back to top
Style

11 Things You Wouldn't Have Without Black Women

"YOU'RE WELCOME!" —Black women everywhere.

Posted on

1. Du-rags that can get you racially profiled or land you front row at fashion week, depending on your melanin levels.

Gustavo Caballero / Getty

Really, black men own the popularization of du-rags. BUT, you wouldn't have black men without black women. Du-rags are basically the black man's version of the black woman's satin scarf or bonnet. They protect the hair, keep it moisturized, and aid in the formation of sea-sickening waves when tied down after a good brushing. They are also the piece of fabric black moms tell their black sons to take off their heads before leaving the house, for fear the covering will amplify their presence as black men and increase their already high likelihood of being profiled. But to the white mainstream, du-rags are simply a fashion accessory that you can safely rock in the whitest spaces — like front row at New York Fashion Week.

2. And jumbo door knockers, bamboo earrings, and gold hoops that can either get you followed around a store or a top spot on Billboard.

youtube.com / Via vulture.com

Taylor Swift isn't exactly known for her cultural consciousness, so it was no surprise when the pop star's video for "Shake It Off" dropped. In denim booty shorts, knee pads, a cropped leopard bomber, and jumbo gold hoops, Swift tried to wine and twerk her derrière while encouraging listeners to "shake it off," "'Cause the players gonna play... And the haters gonna hate." Her look was very similar to that of Salt-N-Pepa's for classic videos like "Shoop" and "Push It." It’s also the look that — when worn by black girls in my retail jobs as a teen — my store managers would instruct the sales associates to closely watch. One time I actually witnessed a store manager put a sensor in her own pocket while trailing a bunch of black teens (who were dressed similarly to Swift) out the door. When the alarm went off, triggered by her planted sensor, she asked the girls if she could check their bags just as routine. She was shocked when she didn't find anything.

3. Timberlands, a white T-shirt, and jeans for an "all- American" look.

Splash News

After pics of Karlie Kloss wearing classic Timbs surfaced, Vogue dropped the headline "Karlie Kloss Has a Fresh New Spring Shoe Idea—And You Might Already Own a Pair." The fashion outlet wrote, "Kloss took the boots’ down-home vibe and ran with it in light-wash blues casually cuffed at the ankle and a tiny white T-shirt—a look as all-American as she is." The story sparked confusion among black women, as a white tee, snug jeans and Timberlands have been the unofficial I-don't-have-time-but-I'm-still-trying-to-be-cute getup for as far back as our memories take us. Wheat (the "signature yellow" color Vogue referred to) Timbs have been a style staple in communities of color since the glory days of hip-hop, so the "new idea" was a thing long before Karlie Kloss was Karlie Kloss.

4. Nameplate necklaces that were suddenly a must-have item after their major TV debut.

HBO

Sarah Jessica Parker's character Carrie Bradshaw wore a nameplate necklace in the highly popular TV show, Sex and The City. Naturally, it was then that wearing your name around your neck became a thing to white women. Patricia Fields, costume designer for the show, told InStyle that she was introduced to the jewelry by "kids in the neighborhood" of her New York shop and they "became a universal, long-lasting thing" after she and Parker agreed to make it part of Carrie's look.

But for black and brown women, getting a nameplate is and has been as normal as April showers. "They're an unequivocal and proud proclamation of our individuality, as well as a salute to those who gave us our names,” journalist and Emmy-winning producer Collier Meyerson writes. "The necklaces are a response to gas-station bracelets and department-store mugs emblazoned with names like Katie and Becky. But most of all, they’re a flashy and pointed rejection of the banality of white affluence."

5. Cornrows that were renamed "boxer braids" and miscredited to MMA fighters.

When Sasha Obama stunted at the White House state dinner in a nearly $20,000 gown and her hair in double cornrows, the New York Post reported that her "ebony mane" was styled into "parallel plaits," a version of "boxer braids" that had been spotted on other high-profile celebrities. The headline featuring the former first daughter's look was "UFC is inspiring the hottest new hair trend." UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) women wear the protective style a lot, but they're certainly not responsible for it or for popularizing it. The history of cornrows literally dates back centuries to Africa and it's since been a go-to style for black men and women.

6. Pierced nails that, according to media, is a new trend Kim K. started.

@kimksnapchats / Via instagram.com

Kim Kardashian Snapchatted her new pierced manicure, and per usual, media outlets threw up headlines like "Kim Kardashian starts new trend as she shows off PIERCED nails." But unsurprisingly, pierced nails, and other elaborate nail art, were already a familiar look to black women. In the '98 video for sexy single "What’s It Gonna Be" starring Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson, Jackson punctuates her paint-tight purple pant 'fit with purple and pierced nails.

