Bruno Mars and Cardi B have changed the game with their In Living Color tribute video for the “Finesse” remix. Yes, I’m gonna be that bold and write such a claim, solely on the fact that the video made it concrete that ’90s fashion is here to stay. ’90s fashion has been havinng a resurgence for a couple of years now, and between 2017 and 2018, late ’80s and early ’90s fashion have become an even stronger “cool kid” calling card, especially since brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nauticaa are making tons of money with their vintage or vintage-leaning lines, like Tommy Jeans, Fila Heritage, and Reebok Classic and Nautica’s Lil Yachty collection, which brings back themes of ’90s Nautica. It’s either highly ironic or highly masterful that Bruno’s 24K Magic plays right into this trend.
So how can you get the look? Well, one way is to scour your local thrift stores and/or garages. Another way is to get ’90s-esque fashion from affordable (or at least “reasonable”) stores like Forever 21, Zara, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, etc. However, if you’re looking to go completely authentic while buying brand new clothes (and you have some expendable dollars to spend), here are some clothing choices from choice brands that were huge in the ’90s, but now use their ’90s cred to make boutique items.
One of the breakout fashion stars of the “Finesse” music video is Cardi B’s multicolored bomber jacket. It’s hard to tell if it’s actually vintage or if it’s of today, but regardless, it brings back tons of ’90s memories.
One of the ’90s brands that was big on multicolored jackets was Cross Colours. Believe it or not, Cross Colours is still in existence, making awesome jackets and shirts. Take for instance this colorblocked hooded jacket.
This jacket immediately takes you back to the early ’90s, which was not only big on bright colors, but also Afrocentrism. It’s more evident in some of Cross Colours’ other jackets, but this one also carries the same themes of Afrocentrism, with the emphasis on red, black, and green, the colors of the Pan-African flag.
Throughout the ’90s, particularly the mid-’90s, stripes were big. Striped hoodies in particular seemed really big. I couldn’t tell you why stripes were so popular, but they were; perhaps it’s because it seemed more modern than the deconstructivist/’80s art deco patterns that were slowly fading out. Stripes are a lot more streamlined than the busier patterns of earlier years, and maybe that hint of futurism poked at the burgeoning world of the internet. I don’t know, but it’s a theory.
In any case, the quintessential striped hoodie is showcased in rare form on Bruno as he exudes swagger and, yes, finesse, as the leader of this music video.
I feel like I’m a bit too young to remember Karl Kani as a name brand–the self-proclaimed “Originator of Urban Fashion” was established in 1989, one year after I was born–but that name was huge in the ’90s nonetheless, and judging by what the brand currently has for sale, it would seem that one of their specialties was the striped hoodie.
This hoodie, the Marcy Ave. Rugby Hoodie, has all of the things you want in a striped hoodie. It’s got bright colors, tons of interest, and it’s got short sleeves, perfect for that layered look Bruno is rocking in the above screenshot.
I wish hats could come back in style. One of the things I miss from the ’90s is the plethora of hats people wore on a semi-daily basis. The most popular proponent of ’90s hats was the titular character of Blossom, but hats were everywhere and on everyone, even on puppets–remember Jody from The Puzzle Place? She was a huge hat person. (The prime combo in the ’90s was the sun hat-flowery vest-long skirt combo. So much fabric, but it looked so cool.)
Between bucket hats, sun hats, baseball caps and all other manner of hats, there’s no way you can really go wrong when compiling a ’90s wardrobe. For this post, however, we’re focusing on the multicolored baseball cap, as shown on one of these dancers below.
Karl Kani comes correct again with their multicolored baseball cap, aptly called the “’90s Hat.”
This hat is pretty self-explanatory. It’s multicolored, it’s bright, it’s bold, and it screams ’90s. What more can you ask for?
The next component of quintessential ’90s fashion is mom jeans. I don’t know if they were called “mom jeans” back in the day–I just remember them as “jeans.” These jeans were not just popular with moms–they were popular for all women, even young teens. Just take a look at the fashion on the covers of The Babysitters Club books. They’re all wearing mom jeans.
