Arts & Culture
Master of Arts (MA)
This year, fashion embraced streetwear in the highest echelons of luxury. From a Louis Vuitton and Supreme collaboration to Gucci’s support of Harlem designer Dapper Dan’s store reopening, streetwear was catapulted into the fashion zeitgeist— hoodies, do-rags, sneakers, and chains included. But fashion’s history of temporary blackness questions the industry’s ability to deal with the politics of criminalization, discrimination, appropriation, and inequality that come with this trend.
In an era when white supremacy lives within the mainstream conversation and African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately targeted by police and criminal justice, it’s clear that what we wear and the culture behind it affect how individuals are perceived. To a young black man, the choice to wear a do-rag outside of his home might play a defining role in him fitting a “profile.” To a Hispanic woman, large hoop earrings could draw the line between employment and unemployment.
Streetwear now has been welcomed to the runway. But, in an industry dominated by white voices, where people of color are denied opportunities, the “acceptance” of streetwear into luxury is questionable. The line between appropriation and appreciation blurs, even more, when designers reject the identity politics this type of fashion is rooted in. “We don’t do politics,” said Stefano Gabbana after a rapper protested Dolce & Gabbana’s relationship to Melania Trump during a runway show mostly made-up of streetwear-inspired clothing.
Streetwear’s cultural, social, and economic baggage can’t be ignored. It should be honored. The voices behind it should be able to carry the megaphone both on the runway, behind the scenes, and on the streets.
Sola-Santiago, Frances, "Mask On: How Fashion Erased the Politics of Streetwear in 2017" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.