7. And speaking of nails, extra-long stiletto and almond shapes that mainstream celebs and their followings have took a recent liking to.

@kyliejenner / Via instagram.com

In the "What's It Gonna Be?" video, Janet Jackson's pierced nails are also dagger-sharp at the ends. R&B's treasured girl group SWV really made the look popular in the '90s though, as lead singer Coko was known to point and wave her curved nails while effortlessly riffing and running. Like hair stores, nail salons, usually owned and run by Asian immigrants, are a landmark in black neighborhoods. Leaving the salon with pointed, rounded, embroidered, blinged nails has been a Saturday bullet on the agenda in black households for generations.

8. "Tribal, regal fashions" inspired by a group of people that rarely benefit from their inspiration.

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

Valentino is one of countless designers who have sent models down the runway in "African-inspired" looks. Of his spring/summer '16 collection (pictured above), the designer tweeted, "Primitive, tribal, spiritual, yet regal #Valentino #SS16." The models wore their hair in cornrows and they were dressed in "African prints depicting tribal scenes of leopards, rhinos, giraffes and elephants, kinetic geometric tribal markings, while cuffs and necklines exploded in quills and peacock feathers," according to Vogue UK. Despite the "primitive yet regal" inspiration clearly borrowed from "the wild plains of Africa," majority of the models were white.

9. Stylishly long ponytails, made with braiding hair to match the texture of black hair.

Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images

When photos of Kylie Jenner (this is not a Kylie attack, but the examples are just sooo easy) chillin' at fashion week sporting a long Yaki ponytail floated around the internet, black women everywhere had a collective "Girl, really? AGAIN?!" moment. The ponytail was made with a few packs of Yaki, which is extension hair that is processed to match the kinky texture a lot of black women have. Yaki hair is the go-to for black women who want length or a protective style, but still want some texture instead of sleek and straight hair.

10. Round and plump behinds that've recently been incorporated into the mainstream beauty narrative.

@jenselter / Via instagram.com

Up until recent years, the only place that fat asses were a part of the beauty standard were in black strip clubs and hip-hop videos. The narrative in pop culture was quite the opposite. In the classic movie Bring It On, there's a scene where the spirited cheer coach hired to help the Toros shames one of the girls for her very fit butt. "Report those compliments to your ass before it gets so big it flaunts its own website," he tells her after looking at her in disgust. And that same attitude toward curvy bottoms has been the norm in fashion and beauty spaces, making it that much harder for black women whose bodies are naturally bootylicious to work and thrive in the industries.

But with the crossover of hip-hop and the rising fame of black strippers, big asses have been getting long overdue praise by the mainstream — if they aren't attached to black bodies, of course. A prime example is Kim Kardashian, whose allegedly faux ass didn't even stop her from covering the almighty of fashion mags, KNOWN for its bias toward women with leaner behinds. In 2014, Vanity Fair spotlighted Jewish fitness guru Jen Selter in a feature titled, "Rear Admirable." The author wrote, "Selter’s derrière extraordinaire has made her a member of a rapidly rising subset of Instagram stars: young women unafraid to share their deeply bronzed, sculpted figures in neon spandex..." While black women with ass may never cover Vogue or pose with their rear asses in the most respected publications, we all know who's to credit for this newfound appreciation of plump posteriors.

11. And Afros that symbolize protest and pride, but are freely thrown on white models as editorial props.

Hey! Here's an idea: instead of putting an afro on Gigi Hadid, why not just HIRE A BLACK MODEL instead? 😊

The fashion and beauty industries have this absurd obsession with styling white models in black hairstyles, instead of just hiring black models, especially since there's already a severe shortage of diversity and representation in those industries. Instead, white models are given cornrows, and bantu knots, and Afros. In a cover story, Vogue Italia features a high-fashion editorial of Gigi Hadid posing in a variety of tightly coiled Afros. It's not the first time, and unfortunately won't be the last, as there are countless other instances of appropriating black hair.

Lori Tharps, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America told BuzzFeed that "Before it was the perfectly round Afro, it was a statement. To say, 'No more. Appreciate my beauty.'" She explains how it was a sign of protest because "tracing back to slavery, black women and men knew that to be perceived as 'respectable,' their hair had to be as close to white people's as possible." So when black people began wearing their natural texture in an Afro, it "was black Americans' way of letting white America — and black America — know that we no longer need to conform to a white aesthetic."

Every. Tasty. Video. EVER. The new Tasty app is here!

Dismiss