Throughout history, fashion has taken many twists and turns. This list highlights just 7 of the many ways Black culture has influenced fashion; along with a few notable fashion icons that single-handedly changed the fashion world we live in today.

Diana Ross – Courtesy of Getty Images

1. Hoop Earrings

The invention of hoop earrings dates back to the Bronze age and 4th Century Africa. Often made of bronze, silver, and gold the hoops were an essential accessory for Egyptian women.

During the Jazz age, hoops were most notably worn by American-born, black French Jazz performer and Civil Rights activist Josephine Baker; an iconic figure in history that symbolized the beauty and vibrancy of black culture in the 1920s.

These big hoop earrings became a day-to-day accessory for women of color during the Black Power movement alongside the celebration of Afrocentric dress.

Celebrities such as Diana Ross and Cher were also known for wearing the iconic earrings, natural hairstyles, and African-inspired look.

During the 1980s, hoops started to get both thicker and grew in size. Artists such as Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, and Lauryn Hill contributed to the popularization of hoops with gemstones, nameplates, or phrases.


Michael Jordan – Courtesy of Getty Images

2. Sneaker Culture (Trainer Culture)

Starting in the 1970s, shoes began their transition from sportswear to a form of self-expression. This was strongly due to the 1980’s hip-hop culture and the increasing popularity of basketball. Michael Jordan released his shoe line ‘Air Jordan’ in 1985 and it took the world by storm. Often worn by kids of color the signature basketball trainers created a generation of collectors and helped give the shoe collectability and were often seen as a symbol of status. This trend became global by the end of the 1990s as collectors began their search for the rarest, vintage, or limited-edition items. Today the extremely popular trend has been picked up by both sportswear and luxury brands. The significant role of trainers in the fashion industry today was almost solely thanks to Black youth in America.

3. Oversized Trend

The trend of wearing ‘oversized’ clothing noticeable began in the 1980s during the hip-hop era. The style is often associated with the idea that these clothes were often handed down from family member to family member. Artists in this time would often dress this way in hopes to connect deeper with their fan base. This trend eventually made its way to Hollywood and soon became a staple in mainstream fashion.

4. Nails

It is thought that as far back as 3000 BC Egyptian women often wore nail extensions made from ivory, gold, and bone. While Egyptian and Chinese royalty painted their finger and toenails red as a symbol of status.

Donyale Luna

Acrylic nails were made in the United States in the 1950s and quickly became popular among Hollywood stars. However, Donyale Luna, the first black woman to be on the cover of Vogue, notably wore them on the cover of Teen Magazine in 1966. Acrylic nails would soon appear in nail salons across the country in the 1970s and became a standard for black 70s Disco stars such as Diana Ross and Donna Summers.

Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo Jo)

The 1980s track and field athlete Florence Griffith Joyner, also known as ‘Flo jo’, is considered the fastest woman of all time. She quickly became notorious, both for her incredible record-breaking speed, but also for her iconic flamboyant nails. She sported these long acrylic nail designs throughout her career and even on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1988; the year she broke world records for the 100m and 200m that are yet to be broken. These long nails were also popularized by the hip-hop and R&B culture with artists such as Missy Elliott, La Toya Jackson, Coko, and Lil Kim. Today acrylic nails are considered an art and although they have been adopted worldwide by women of every nationality, it is important to remember that black women were instrumental in leading this cultural wave.

Unfortunately, as of late, despite the cultural impact black women had on nails, they are now often seen as tacky, cheap, or unprofessional when worn by black women. This stereotype is extremely harmful to the history of the style and often contributes to wider stereotypes and reinforcing systematic oppression.


LL Cool J- Courtesy of Getty Images

5. Bucket Hats

This style is seen across the world from celebrities, influencers, and even fishermen. Originally designed to function as an accessory to protect fishermen from rain, the bucket hat was also adopted by war troops in the 1940s. As years passed the hat began picking up steam in the 1960s as more of a fashion statement and became an iconic accessory by the 1980s. LL Cool J may not have been the first rapper to wear the ‘fishermen’s hat’ but it quickly became part of his style. Allowing the hat to dominate the beat-box culture.


6. Scripted Necklaces

Alongside gold hoops, scripted necklaces are known as an integral part of Black and Latinx culture since the 1980s. The iconic necklaces aren’t known as just a fashion statement, they are also worn to display both dignity and pride in their often considered ‘hard to pronounce’ name. They are also seen to some as a ‘right of passage’ indicating that the wearer is responsible enough to own customized gold jewelry. It is said that Carrie Bradshaw wore her iconic necklace during the filming of “Sex and the City” because costume designer Patricia Field recognized that a lot of kids in New York City neighborhoods were wearing them at the time.

7. Statement Glasses

Of course, glasses are extremely functional to many, glasses are often considered a fashion statement as well. Cazal glasses became a statement after Darryl McDaniels, of Run DMC, wore them back in the 1980s. Since then glasses have become more than a necessity for many but also an essential accessory to any outfit, even for those who may not need them.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Ann Lowe

Ann Cole Lowe was an American-born fashion designer known for becoming the first African American to become a noted fashion designer. She’s best known for her design of the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress worn by Jackie O when she married John F. Kennedy in 1953, as well as the entire wedding party.



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