I’m sure at some point in your life, you were probably told to “look to family for guidance”, or some version of that statement, anyways. In my world, this is only true when those families are on pre-1999 sitcom TV, and is particularly true when it comes to the leaders in the canon of sitcom family values– The Cosbys and The Banks. Whether bad grades, bad boyfriends, or bad behavior, The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air created a dogma of positive thinking and doing for a generation of American (and now, straight global) youth, and with that positive thinking came an equally positive dogma of dressing, a dogma that has gone unmatched in the sitcom style world for years now.
Lets take it back to where it all began, the Cosby clan. Debuting in the fall of 1984, the Cosby family immediately won viewers with their wholesome take on life in Brooklyn, living the American dream. With Dr. Heathcliff and Lawyer Claire as heads of the household, the Huxtables showed the nation what opulence looked like for the new upper-middle class African American family. And by showed the nation, I mean flaunted their fashion. Quirky, offbeat, and impeccably stylish was the name of the Huxtable family game, and each member of their ever-expanding clan played it well. A Dad on a mission (to get every last one of his kids grown and out the house), Cliff quickly became known for a fashion staple so splendid it’s been named after the man– the Cosby Sweater. NPR dug into the history of the Cosby Sweater earlier this year, but the item is so iconic that you know one when you see one. Wool, slouchy, brightly colored, they speak volumes about the kind of stand up, fashion forward man Cliff is in each and every stitch. A sweater with this much to say has yet to emerge, and the Cosby Sweater still reigns supreme. In fact, I just bought one last week, so try and top that!
However, when you talk about Cosby fashion figures, the real big gun was a little pistol of a daughter, Denise. Played by Lisa Bonet, she was the Cosby kid that introduced thousands of girls to the funky urban look. Harem pants, oversized man shirts in outrageous prints, head-wraps, oxfords and bowler hats were all a part of Denise’s world. Impossibly cool and creative, Denise IS the prototype for the way I’ve been dressing for the last 10 years of my life. Basically, before I go to bed every night, I say a little prayer asking God to grant my one wish–that I will wake up in the morning and magically BE Denise Huxtable. This hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll keep you posted.
Check out this montage of Cosby Kid fashion– featuring two very impressive Denise Huxtable original ensembles– that we found on YouTube. Don’t every try and tell me you aren’t crazy for a little Cosby kids!
If Denise is the fashion icon of my prayers, Hilary Bank, the first lady of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, is the stylish queen of my dreams! A fashionista before the term existed, the mini-suit wearing curly haired beauty wasn’t as much of a creative risk taker as Denise, but she could shop the hell out of $300! Favoring skirt suits and dresses, short and tight was Hilary’s M.O. The original Daddy’s Girl, Hillary was always prim and proper in boucle blazers reminiscent of your grandma’s oldest Chanel suit, and pumps. Her biggest claim to fame though was often perched on top of her hair– her hats. Black, white, patterned or purple, Hills headgear made her who she is. Peep her first appearance ever on the show– “Daddy, I need $300!”
But really, who can light a candle to the original Prince of cool, Will Smith? With the current retro resurgance taking major urban areas by storm, it’s not uncommon to see kids on the corner dressed like Will in his heyday. Neon tops and pants, African prints, and the flyest of sneakers were Will’s trademarks in the early days. Never one lacking in inventiveness, Will made every outfit his own, even donning his reversed blazer (with it’s ridiculous carpet-like print) at private school, or his harem pants to Uncle Phil’s lawyers dinner party. As ridiculous as his clothing was (at least in the eyes of his family), it filled the small screen with what was hot in the streets, and what was going on with hip hop at the time.
Who takes the cake? The Cosbys or The Banks? Fashion heavyweights in their own right, I’m not sure that I can make a choice– my closet’s got bits of Will, and a whole lotta Denise in it. What about yours? Are you a Huxtable supporter or a Fresh Prince fan? Let us know your favorite Cosby or Fresh Prince moments and fashions!
- Growing Up Bougie: Tales From The Not So Hood
- Fashion Meets Music: Prince
- Fashion Meets Music: Vanity
- US 4/22-5/5: H&M Clothes for Kids – Extended Program!
- Ears To The Street: Please Hammer?!?!? Harem Pants Are Still Hurtin’ Em.