With neon brights, fanny packs, and bike hats making a return this Spring, it’s safe to say that Retro is the new black. From Fruiton in Las Vegas, to the Retro Kids in New York, it seems that everyone is trying to bring a taste of the old skool to fashion. When you think back to the era of Freshness, circa 1989-1993, a certain style comes to mind, one that celebrates bright prints, body-hugging spandex, and fly sneakers. This was the booming era of hip hop, and the era of a new breed of young, Black filmmakers who made it their mission to bring images of the urban life they lived to the big screen.
Directors such as Spike Lee, John Singleton, and Reginald Hudlin released a good number of films in the late 80s’ and early 90s’ that were not only blockbuster successes, but also positively portrayed themes such as urban life, love, and family. Even though these directors did focus on the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life in the hood, including race relations and gang violence, they still found a way to keep things light-hearted. One of the biggest ways these directors were able to show that the hood could still be fun was fashion!
Fashion heavily influenced the overall cinematic look and feel of these films. Kente and a slew of other African prints superimposed onto bright neons defined the ballers on the courts in White Men Can’t Jump. Wesley Snipes’ flipped up bike cap, in live colors, became a staple on and off the court. Similarly, House Party stood out more because of the Hedlin’s attention to detail– Kid N Play’s flat-tops were some of the highest I’ve ever seen, and Sidney (the female lead) was decked out in doorknockers and matching bright yellow harem-leg overalls. Peep her outfit in the famous “dance-off” scene below, can it get any fresher than this?!
Even better was when fashion became an active plot point. Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing used Buggin Out’s stepped on Jordans (the brand new 4’s, now christened the “Spizikes” because of their importance to the film) as the launching pad for exploring racial tensions in Brooklyn.
Come Summer ’09, I’ll definitely be popping some of the 90s best into my DVD player to brush up on my Retro Fresh look. And you better hope my Jordans aren’t stepped on!
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