With Black History Month in full swing, let’s take a look at fashion trends that originated in Black culture from as early as the B.C. era to the year 2021. From jewelry to nail art to textile patterns, Black culture has been the driving force in fashion trends for hundreds of years.
Acrylic nails are something we all know and love. Whether you prefer extra long nails with vibrant color or a shorter, more natural look. Did you know that they originated in 3000 B.C. Egypt? Then, they were created out of bone, ivory and gold, and were painted red to show power and wealth. Queen Nefertiti and Cleopatra — yes, the first fashion icon herself — were big fans of long nails. Since neither of them partook in domestic work, the nails never got in the way and were used to show the status and wealth of the person who adorned them. Even to this day celebrities are known for their long, extravagant nails, used to show their status.
In 1966, Donyale Luna, who later became the first Black American to ever grace the cover of Vogue, wore long acrylic nails on the cover of Twen Magazine. The nails were almond-shaped in light pink, and while they looked different from what was popularized in Egypt, they were showstopping regardless. This would inspire the 1970s trend of acrylic nails that Diana Ross and Donna Summers partook in.
Later, in the 1990s, unique nail art designs on acrylic nails became popular thanks to the rise of hip-hop and R&B culture. Celebrities like Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim were driving forces in the increasingly extravagant nail trends. Lil’ Kim is famous for her “money manicure” created by the celebrity nail artist Bernadette Thompson. The “money manicure” used real money, which she wore in her “Get Money” music video. The nail set is now permanently on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, the first nail set to ever be showcased there.
In the present day, nail art has become increasingly popular, with hundreds of thousands of nail art videos and articles on the internet. Trends are ever-changing and artists are constantly pushing to create the most unique and extravagant nail sets they can. Regardless, we can entirely thank Black culture for the creation of acrylics and nail art as a whole.
Now, let’s move on to hoop earrings. Hoop earrings were first created in 2500 B.C. Sudan — then known as Nubia — and were made out of gold, bronze and silver. Hoop earrings were used to distinguish tribal members and were seen as a right of passage. Around 1500 B.C., hoop earrings began to spread across parts of Europe and Asia. Egyptian royals viewed earrings as a symbol of beauty and power. Throughout this time, the earrings were heavy, thick and solid. While that is no longer the case, it is clear that the hoop earrings we know and love originated in Black culture.
During the Jazz age, Black French jazz performer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker was known for her gold hoops. She often wore grand hoop earrings with designs in the middle of them. One of her most famous pieces had the silhouette of a bird in the middle. Baker is yet another example of someone who was constantly pushing the bar in fashion.
While there are many more examples of fashion trends that originated in Black culture, nail art and hoop earrings are some of the most popular ones. Both trends are constantly evolving with the times and are here to stay.