A History Lesson: Black Culture in Fashion

What I love about fashion and personal style is that it can be influenced by almost anything: music, movies, dance, and most importantly, culture. Black culture has influenced fashion and style tremendously, especially over the past decade. From door knocker earrings to cornrows, black culture is all over the fashion industry. To set the record straight, let’s discuss some of the most iconic black fashion trends, their historical meanings, and origins.


Falsely labeled as “boxer braids” in recent media, this intricate hairstyle originated in ancient Africa as a symbolic practice that conveyed status, age, ethnicity, and religion. Due to the versatility, complexity, and uniqueness of design, cornrowing is a practice that has survived many many years - from ancient times to modern day and every era in between.

Ghetto Fab Jewelry

Popularized by female rappers and R&B singers in the 80s and 90s, door knocker earrings and hoops as big as dinner plates were a signature for ghetto fab girls all across America.

The 90s continued to be an era for hip hop themed jewelry when jewelry that featured novelty items such as afro picks, boomboxes, and cassette tapes became all the rage!  

In 2012, Love and Hip Hop cast members popularized huge earrings that featured dangling pendants and disks, pointy spikes, and large sequined beads.

The best kept secret: Black women don’t even have to take a step out of their own neighborhood to scoop up the latest, flyest accessories.

African/Caribbean Cloths (Kente, Ankara, Dashikis, Headwear)

In the 1960s, dashikis were introduced into African American culture as a symbol of unity amongst a struggling community.

A revival of the trend came several years later when clothes donning African/Caribbean prints and patterns became extremely popular amongst rappers and singers. Queen Latifah’s intricate headwear and afro-centric outfits were regal to say the least. In the 90s, dashikis continued to dominate the black fashion scene while Kente cloth (which originated in Ghana nearly 400 years ago) gained more and more popularity.

Recently, Ankara cloth became popular in the fashion industry. It can be found on shirts, dresses, skirts, and especially bathing suits.

Poetic Justice Braids

Yes, more braids! They are a hair staple in the Black community. “Poetic Justice braids” are actually called jumbo box braids but they were lovingly named after the 1993 movie in which Janet Jackson wore the popular hairstyle. This iconic hairstyle continued to grow in popularity throughout the 90s and well into the 2000s with Black women still wearing them to this day.   

What is your favorite fashion trend? Is there a history or interesting origin behind it?


Felicia aka Ms. Shopaholic Diaries