Black is the New Black: Why Black Culture Matters in Fashion

We’ve all heard the sayings that “orange is the new black” or “x is the new black”. But now, we are increasingly hearing people advocate for “black” being the new black. That’s because there has been a shift in the fashion industry due to Black Lives Matter and other activism for equality and diversity. Historically, the Black fashion community has been uncredited and undervalued. But that is changing.

The fashion industry is increasingly demanding that Black designers and retailers get the attention and credit that they deserve. Now more than ever, it is important to understand Black culture clothing and the impact that Black history has had on the fashion industry.

Iconic Trends Inspired by Black Culture

Society is screaming for equality and diversity, so there’s no better time to look back on how Black culture has influenced fashion over the years. Many readers may be surprised at just how influential Black culture has been on fashion trends. Let’s take a look.

The Harlem Renaissance

In the 1920’s, the Harlem Renaissance gave the Black community the opportunity to develop its identity and represent their culture through fashion. It was during this era that fashion trends like the Zoot Suit began. It is also during this time that trends like pinstripes, silk shirts, drop-waist silhouettes, pearl necklaces, and wide lapels became “in fashion”.

The Civil Rights Movement

The 1960’s and 1970’s were the heart of political activism and calls for civil justice. It was during this time that the Black Panther Party was formed and gained a tremendous following. The Black Panthers wore a uniform consisting of black pants, a blue shirt, a black leather jacket, and a black beret. The very military-inspired look would influence fashion for decades. Now, we know this fashion trend as ‘urban militant’.

It was also during this time that the ‘Black is Beautiful’ movement began. This movement challenged the idea of traditional White features equaling beauty. Black people were encouraged to embrace their culture and traits, such as their skin color, natural hair, and cultural clothing influences.

The Hip-Hop Era

The 1980’s and 1990’s are known as the ‘hip-hop era’ because these decades are when hip-hop music and style really started to become popular. It was during this time that oversized shapes, bold patterns, and ‘logomania’ became popular fashion trends. Will Smith and TLC began to influence fashion and support Black youth through fashion styles and cultural icons. Fashion designers began using Afro-Centric patterns and colors that would stay trendy – even continuing currently.

Streetwear Meets Luxury

During the 2000’s, streetwear and hip-hop streetwear styles became increasingly popular. But gone were the days of colorful sweats and sneakers alone. Now, streetwear was combined with luxury and statement accessories. Black culture continues to influence streetwear, and there is no more well-known influencer than Dapper Dan. Dapper Dan was one of the first to blend high fashion and easy-going streetwear in the hip-hop world.

More recently, we have a long list of fashion icons who wear and support that same sort of blending between streetwear and high fashion. Louis Vuitton is one such iconic fashion label that is embracing the idea of luxury streetwear. By naming Virgil Abloh the first African-American Artistic Director of the LVMH brand, they are also embracing diversity and the Black community’s impact on streetwear. Other notable supporters include Rihanna and her Fenty Fashion House, as well as brands Off-White and Pyer Moss.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead, there seems to be no slowing down in the world of Black culture clothing. Since the Black Lives Matter movement began, more brands and companies than ever are embracing the Black community and joining the call for equality and diversity in the fashion industry.