Being a Black woman isn’t a monolithic experience. It’s vast and layered. It’s complex in its simplicity and rich with culture. It’s a culture that at one time was not appreciated outside of its community. The bold lippies and gloss, bamboo earrings, nail extensions, box braids, oversized jeans and crop tops; style that has had so much character has now transcended the pages of our photo albums to becoming TikTok fashion. It’s an “unapologetic” wave of bold style. In reality, it’s OUR self expression.
While nail extensions were not exclusive to the Black woman’s experience, the creativity in which we wore them was. The length, the designs, the bold colors- that is us. If we go back into the 80s and 90s, we created looks that are now seen as fashion-forward when pop culture gets ahold of them. Olympian Florence Griffith- Joyner wore her trademark long nails along with SWV’s Coko. Janet Jackson elevated the boundaries of nail designs when she added piercings to her set. Although largely seen as creative within our community, it translated to something else outside of it.
Baby Hair, Knockers and Braids
At some point in many Black women’s hair journey, some will experience the laying of edges to create baby hair. It is not odd to see our hair in cornrows, or box braids. Being young I remember my pigtails being crowned with knockers as well as those in my class. These things were considered ethnic. They’re now mainstream thanks to pop culture.
The around the way girl look was ushered in with the likes of Mary J. Blige and TLC. Ladies Love Cool James told our older sisters and aunties that’s what he needed. Fresh faces with a a lippie and bamboo earrings complimented any look whether it be oversized pants or crop tops. Aaliyah continued the fashions and made brands like Tommy Hilfiger popular in a more urban landscape. The marriage of couture labels paired with our Levis or remixed with something fresh is how we displayed our dopeness then and now.
Culture Appropriation vs Appreciation
If you scroll on TikTok, they’re debates concerning our rite of passage as Black women. From whether box braids are exclusive to us and can be tolerated by non textured hair to whether or not baby hair and ‘run me my money' length nails belong to our culture. The tomboy looks polished with simplistic makeup all reign supreme on social media especially TikTok. While it is flattering to finally have our culture appreciated in some aspect, it can walk the line of appropriation when others refuse to pay homage to those before us that created these fashion moments. These aren’t fresh takes on today’s fashion. These are cultural moments that are depicted in style. It’s our creativity at its finest. Black women have curated style that has gone on to transcend the parameters of our community and rarely do we get credit or true appreciation.