Writing 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.