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Is Fashion In Music Dead?

fashionable_men.jpgWriting for SoulBounce affords me the opportunity to sample many Soul and Hip Hop blogs on a daily basis. For those who know me personally, they know that both music and fashion share top billing as passions of mine. Perusing one of my absolute favorite fashion blogs, The Sartorialist, fashion photographer and the blog's author Scott Schuman waxed poetically about one of the major fashion influences, Morris Day. In "On Zoot Suits, Baggies, Stacy Adams & 125th Street," Schuman writes "When I see a gentleman like the the Deacon I shot in Harlem yesterday I don't see him as an 'exotic'...The start of my style education was with those guys in The Time." 

Is this a novel occurrence? Of course not. As annoying as Diddy has been and will continue to be, anyone whose seen a Sean John show during New York's Fashion Week knows that the label is sound on both fashion and financial levels. And the myriad labels that exist to sell recycled versions of street style that we have come to know and love, Ecko Unlimited, Southpole, and Phat Farm come to mind, are in such abundance that there is no true originality to be found within these labels. That is why it is so refreshing to see someone who seeks to remind us all that, yes, there was a time when African-Americans were known and revered as beacons of fashion.

And before your side-eye starts going aflutter, yes, Black folks always have been on the cutting edge of influencing fashion whether it be zoot suits, Motown-era style, afros, Cazal glasses, or oversized diamond-encrusted medallions on lengthy chains. This is well known and accepted. Lately, however, as the music that is most accessible has taken a turn for the worst, similarly has the expression of this music in clothing form. I will concede that there are a few players in the game who take their fashion game seriously, Kanye, Q-Tip, and Common instantly come to mind, it would be nice to know that "individuality" is not synonymous with all things "hipster," i.e. tight pants, misplaced neon colors, and a general lack of knowledge of '80s-era fashion because, let's face it, you weren't there. 

To return to the initial focal point of this post, Schuman writes, "If I felt totally comfortable talking about clothes with my guy friends it's because it was so normal in the music I was listening to at the time." Echoing this sentiment, it's high time that artists start taking not just the music more seriously, but how artists present themselves to their public. A wise man once said "Music is culture." This same person also said "letting society and commerce determine your sound instead of moving culture yourself doesn't make you an artist." As we prepare to welcome a historic event of monumental proportions that we have all been blessed to witness on January 20th, it's time to admit that judging a book by its cover may not always prove to be wise. Furthermore, it's time to admit that the clothes really not only make the man or woman, but the perception of the music as well. Creativity is not lacking in the music we know and love, but when it comes to the desire for new expressions of style by those at the music forefront, both artists and their fans have proven to be determined, focused sheep. As this website has and continues to show, the need to focus on the "good old days" is as futile as denying the new school their place in the fray of worthwhile music. Here's to hoping that originality, musicality, and style continues to coexist peacefully and beautifully as the perfectly positioned pocket square on Morris Day's brocade jacket.

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6 Responses

  1. Amen and Hellelujah! Preach Mami. The Sartorialist was right. He was catching hell from some dudes on the site who believed that his depiction of Black men was stereotypical. Not so. Brothas from all walks of life with incredible fashion sense and style have been featured on that blog.
    Fashion has always been big among our people, so acting like it's brand new or something that is passe is ri-damn-diculous. From The Harlem Renaissance to the 21st century Black style is where it's at!

  2. I give these fashion-obsessed neo-pop rappers a lot of shit, but let's be honest-- there's something to be said for a brother that makes sure all the details are in place. Conspicuous consumption is nothing new; there was a time when the brothers, no matter how broke they were, would still invest in a bespoke 3-piece suit and polished shoes because they understood the magnitude of presentation in that day.
    There is, however, a slight subtext of misplaced classism and irresponsibility when it comes to Hip Hop artists, especially once we take into account what brought about Hip Hop in the first place and the relationship between these artists and their lisateners. At this point in our country's financial strife, am I really supposed to give props to these nouveau riche neggas that cannot SHUT UP about Louis Vuitton toilet paper? Sorry, dude, but you are not speaking my language.
    Ultimately, presentation is never EVER dependant on how much money was spent, but moreso on how seriously you take your own image with respect to your budget. Any man that gives a damn about how he'll be received can make a $60 outfit look just as fresh as a $6,000 one.

  3. You know, I see a lot of fashioned-up artists and they're all so safe and bland, like an ad for the ad for the product from a magazine,
    the fashion is wearing them.
    That's not flair, that's just shopping.
    Style has no price and it can't be bought.
    Style is personal it's from within.
    Extrapolate as you wish...

  4. Lol. Yah I remember back in the days, Morris was CLEAN. But he did have a little help from his valet. So word up to all you Jerome cats out there! Keep bringing us our mirrors and keeping us looking good!

  5. tight jeans and member only jackets is not fashion, border line gay maybe, but fashion? the only cats in hip hop with any style are andre3000, Jay-Z, and Puffy. All 3 are always freshly dipped be it in jeans or fashionably dipped in suits. The rest of these clowns are just puppets, no style at all.

  6. "Any man that gives a damn about how he'll be received can make a $60 outfit look just as fresh as a $6,000 one."
    Exactly. That line made me instantly remember the handful of men I am lucky enough to know that exemplify that old phrase "put together". They always look original and effortless, even in bargain priced finds. Definitely put thought into their outfit, but don't over-think. Just confident and comfortable. Love to see more hip hop artists find that balance-- a look that compliments their musical identity, but doesn't overshadow it.
    And no puff-paint names on their shades. Imagine that.



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