My hair, my way: The rise of black hair in mainstream fashion culture
November 12, 2016 at 8:31 am
Amidst the contemporary socio-political battles that African Americans fight in the U.S daily, unadulterated black pride and fearless cultural expression continues to be a driver of the black empowerment movement. The celebration of natural hair has long permeated black culture as a symbol of pride in our distinct identities, and a recent resurgence of this value for black hair proves its inherent value to our culture
Natural black hair and traditional black hairstyles have been making news headlines lately — and at first it was not because of its appearance on black women. Take the Kardashian clan for example, who notably faced intense criticism from the black community for earning credit in major fashion publications for "inventing boxer braids.”
Or Marc Jacobs, who faced similar criticism after lacing his mostly-white cast of models in pastel-colored dreadlocks for his runway show at NYFW — then asserting that black women should face the same level of criticism for straightening their hair.
Although such appropriation of black culture can initially seem like a compliment or a sign that people are finally beginning to get the point about how marvelous black hair is, there is just one major point that seems to be getting lost in translation: if black hair isn’t celebrated on black women, it shouldn’t be glorified on anyone else. Black women have been making this point clear by asserting their right to wear their hair in its natural state freely just like everyone else. And aside from Marc Jacobs' controversial NYFW presentation, it appears that many designers are beginning to catch on. Deterring from the deeply-rooted perception of traditional beauty that has become intrinsic to fashion culture, fashion houses have begun to include more diverse representation of hair in their runway shows.
All over the Spring/Summer ’17 runways, designers ranging from DKNY, Guy Laroche, Elie Saab, Trussardi and many more have put fro’ed-out natural beauties front and center, signaling the start of a much-needed revolution in the fashion industry. Black women play as big of a role in driving fashion culture as anyone else, and it’s about time that they are allotted the opportunity to represent themselves — and couture fashion — exactly as they are. The fascination with black hair as this season’s chicest accessory does not immediately fix the pervasive lack of diversity on the runway. But with high-end designers beginning to understand the value of displaying diverse images in their fashion shows, it is certainly a start.
Like many things in the fashion industry, natural black hair might turn out to be a passing seasonal trend inspired by the unavoidable prominence of the black pride movement in mainstream culture today. But if the survival of a trend is reliant upon the strength of its impact on society at large, natural hair will not be letting go of its place on the runway away anytime soon.
Gabriella Layne is the creator of fashion community @StrutGlamLane. She is an East Coast native who moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue her M.A in Public Relations at the University of Southern California. Since becoming a West Coast transplant, palm trees, fashion and female empowerment have become her biggest passions.