Fashion Week Recap: Backstage at Hood by Air
Power: The Evolution of Black Masculinity Through Fashion
The Evolution of Black Masculinity Through Fashion
ll eyes were on Shayne Oliver as he stepped into a sweltering Bronx church in the heat of summer, 2000. The lanky teenager shuffled into the vestibule wearing a short white crop top, exposing his taut midriff. Blots of black skin poked through hand-tattered jeans that were so tight he had to cut them up and safety-pin them back together to get them on. Shayne’s outfit set him drastically apart from the men of the congregation, who wore boxy suits. He and his mother hadn’t even taken seats in a pew before the preacher started spewing a diatribe of venomous, homophobic remarks from the pulpit. It took a moment before Shayne realized the preacher was attacking him. “Basically, the pastor ran me out of the church,” he told me recently. “I stopped going after that.”
Shayne’s now 25 and the designer of menswear label Hood By Air, whose provocative styles—along with brands like Telfar and Third Floor—are carving out a new and empowering palette of masculinity for young black men to paint from. At Shayne’s shows, it’s not out of the ordinary to see his models stalk the runway in makeup and dresses. Their bellies are often exposed, and half the time you can’t tell whether they’re men or women. But far from sissiness, the looks exude the visceral power of a lineman crushing a quarterback, or two swords clashing in an action film. This time last year, at Shayne’s debut New York Fashion Week runway show, the scene was so thick I had to stand on my tiptoes to catch a glimpse of his powerful vision of androgynous modern menswear. With macho gangster rapper A$AP Rocky on the catwalk, and stars like Kanye West and Waka Flocka Flame in the crowd offering up their adulation, the show was the birth of a new epoch in the evolution of black masculinity.
There have been others who’ve pushed similar boundaries in the past. Before Kanye and A$AP, black artists like Sly and the Family Stone in the 60s and Cameo in the 80s wore gear that looked like it was straight out of the Folsom Street Fair. In the 90s, Tupac walked in a Versace fashion show in a flamboyant gold suit.
But one of the things that sets this new wave apart from what came before is that straight men like Kanye and Rocky have no problem recognizing that some of their looks might have originated in the gay community. This kind of inclusiveness and openness is one of the many elements that signifies a shift in the way black men comport themselves in an age when the old notions of machismo, which were burdened with the baggage of 400 years of slavery and Jim Crow, continue to be chipped away.
Fashion Week has hit New York City again and big, fancy designers are showing their latest collections for spring/summer 2014. So, we went to a few shows to figure out what all the Tumblr goofballs, twinks, and trust-funders will be wearing when it’s nice outside again. Enjoy!
At this point, everybody on the internet has already slobbed on Humberto Leon and Carol Lim’s knobs for the amazing presentation they put together for Opening Ceremony’s first ever runway show. So, I’m not going to bore you talking about the dope-ass clothes or the killer cars or Rihanna. The reason the OC show was the highlight of my NYFW experience was because it’s the only one that got my rocks off.
You get all kinds of free stuff at fashion shows, and most of it is useless. This year I got some nail polish, a pair of sunglasses that I regrettably lost, and a nifty key chain. But none of that swag even came close to the self-pleasuring device gifted to me by OC. The vacuum cup designed by Tenga with the sweet psychedelic packaging inspired by OC’s latest collection was exactly what the doctor ordered after a long week of fashion-model-induced blue balls. I’m a creature of habit, so I’ve spanking my monkey the same way for the past 20-odd years. But now that I’ve had the pleasure of ejaculating into an oblong plastic tube with squishy cold stuff inside and a fancy designer label on the outside, I must say I am never going back. I’ll be coping handfuls of OC-branded Tengas every time my girl goes on family vacation or I just need some “me time.” Thank you, OC, for being amazing and giving me something that I’ll remember long after all of the other brand’s collections fade in my memory—a toe-curling nut buster.
—By Wilbert L. Cooper
JUNK FOOD VINTAGE NFL CURATED BY KRISTIN CAVALLARI
“Confusing” doesn’t even begin to describe a collection of “NFL vintage” by a brand called Junk Food, curated by the (recently arrested) Kristin Cavallari. But here’s everything I witnessed within five minutes of walking into this carnival show: three break-dancing teenagers, a bitchy cat in a photo booth licking “gourmet cat food” from a silver spoon, an obscenely large disco ball, and a veritable tsunami of leopard-print skirts. And that’s just what was happening on the sidelines. The crowd was a teeming mass of bottle-blond The Hills rejects and potbellied creeps waiting anxiously for the kickoff. And when the clothes actually came streaming down the runway… Well, let’s just say that the only person who could work cropped jersey sweaters with glittery sleeves and golden-chain belts is Peyton Manning in drag.
—By Michelle Lhooq
What a strange crowd. Over half the attendees who showed up didn’t look like they belonged there. Did they even know what Public School was? I sure do, and think it’s how a fashionable man should dress every day. Neutral colors and simple silhouettes are the way to go if you are a guy. The two-toned, black-and-white sneakers were the jam, too. Oh, and the model selection was impeccable. The group of models at this show was the best I’ve seen all fashion week. The women who came were just gawking at all the hot guys the whole time, but so was I, so I can’t hate.
—By Miyako Bellizzi
“Being a strong black man (or any man) has nothing to do with what you wear or who you fuck, but whether or not you have the will power to stay true to yourself. If that means wearing a dress, then so be it.”