We get it from our mothers
Our mothers and grandmothers often gave the same advice, and now we give it to you: Wake up every morning and make yourself fine. Whether it’s a weekday workday or a Sunday morning requiring the full-on raiment of the sacrament with heels, stockings, gloves and a heavenly hat, our culture has never really seen the point of dressing down. Even Casual Fridays are an opportunity to keep it tight and make it cute, right?
Women of a certain age may recall a song called Spanish Harlem. It was written in 1960, originally recorded by Ben E. King, but Aretha Franklin made it a legend with her commanding 1971 version, changing the original lyric to fit her own vision:
“There’s a rose in Black ‘n Spanish Harlem,
A rose in Black’ n Spanish Harlem,
She’s growing in the street,
Right up through the concrete,
Soft, sweet, and dreaming.”Ben E. King
The beauty of the Black woman and the genius of Black style at last stand in the light of recognition and respect. After centuries of negation, Black style rules.
Our roots run deep, and our vibe is complex. And in the STYLE section of our site, we find joy in documenting the creative brilliance of how Black women represent. A Black woman’s beauty is like no other, beginning with the innately sculptural qualities of S-pattern or Z-patterned natural curls. Black hair is a live medium that inspires treatment as art, whether picked out sky-high, pressed and coiled sleek and flat to the head, or enhanced with a waterfall of extensions. Today we teach our daughters and granddaughters that our foremothers secretly tucked seeds and even nuggets of gold in their elaborate coiffures, as a way of ensuring their survival in the face of brutal displacement, loss and peril.
And then there’s our melanin. We love it. We can’t get enough of it. It is a treasure, a fortune, our heritage and legacy, a form of wearable wealth. The range of our tones and shades is rich and diverse, because we literally are the original people of color. This confectionery of colors energizes our wardrobe palette with warmth and depth, even when we’re dressed in beige or navy blue. And our pigmentation announces who we are before a word is spoken, making the message plain: We are descended from Queens.
A “LBD” for a Black woman may be a traditional Djellaba worn with the fiercest pair of Jimmy Choos for miles. We may wear a goatskin Isidwaba or Isikhaha with a cashmere sweater, Chucks (a nod to Vice President Harris) and pearls. We lay claim to authentic African fabrics, cuts and motifs and freestyle skilfully, cross-pollinating influences to synthesize an eclectic and electric personal statement of style.
Mainstream society has appropriated (stolen) from Black people at least since Picasso copied African masks and called it Cubism, and white players heard music from the Delta and brought it to their listeners as jazz (they also borrowed blues and gospel, along with ragtime, boogie-woogie, R&B, and rock and roll). And today, people of all ethnicities wear cornrows, bronzers, butt pads, and rap and, rhyme, dance, and attempt to lay claim to hip-hop culture. It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and perhaps this is so.
One does not need a long memory to recall a time when Black women were encouraged to negate their Blackness with scarring “fade” creams often containing mercury, and to break down their curls with equally powerful chemicals (lye and mashed potatoes, if one reads The Autobiography of Malcolm X). But even this literally toxic cultural violence against the Black woman’s Blackness could not bleach, dissolve, or eradicate what is so deeply hers.
Our research and reporting will explore and expose the ways, both subtle and overt, that centuries of Eurocentric society attempted to erase the power and worth of Black people, including our physical beauty.
Today, we celebrate how we are. This means loving our skin from crown to queenly pedicure. We may choose to relax our tresses, or not. We may tint, wig, weave, braid, loc, knot, twist, or even go for a clean shave. As India Arie sings
“Sometimes I shave my legs, and sometimes I don’t.India Arie
Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won’t.
Depends on how the window blows,
I might even paint my toes,
It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul.”
Not one of us is the average girl from your video. While Mother Africa is all of humanity’s home, Black style is more nuanced and complex than simply ancestral. Perhaps by necessity, Black style is historically an improvisation that creates lively dialogue between disparate elements, whether the medium be visual, musical, or culinary. There’s no shame in admitting that the original ingredients of classic soul food were kitchen scraps. Today, these nourishing, savory, inventive, make-do dishes of our foremothers’ generation are enjoyed as world-class cuisine, unique to America, and an unforgettably delicious expression of the Black experience. Just like the rich and tangy history of our foodways, we’ll be serving up fresh takes on Black beauty, style and fashion, from the ancient banks of the Nile to the runways of Paris and Milan.
We’re happy to engage in the playful Coastal Conversation, West Coast versus East Coast, who’s bad? Most of our creative team has roots in the Apple, or has at least spent a goodly amount of time there. We enjoy the contrast, because while we love to just throw on a caftan and put our toes in the sand (although California’s beaches pale in comparison to those of our beloved Caribbean, in every way!), we also love the glam, sleek, chic, hard-stylin’ edge of big city life. Taxi!
We’ll be bringing you expert tips and the up-close-and-personal 411 about what to wear and how to style it, for occasions both grand and small. And we look forward to hearing from you about what’s hot, what’s not, what’s your latest love-it to covet, and what’s simply got to go.
We delight in creative improvisation, and we dress to express, choosing to garb ourselves in Kente, Eileen Fisher, Courtney Washington and Calvin Klein. We know that there’s a place in the wardrobe for a pair of well-worn jeans and the perfect little tee shirt. And we also love to adorn ourselves like the royalty we truly are. This applies to everything from hairstyles, highlights and hats to home décor.
Age adds to our majesty. In a mainstream society that fears aging more than death itself, our cultural resilience carries us a long way. This is not to say that we don’t feel a certain pang of a poignance looking at photos of younger selves from back in the day, or holding an heirloom wedding dress with that tiny, tapered waist. And why not fondly remember the sweetness (and firmness) of youth? Standing now in the full power of our years, should we choose to fill, plump, lift, nip and tuck, and all the rest, as the saying goes, bling-bling and shine on. It’s all part of the cherishing that we all deserve so richly. Our coverage of beauty, fashion and style is our exploration of this cherishing that we give to ourselves, and to each other, in appreciation of all that we are. Beautiful!!!!