Swagger like us: Black millennials’ perceptions of 1990s urban brands

Johnson, Courtney
Major Professor
Eulanda A. Sanders
Kelly L. Reddy-Best
Committee Member
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management

Hip-hop is a significant cultural and artistic phenomenon that was created in the Black community and has since spread around the world (Aldridge & Stewart, 2005). Hip-hop culture has a unique and authentic clothing style, music style, and language (McLeod, 1999). The relationship between hip-hop culture, rap music, and fashion has global appeal (Power & Hauge, 2008). This research is centered around the evolution of this cultural fashion movement in Black history as it relates to Black millennials today and their experiences fashioning their bodies. There is not a significant amount of literature on urbanwear brands that came out of hip-hop culture or the owners of these fashion brands. The purpose of this study is to examine Black millennials attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) about their perceptions and knowledge of prominent, Black-owned, urban fashion brands that emerged in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s during the hip-hop fashion revolution. Black millennials currently attending or who are alumni of HBCU’s were specifically chosen as the focus of this study because of the heightened immersion in Black culture that a HBCU environment provides. Throughout history, Black individuals have contributed significantly to American society, and hip-hop culture is one of those contributions as it was a major cultural revolution. While Black appearance and clothing has been under scrutiny in America since slavery, urbanwear fashion was a way for Black individuals to express themselves and represent their community. Ethnic dress, such as urban styles of dress, are clothing worn by individuals to express their belonging to a community with a common heritage (Kaiser, 2012; Eicher & Sumberg, 1995). The participants in this study explained their experiences with urban fashion brands, support of Black-owned brands, stereotypes associated with urban fashion, and how hip-hop and urbanwear still inspires their style today. The narratives and perceptions from Black individuals has changed over time and viewing urban fashion through the lens of various social science theories such as Critical Race Theory, Afrocentric theory, and symbolic interaction will further explain the relationship between Black millennials and 1990s urban fashion.