Fashion-wise, New York, London, Milan, and Paris rule the world. But, have you ever explored the fashion scene beyond these four fashion bigwigs?
If not, perhaps you should start by checking out that salon owner who wears handmade leather sandals, or that history major student who loves beaded accessories. Or perhaps you have a religious neighbor who never takes off her colorful headwrap.
Street style is the choice of an individual who wants to express themselves through clothing, headwear, footwear, and even tattoos. This is without following any specific fashion trend. One of the key components of street style is that it expresses something about the wearer. Whether it's their culture, current mood, favorite color, or personality.
Set on the streets of major cities, street style comes alive with bursts of color, structure, design, and most importantly, personality.
And now we see more Afrocentric styles on the streets.
In this article, we will explore 10 ways African fashion has left an indelible mark on street style in the United States.
African fashion on American streets.
Over the last few years, African fashion has grown in popularity and influence. This has transcended borders and captivated fashion enthusiasts around the globe. It has become known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant colors, bold patterns, and intricate textiles. This has captured the global fashion industry's attention and inspired street style across the United States.
Traditional African textiles such as Kente, Ankara, and mud cloth, tell stories and carry symbolic meanings reflecting the deep cultural heritage of their origin countries. And now people in the United States are taking African fashion to the streets to tell their stories, their deep cultural heritage.
Celebrity endorsement and the Influencer Culture
Let’s leave celebrities for a minute. With the global influencer industry expected to hit $15 billion according to 2019 statistics, it’s now clear we cannot dispute the impact of influencers in today’s society.
Social media culture and the growing e-commerce sector are making social media marketing a necessary tool for brands looking to market their products beyond their geographical regions. And influencers are the right fit.
Celebrities and fashion influencers inspire our everyday street style. Musicians, public figures, and actors like Michele Obama, Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and Lupita Nyong'o have amplified the reach of African fashion. This has made it accessible and aspirational to a broader demographic, not just African Americans.
Fusion of African print and Western silhouette
One of the most visible ways African fashion has influenced street style in the United States is through the fusion of African prints with Western silhouettes.
Designers and fashionistas incorporate African prints into Western-style garments, resulting in unique and eye-catching street-style statement fashion pieces.
Whether it’s a colorful African print bomber jacket, a Dashiki-inspired shirt, or a tailored blazer with African-inspired accents, these combinations bring vibrancy and cultural appreciation to street style.
A good example of how designers are fusing African prints with western silhouette is in this Kayammah's Maza Women's African Print Midi-Dress (Checked) or Amara Women's African Print Stretch Dress (Kente).
Accessories and Statement Pieces
A glance through the American streets and social media pages, you will see that handmade 'do it yourself' accessories are the latest wave. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were able to break down their creative boundaries, which has led to the results we are now seeing.
African-inspired accessories have also shaped street style trends. From intricately beaded jewelry to boldly patterned headwraps and scarves. These accessories add an element of cultural flair and uplift the mood of any outfit.
African-inspired bags, footwear, and hats have also gained popularity, showcasing African fashion's diversity and creativity.
Embrace Afrocentric Hairstyles
After so many years of weaves and artificial hair products, many African-Americans are now returning to their natural hair.
You might not know, but hair has always been a deal breaker in many African communities. Apart from beauty, African hair is part of someone's identity. It was an expression of the tribe they came from, their social status, religion, and even their class.
Then came slavery and colonialism and everything took a turn as people of African descent adopted the Eurocentric beauty framework. It was not until the 1960s, during the black power movement that black hair perception began to shift.
And now, celebrities, influencers, and locals are embracing their natural hair and walking the streets in afros and intricate braided hairstyles. These are hairstyles that have become synonymous with African-inspired street style.
The Rise of African Fashion Brands in the US Market
If you are of African descent and living in the United States, you might have encountered difficulty finding a convenient place dedicated to African fashion. This was sometime back; things have now changed as African fashion brands have seen a surge in popularity and recognition in the United States.
Brands like Kayammah, Diyanu, and Afrikrea have brought fresh perspectives and distinct aesthetics to the fashion scene. This has influenced street style across the country.
Collaboration between African and American fashion brands has also become common, a factor that further popularizes African fashion visibility and acceptance in the US markets.
Street Style Events and Fashion Weeks
Fashion weeks are highly anticipated events that draw fashion enthusiasts and industry professionals in the United States and across the globe.
Every year, renowned fashion brands and designers take their creations to the world for a week-long celebration of style and creativity. And it’s not just about clothing display but a combination of music, scenery, and lighting that work together to create a multisensory, playful experience.
African fashion designers are using these events to showcase African fashion's creativity and diversity by showcasing designers and models who incorporate African elements into their looks. From New York to Paris and Milan.
Black Movies Premier
During the premiere of Marvel's Black Panther, fans across the country from Atlanta to Los Angeles showed up in style- African style.
It's no doubt that the film had an unexpected economic impact on fashion as moviegoers chose to purchase African and African-inspired clothing to wear to theatres, parties, and other special events related to the film.
Such occasions have made Americans both of African and non-African descent more comfortable wearing African clothing on American streets.
In conclusion, African fashion's influence on street style in the United States is undeniable. Its rich cultural heritage, vibrant colors, bold patterns, and diverse aesthetics have encouraged individuals to embrace and incorporate African elements into their style. From Afrocentric hairstyles to celebrity endorsements, African style is gaining traction in the United States.
And as a brand dealing with African print outfits, we are excited and looking forward to more better days in the fashion industry.