GHETTO, UNTIL PROVEN FASHIONABLE
Black women are the blueprint. Periodt. For decades we have been the originators of the most popular trends, however this is only after white women deem it “fashionable”. In recent years, there’s been an influx of non black women wearing box braids, colorful hair/wigs, door-knocker hoop earrings, long acrylic nails, and many other styles that originated in black culture, without giving the credit where it is due.
Celebrities like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, Gwen Stefani and plenty more have profited off of black culture. They like advertise their fashion choices to their fans as if they were something cool and new that they discovered on their own. However, these styles have been sported as far back as the 1980’s by black women from the “hood”, but being “hood” or “ghetto” was something that society equated to being “trashy”. Ironically, the same members of this society watched and figured out how to on how to make it their own.
Kylie Jenner is best known for being a “billionaire” from her lip kits (which is a whole other story… whew), but she also is known for constantly changing her hair with the help of a wig and wearing revealing outfits around town. While wigs and skimpy clothes can be found in any culture, the specific style she is attempting to emulate was popularized by the one and only Lil’ Kim.
In the black culture, Lil’ Kim “The Queen B” is hailed as one of the most notable innovators of style in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. Everywhere she went her outfits always made a statement, and every day she had a brand new hair color. Much to Kylie’s advantage, most of her followers either are unaware of who Lil’ Kim is or weren’t even alive yet, so it’s much easier for her to market her style as something that is unique to her and her “brand”.
Similarly, her sister’s Kim and Khloe have done the same thing when it comes to super long acrylic nails and box braids or cornrows. So much so that “Kardashian Braids” comes up on google as opposed to actual black women with braided hairstyles. Sigh. When I was younger, there were only specific nail stylists in Brooklyn or Queens that were able to do these unique acrylic nail styles. Now that mainstream culture has accepted them as “fashionable”, every nail salon offers this service. Once again, these styles are only acceptable when white people are able to make a profit from it.
Iggy Azalea and Gwen Stefani‘s careers solely exist due to their blatant appropriation of black culture (their success definitely not owed to their musical skills). They were seen as cool, hip white girls, compared to that of someone like Taylor Swift. Unfortunately the same respect is not given to the black women who created the very styles.
For years black women have lost out on job opportunities due to their style of dress or hairstyles. Still today in 2020, forty-three states discriminate people of color due to their hair. The Crown Act has only been passed in seven states, including New York and California. So it’s completely disrespectful to see non black women wearing these styles as if they created them. It’s even more disrespectful to see the fact that they are praised for being unique, rather than being discriminated against. Black women are sent home from work because their employers see their hair as “unkept”, and black students are often denied the educational opportunities they deserve just because they wear their hair in it’s natural state.
This is why the argument that “black women wear straight or blond styles” is embarrassingly weak. Black women are forced to change the state or appearance of their hair in order to increase the amount of opportunities that come their way.
The styles that we prefer to wear are not accepted in society until a white celebrity makes it look “cool”, or brands like Forever 21 and Fashion Nova advertise street clothes using white models. Currently the Oxford Dictionary defines “Ghetto Fabulous” as “denoting or exemplifying an ostentatious or flamboyant lifestyle or style of clothing of a type associated with the hip-hop subculture. While this is technically true, it completely disregards the black culture that it was born from, just like the appropriators or “culture vultures” frequently do. There was a point in time that ghetto was the last thing anyone wanted to be due to the connotation associated with it. But of course, black culture is seen as ghetto until proven fashionable.