Swarming inside raves/festivals, online rave fashion sites — anywhere you look on Instagram — is style shaped by the African Diaspora. Black culture is omnipresent in the rave culture today as well as the fashion industry as a whole.
It can be challenging to understand the depths of appropriation when often, much of black culture is stolen and renamed. Today with the Black Lives Matter movement blossoming and fighting racial injustice, we want to shed light on the few of many ways rave-fashion derives from black culture.
I am sure we have all seen rave girls with very intricate braided hairstyles. "Festival Braids," otherwise known in the black community as "cornrows" originated in Africa as early as 3500 BC and were an indication of the tribe a person belonged to. Enslaved Africans used cornrows to deliver messages and maps to help escape plantations.
It was in the 1960s and 1970s during the Black Power movement that black people wanted to reflect on our heritage and slowly started rejecting European beauty standards.
Today, ravers wear braids at festivals as an extension of their outfit. To us, braids represent a long history of culture. These hairstyles have kept us out of jobs because those in power felt that they are "unprofessional."
Calling these historic hairstyles "festival braids" or even "Kim K braids" is a slap in the face to the culture they carry. Braids for black people are more than just a topping to a festival outfit but a way to honor our history.
Decorative Rave Nails
(Pic Left: Nail art by DallasJNails) (Pic Right: Press-on Nail set by Rave Nails)
Rave Fashion has come a long way from pacifiers and over-sized overalls. We see this progression in fashion from the soles of our 8-inch platform boots to our pretty-glittered acrylic sets.
There is no doubt that this trend is just that "trendy." Long nails date back as far as 3000 BC, Egyptian women used ivory and bone to construct nail extensions. Nail trends are hard to trace back, but one thing is for sure, the black women of the '80s and '90s are responsible for bringing back that fashion statement in this millennium. Movies like BAPS (starring Halle Berry) and even athletes like Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo-Jo) helped reinforce this fashion statement.
Despite the historical nature of these nails, black women were/are labeled as "tacky," "ghetto," or "unprofessional" for their choice of long nails. Rave Nails are fun and an excellent way to top off an outfit; it is just essential to understand that black people are subjected to labels and stigmas based on their choice of nail decoration.
(Pic Left: Unknown) (Pic Right: Nail design by Jessica Vero)
Graffiti Printed Designs
(Left Pic: Graffiti artist Phase 2 with his graffiti painted denim) (Right Pic: Set by GoGuy Clothing)
Graffiti is an art form that created a space for urban expression at a time where there was none. Drawing on walls is not a new concept to human history, *cough cough* hieroglyphics, but modern-day graffiti seems to have appeared in Philadelphia in 1965 by Darryl "Cornbread" McCray.
By the late '60s, it had reached New York, but it was not until artists like Phase 2, and Lady Pink combined fashion with graffiti and created a lasting fashion statement. Graffiti spray-painted t-shirts, headbands, and even sneakers have been a recognizable piece of black culture since.
Today rave brands are continually using graffiti prints in their designs for fashion and capitalism. With little black representation on many rave brand clothing websites and Instagram pages, it is devastating to think that these brands may not be aware of the history of graffiti or even care about why black people created it.
(Pic Left: Pic from Stephen Burrows fashion show) (Pic Right: Lettuce Hem outfit Dolls Kill)
The lettuce hem was a staple of the '90s and is making a massive comeback (not sure if it ever left) in rave fashion wear. Stephen Burrows discovered the zigzag stitch in the 1970s that would become a colossal signature in fashion and an even larger staple in fast-fashion.
You cannot visit a rave page without seeing a lettuce hem two-piece or mini dress. Even the fashion world, at times, credits large brands for this iconic styling. It is not a secret that this style is not going anywhere; we are just hoping that black artists, like Burrows, begin to get their recognition.
Large Gold Hoops/Jewelry
(Pic Left: Taken from Pinterest) (Pic Right: Product photo Dolls Kill)
Hoop earrings originated in Africa around 2500 BC in Nubia. Egyptian royalty, queens, and pharaohs like Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Tutankhamen, and Cleopatra, added hoops to their attire, but mostly to be fashionable and not just for status.
In the '60s and '70s, hoop earring became associated with black beauty standards when Nina Simone and Angela Davis started wearing the hoops. This style continued through the '80s and '90s hip-hop era when groups like Salt-n-Peppa and J. J. Fad wore gold hoops so large they were coined "door knockers."
(Pic Left: HipHop artist Roxanne Shante in 1989) (Pic Right: Taken from a blog by Wanna Thompson)
Jameel Mohammed, the designer of KHIRY, in a New York Times article, said, "black style has to be contextualized differently in order to be seen as luxurious... That is the fashion industry's model of approaching nonwhite culture or things that are associated with nonwhite people."
Bamboo hoops or "door knockers" can be seen on rave fashion websites all over the world. It is not an issue of the style spreading because that was inevitable. It is the repeated pattern of black people gaining a stigma for something a white person would be labeled a "trendsetter," for that is the issue.
Raves are a space for diversity and inclusion. They are a space where everyone should feel welcomed and celebrated for being themselves. We do not want this information to be a cause for tension but rather an opportunity for non-black ravers to educate themselves.
Black culture and rave-fashion are the same. Non-black ravers can do their part by supporting black-owned rave brands and spreading awareness of these brands throughout the community.
Black culture is rave fashion.
We hope that all the beautiful parts of black culture will not have to be stolen before they are appreciated. We just want our Peace, Love, Unity, and, most of all, Respect.