I love fashion but I hate you.

on black style

I have to be careful now on what I spend my 20 free article views on NYTimes. I can’t be clicking willy-nilly on missile attacks in Libya, or about flooding in the gulf, or heat waves in Russia. Nope, I save my precious few views on shit like this:

The article gets down with the socio-political aspect about the Black Male bodywhich I won’t get too into, partly because I’m lazy, and mainly because the real academics do a much better job. Here’s a snippet:

“It’s the mise-en-scène, the whole package,” said Monica Miller, a Barnard English professor and the author of “Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity.” “It’s not just the clothes. It’s the body that’s wearing the clothing and the disposition of the body, how the body inhabits the clothes. It’s asking the viewer to construct a narrative about that black male body.”

If that doesn’t give you flashbacks of Sociology 134 and bong hits, nothing will.

But I bring this up to talk about another point. On many style forums and amongst fashion circle, there’s an idea. The idea that a particular individual’s genetic and personal traits can attribute or detract from the look. That is, that given a particular outfit, the person in said outfit has an effect on the overall look. Colloquially, this is called “pulling off the look” as in “you pulled off (that bowler hat with a bird on it) quite well.”

 And often, race has to do with whether or not you can pull something off. In particular, it seems that being black offers a +2 modifier to whether or not a look can be pulled off.

I’m not arguing validity. But if it were true, why would this be? Is it simply a matter of pigment? As if black skin was a better palette against which to set clothing? That seems like nonsense. Does it have to do with history? Or culture? The hyper-sexualization of the black male body? What allows them to “pull off” looks other races daren’t dream?

Being an Azn man, I sometimes find that we get -2 to pulling off looks. Put a black gentleman like from the article in a bow tie and top hat, and you get an instant GQ shoot. Do the same for a man of Asian descent, and you’re going to get Classy Geek at best, Anime-Expo Geek at worst.

Strange, that fashion, history, and struggle should meet in such ways.





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