The Black community is known for being the birthplace for many of the major fashion trends we see in society today. From sneakerhead culture to the deradicalization of braids, twists, and knots. Western fashion wouldn’t be where it is today without our afro brothers and sisters.
Even though we’re the geniuses behind the latest fads, do we get the credit that we deserve? And are the fruits of our labor paid off by cultural appreciation or cultural appropriation?
One genre that has become overpriced, and gentrified is streetwear. Gentrification as defined by the Oxford dictionary is the process whereby the character of a poor urban area is changed by wealthier people moving in, improving housing, and attracting new businesses, typically displacing current inhabitants in the process.
In this case, instead of homes, it’s clothes. Making urban wear seem cool and quirky isn’t cute and misconstrues the whole essence of the style. People living in the Black community do not dress in an urban fashion solely because they think it’s cool.
It is also what they have access to, what has been natural to their environment, and how they express a sense of wealth while living in an area that may be impoverished or lack major resources.
One example is the deurbanization of sneaker culture. Over the years, proprietors have made it a form of elitism by over-pricing sneakers and created limited releases to cater to the wealthier market that has recently become entranced by this subculture.
The real influencers of this trend are getting phased out and upset because searching for the latest or limited edition kicks isn’t the same anymore. Everything is online and everyone is trying to wear the same shoes and they’re not even wearing it right.
If you’re going to tag along to a trend that isn’t native to your culture, then show appreciation by doing it right! The way it’s done has symbolism and isn’t just a random fad.
In an interview with Complex Mag, back in 2018, internet personality and sneakerhead Dallas Penn explains that
“The idea that a white/unworn/clean sneaker is better than one that has been worn/used is played in all Black culture and the art of presentation.”
Now, the neo culture is to wear your kicks dirty and stained when that’s not the culture. The whole art of being a sneaker master and streetwear in the Black community is all about presentation. A way of reclaiming your status in society, yes, I grow or grew up in the hood, but I can still dress and look better than half of you that didn’t. It is one of the few things the Black community can manipulate and hold onto when they walk out into the world and are discriminated against in almost every facet of their American lives.
Of course, we should all exist in a world where we can share our cultures with others without it getting ripped off or disrespected. Though for that to happen, capitalism and the white elite need to stop entering scenes not native to them without learning about its origins and symbolism in that culture.