representation in fashion is important, folks.

2013 is high past time for putting an Asian woman’s face front and center on the cover of a major fashion publication outside of Asia, and I hope we see a lot more. The more, the better because Asian ethnicities are incredibly varied–and the more Westerners are exposed to–the better. The fact that we aren’t seeing Asian faces in Western mags is a serious problem, and it’s a problem rooted in–wait for it–racism.

This editorial, titled simply “Fei Fei,” features the model in an assortment of delicious retro outfits, complete with lavish cat-eye, dramatic hairstyles, and elegant hats. Some of them are, as a commenter points out, somewhat dangerously evocative of the “Dragon Lady” stereotype, particularly the photograph of Fei Fei Sun looking fierce with a cigarette, illustrating that simply including a Chinese model doesn’t mean your race problem is solved, but it is a step in the right direction.

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Inauguration Fashion: Highlights

by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

From E! Online.

Just a quick note (“quick” is a bold faced lie and I know it) to show you that we Racialicious denizens leave the roost sometimes and branch out!

Yesterday, we celebrated the swearing in of our first African American president, for the second time (woo!) We also celebrated the confirmation of four more years of Michelle Obama looking ferosh all the time in the public eye, so I was asked to participate in a Huffington Post Live hangout where a few people would talk about the highlights of the inauguration ceremony from various angles. The guests were:

  • Reverend Deborah L. Johnson, Founder of Inner Light Ministries, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Molly Darden, Managing Editor of Azizah Magazine, Atlanta, GA
  • Dr. Christopher House, Dir., African American Worship Service at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
  • Tim Byrnes, Professor of Political Science at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
  • J.J. Colagrande, Professor at Miami-Dade Wolfson and HuffPost Blogger, Miami, FL
  • Joseph Lamour, Fashion & Entertainment Editor at Racialicious.com, Washington, DC
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C’est moi! The drawing behind me is by yours truly as well. Cross promotion!

Let me just tell you: I did not expect to be seated amongst tenured professors and ministers. I was taken aback (and feel honored to be even thought of for the same discussion as the above people). I was so taken aback that I forgot my opening line! I had dubbed yesterday African American Awesomeness Day, and it really was. I promise I’m not talking about myself, either. I’m being humble (for once). To have Martin Luther King’s birthday fall on the same day as the re-inauguration of an African American President with his African American First Lady at his side was truly, truly, awesome.
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Race + Fashion: Life, Labels, And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Michael Kors bag.

By Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn Eaton, cross-posted from Digital Femme

“Cheryl Lynn, you will have your first and last dollar.” My mother says it with blend of mirth, surprise, and exasperation–as if she cannot believe she produced a child who behaves in such a practical manner, a child who would dare complain that she had to spend twenty-four dollars on a purse due to the old one falling apart at the seams. My mother possesses a walk-in closet full of purses. Not one could be purchased for twenty-four dollars. The glint of a gold circle surrounding a bold M and K–the lack of one separating my leather satchel from her assortment–costs a great deal more.

Yet, my mother is a child of poverty; I am a child of the working-class struggle. She needs her talismans, her high-end upmarket logos, to make her feel as if she is of worth. I was taught to fear them, to believe that obtaining them would bring about financial ruin. I’ve jokingly told many friends that I’m glad I grew up working-class instead of rich, middle class, or poor because it has made me so paranoid about money that I’ll never purchase designer labels. Black working-class kids are raised to believe that one wrong move will have you back in the ghetto where your parents came from. Working-class kids are raised on fear.
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Meanwhile, On Tumblr: Vogue Italia Puts Its First Asian Model On The Cover

By Andrea Plaid

Happy 2013 from Tumblrville! How quite a few of the R’s Tumblizens kicked off the new year is <3ing and reblogging this bit of news from People, via Disgrasian:

Vogue Italia, the magazine known for taking a stand against anorexia and promoting the use of black models in fashion, made another statement this week, putting an Asian woman on its cover for the first time.

Fei Fei Sun On Vogue Italia's cover. Image via People.

Fei Fei Sun On Vogue Italia’s cover. Image via People.

Chinese model Fei Fei Sun covers the magazine’s January issue (out worldwide Monday), a celebration of the multicultural, border-free facets of fashion. Editor in chief Franca Sozzani, who works as a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations’ Fashion 4 Development Project, chose Sun for the honor.

The kicker about Sun’s cover is, says the celebrity magazine:

According to the Daily Mail, French Vogue was the first European magazine to put an Asian model on its cover–Chinese supermodel Du Juan, in 2011. And while both British and American editions of Vogue have featured Asian models in spreads, neither has selected an Asian woman for its cover…yet.

Color us unsurprised here at the R. And check out who and what else (un)surprise us on the R’s Tumblr!

 

Race + Fashion: The Almighty Allure Of Polo

By Guest Contributor Dallas Penn, cross-posted from Dallas Penn

I can remember the first day I ever wanted to wear a piece of Ralph Lauren clothing. I was with a group of friends on the subway heading to Manhattan one morning on the way to high school. I spotted a teenager in the car next to ours wearing a color-blocked windbreaker. The vibrant colors of the jacket resembled the packaging from the Lifesavers candy roll. Everything else in my eyesight turned to grayscale as I went into hunter mode to acquire the jacket.

When the R train pulled into Lexington Avenue, I went after the dude like a wild animal. I ran down the morning rush-hour platform with reckless abandon, people screaming in my wake as they were almost pushed onto the train tracks. I chased dude up the escalator, nearly knocking people over the edge as I pursued him relentlessly. The kid in the windbreaker jacket disappeared from me at the landing, but my obsession with Polo by Ralph Lauren has stayed with me since.

This was in 1986 and here I stand 25 years later with over 1000 pieces of Polo by Ralph Lauren clothing and gear in my archives. What made me give over half of my life (and frankly, over half my net wealth) to the loyalty of this brand? It is more than Ralph Lauren’s slick marketing efforts which describe his Polo brand as the ultimate in luxury lifestyle apparel. It is that kid’s efforts and mine–and all Black kids’ efforts–to retain the Polo pieces they wore on their backs. This was the New York City I grew up in.
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Foreign Tokens: The Blackamoor Brooch

Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco wearing blackamoor heads.

By Guest Contributor Rama Musa

The legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once wrote, “Have I ever showed you my little blackamoor heads from Cartier with their enameled turbans? I’m told it’s not in good taste to wear blackamoors anymore, but I think I’ll revive them.”

A blackamoor head is a bejeweled bust of a dark-skinned African wearing a pseudo-Oriental turban. Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana recently caused a firestorm for featuring blackamoor imagery in their spring 2013 runway collection. Rapper Azealia Banks went on Twitter to boycott the brand. In its defense, D&G claims that the collection is inspired by Moorish imagery on Sicilian majolica ceramics. That’s a plausible rebuttal. The 9th-century Moorish invasion of southern Italy was so cataclysmic that it’s immortalized in Sicilian arts. But, the ornamental use of blacks in European luxury culture has a more complex history.
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