Streetwear has evolved tremendously over the past few decades. You’ve got to admit, it’s come a long way from Fubu sweaters and Tommy jumpers. Though it wasn’t coined as such until more recent times, it has always been at the centre of urban culture. From special edition kicks to graphic tees, so many “it” pieces and current trends can be traced back to the inner city also more popularly known as “the hood”. So let’s cut to the chase. Why are there so little black women in the adverts for brands that specialize in this niche?
In lieu of political correctness let me say, yes, I am fully aware that there are different types of people from the hood and this variation depends on where you are in the world. However, it’s really no secret that people of colour are most prominent. This includes black women who have created and contributed to the trends birthed from this environment be it by necessity or simply creativity.
Yes, we live in a society heavily impacted by globalization which isn’t a bad thing. At this point, everyone is sharing and swapping ideas, trends, and fashions like never before. Naturally, urban style has moved to the forefront and its elements have become part of larger mainstream culture. However, this has come at the expense of a key player in its foundation—the black woman. She’s barely anywhere to be found in street-focused fashion advertisements (although- shoutout to Fenty and Ivy Park for keeping it real).
Nine times out of ten, the majority of the ladies in the advertisements are caucasian or “white-passing”. In this way, far too many popular brands who are at the forefront of the urban streetwear movement play a role in the erasure of black women- which is interesting because we too are consumers of their merchandise. What’s that about? On social media, a young man raised a question regarding this which went viral in a matter of minutes. Soon, the Twitterverse was retweeting and sharing but unfortunately, his comment evaporated as quickly as it spread with no real conversation surrounding it.
I sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but look, black women deserve to be represented in streetwear adverts and campaigns like everybody else, period. We’re no strangers to things like logo-emblazoned “dad hats” (who the hell came up with that corny name? Asking for a friend). Wavy tracksuits and sneakers in candy-coloured patterns, which have been a part of our lives before it was “cool” and “trendy” to suburban-esque insta “it” girls like Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid (no shade to those ladies).
As a matter of fact, the first collectors I knew were girls who looked like me in high school, who one-upped the boys with insane Jordan and Airmax pick-ups to go with their designer tote bags. They were the queens of mixing and matching, making something as simple as a Bape tee or a Polo outfit look extremely glamorous.
And guess what, those girls still exist including the ones who are all grown up with careers now, jet-setting in Supreme, gold nameplates, and Louis Vuitton luggage. Some of them aren’t even that fancy— they might be loyal to H&M hoodies, Puma kicks, and $1 hoops from the beauty supply store. However, the essence of their style is the same; gritty, sporty and feminine. What does the fashion industry call that again now? “Athleisure”?
So, Streetwear brands, it’s time you put more black women alongside everyone else in your advertisements. You know, for the culture. Don’t play yourself.
By Amber Alexander