Category Archives: fashion

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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Quoted: Adios Barbie On Stereotypes And Body Image

Supporters of the “Black is Beautiful” campaign and several others similar to sought to redefine beauty in ways that both included and uplifted black women from what Princeton professor Imani Perry describes as the “generally degrading and unattractive, or hypersexual and less feminine” images of black women in society. The message was clear: as Bill Cosby famously put it, “It isn’t a matter of black is beautiful as much as it is white is not all that’s beautiful.” Could it be that black women ignore the dominant images of beauty and instead dance to their own tune, or have we simply flipped the coin and replaced one set of controlling images with another?

Being skinny was never a crime. Yet somewhere along the way, African American pop culture took over and a binary standard of beauty once more became dominant among black women. In a classic two-steps-forward-one-step-back scenario, the Washington Post announced what watching any rap music video will tell you: skinny is out, “thick is in,” and having some extra meat on your bones is a virtue (cue the parade of “fiercely real” women with curves, because “real” women obviously come with curves.)

One self-proclaimed “real” woman is the British TV and radio presenter Mica Paris, who, with her less-than-real hair, claims that black women are happier with their appearance. Paris wrote in the UK’s Daily Mail in 2012: “I don’t know any black women who aspire to be skeletal, and even if we did, nature decrees that we shouldn’t be. We’re made with breasts, bottoms and well-developed quads.” It doesn’t take a genius to know that aligning black women to the supposed naturalness of a fuller figure is not only incorrect but also horribly subjective.

– From “Binary Thinking About Body Image Hurts Us All,” by Vinjeru Mkandawire

Nothing Says Native American Heritage Month Like White Girls In Headdresses

By Guest Contributor Sasha Houston Brown

Gwen Stefani in No Doubt’s “Looking Hot” video. Via

There is something insidiously ironic about being American Indian during the fall of the 21st century. It all starts with Columbus Day to mark our “discovery,” then moves right into the “it’s totally not racist to dress up as a hypersexualized Indian” awkward Halloween party, and goes out with a bang on Thanksgiving when we celebrate the survival of the Pilgrims and that harmonious, mutually beneficial relationship forged between colonizers and Indigenous peoples everywhere! However romanticized or factually inaccurate, these holidays happen to be the three days when Native peoples actually enter the mass psyche of American culture.

I don’t know about you, but I usually spend this time of year parading around in my Navajo Hipster panties, feather headdress (on loan from Karlie Kloss and Gwen Stefani), Manifest Destiny T-Shirt and knee-high fringed moccasins made in Taiwan while watching a Redskins game, smoking a pack of American Spirits, and eating genetically modified Butter Ball turkey, because I’m just that traditional.
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Blacklava Lights Up Asian America For 20 Years

By Guest Contributor Ken Choy, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

Blacklava founder Ryan Suda

Blacklava has been a reliable support system for Asian America. If one has an indie film, she’d go to Blacklava to help promote it. If one wants to expand a business, t-shirts created by Blacklava is the obvious choice. And if non-profits and live events need more bandwidth, no wider audience is to be found than Blacklava’s. Throngs crowd around the company’s booth appearances at Comic-Con just as much as they do at the Nihonmachi Street Fair.

Originally geared toward the surfing community, Ryan Suda created his company 20 years ago. He segued into Asian American-focused items when he created the “Asian is Not Oriental” t-shirt and was continually asked, “Hey, where can I get one of those?” And since then, Blacklava has been a reliable source of support and socially conscious sustenance for the Asian American community. Throughout the years, Blacklava has partnered with the likes of AngryAsianManSan Diego Asian Film FestivalEast West PlayersNorthern California Cherry Blossom FestivalSecret Identities, and over 150 other collaborators–including our own Hyphen Magazine.

As he prepares to open a 20th Anniversary Exhibit in Downtown LA’s Hatakeyama Gallery which includes an Opening Night Gala, I caught up with the soft-spoken entrepreneur and philanthropist with a huge heart.

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PSY And The Acceptable Asian Man

By Guest Contributor refresh_daemon, cross-posted from init_music

 The song of the hour.

So, by now, pretty much everybody who covers Korean music and a batch of mainstream international publications have had something to say about PSY’s “Gangnam Style”, which has, as of the writing of this post, had over 190 million views on YouTube, become an internet sensation, led to Psy getting airplay over the radio in some larger metropolitan cities in the US, and even got him signed to the record label that represents Justin Bieber. And while everyone I know that follows Korean music knows PSY, even my friends and peers who otherwise don’t care a thing about Korean or Asian media know about PSY and holler “Oppa Gangnam Style” along with him.

Much has been said about the viral sensation, breaking down the best moments of the video, examining whether or not this is a boon to Korean music’s attempts to break into one of the most lucrative music markets in the world, and some pieces even went deep into the actual meaning of “Gangnam Style.” And I was happy to let everyone else talk about “Gangnam Style” and its place in our world…except that I still have yet to read an article that hits one particular reason why I think “Gangnam Style” is so acceptable to Western audiences when every Korean and Japanese pop artist that tried to make it in America before has failed.
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Meanwhile, On TumblR: Seriously Cute Kids, The Glamourbaby Diaries, And Taylor Townsend

By Andrea Plaid

I finally figured out that I change my hairstyle every decade or so. In my fourth decade, I decided to forego the bald and grow out my hair without going to locs, like I did in my 30s. This little child is my seriously cute inspiration:


Quite a few of you Tunblizens were feeling the little one’s cuteness, too.

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Diversity Is More Than A Bra Size: What It’s Like To Be A Woman Of Color In The Lingerie Industry

By Guest Contributor Cora Harrington, a.k.a. Treacle Tart, cross-posted from The Lingerie Addict

Photo of the author by POC Photo. Hair & Makeup: The Shanghai Pearl. Lingerie: Kiss Me Deadly.

Today’s post was really hard to write. I’ve been thinking about the things I’m about to say now for months, but it’s only become clear in the last few weeks they urgently need to be said.

I never know which articles people see first when they visit The Lingerie Addict, and we get a lot of new visitors everyday. So I’m going to say a few things which are probably obvious to my longtime readers but may be less obvious to visitors who are new or who don’t come around as much.

  1. I’m black.
  2. I’m a US dress size 10, bra size 34C.
  3. I weigh 175 lbs.
  4. I’m American.

I’m saying all that to give you a bit of context about who I am and the perspective I’m writing from because, for some time now, I feel like the conversation on diversity within the lingerie industry has been dominated by those who behave like diversity only matters along one axis–and that’s size.
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