Nowadays, mom jeans are coming back with a vengeance. Check out the stylish mom jeans on this dancer below.
Luckily for us, Jordache, the preeminent fashion jean brand, is still making mom jeans along with their more modern cuts.
The “Cheryl” High Waisted Mom Skinny Jeans are part of Jordache’s vintage line, and these pants give you everything you were asking for in a classic mom jean. It’s stone washed with a tapered leg, it’s got the classic high waist, and it looks like it’s just on this side of “cute.” It seems like the best mom jeans are just on the border between “cute and fashionable” and “horribly ill-fitting.” Just my opinion, anyways.
The last element of ’90s fashion I’m discussing in this post are the puffy sneakers. For some reason, sneakers are the mos vivid memories I have of ’90s fashion outside of all the Disney stuff I loved as a kid and the fashion tragedies I was subjected to (to this day, I hate stirrup pants). Perhaps it was because I was so connected to Michael Jordan’s career, like so many kids my age were, but I distinctly recall when the Air Jordans came out and the subsequent hype surrounding those shoes. Preceding that was the hype surrounding the Reebok Pump shoes. To this day, I still want both a pair of Air Jordans and Reebok Pumps. I still could get both, but I don’t feel like shelling out the money for it.
In any case, puffy, chunky sneakers were all the rage back in the day. Case in point–Bruno and his crew’s sneakers.
There are many routes you can go with ’90s sneakers–you can go to Nike, Fila, Reebok, and several other brands to get that right ’90s look. I chose to go with Reebok, since Reeboks had been my sneaker of choice in childhood (or, rather, my parents’ sneaker of choice for me.)
The Men’s Classics EX-O-FIT Clean Hi S and the Women’s Classics Freestyle Hi has that ’90s look down. To me, these sneakers are unisex, since a foot’s a foot. Also, Reebok tends to give the men’s sneakers more of a classic ’90s look, whereas the women’s side focuses more on fashion colors (too much more, I think). But regardless of which way you go, Reebok knows that its audience loves the early ’90s silhouette that made the brand famous, and it keeps that silhouette going, even in some of their more modern shoes.
After you get your ’90s wardrobe down, all you got to do is get some gold doorknockers or a chunky gold necklace, and you’ll be dripping in finesse, too.
(Photo credit: Tidal/YouTube)
One of the highlights of Jay Z’s Family Feud video, directed and conceptualized by Ava DuVernay, is the exploration of female leadership in families and, indeed, in a future America. Seeing scores of diverse women running the country, culminating in co-presidency between Irene Bedard and Omari Hardwick, only made me want to see a full-fledged drama series based around these characters and this new, Afrofuturistic and ethnofuturistic world.
Indian Country Today’s Vincent Schilling interviewed Bedard about her role and the importance of honoring female strength in relation to the nation and the world. Here are some key points from her interview.
On getting the call to star in Family Feud while at Standing Rock:
“…In the midst of all of this in Standing Rock, where reception is terrible, I got a call from my agent asking if I could be ready in three days to do a video project in New York. I got on a plane not knowing what I was doing except it was an untitled Ava DuVernay project. I love her and I knew whatever she was doing, it would be awesome. I went with complete faith.”
On hearing she was playing Madame President:
“[DuVernay] looked at me and said, ‘So, you are the President of the United States in the year 2444.’ I was like, ‘What?’ (laughs.) She said, ‘You are actually the co-President because at this time we have realized over the generations that we need to have more balance between the feminine and masculine.’… Of course this was going to done right with a director like Ava, but then to have Beyoncé and Jay-Z? I got to tell my son about this, He was like, ‘what?’ (laughs.) This project gave me some teenager cool points. (laughs.)”
On the importance of representing the matrilineal aspect of leadership:
“…Violence to Mother Earth is another representation of violence against women. Why do we do this? I feel it is because we are out of balance.
If you look at the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman, there are two men who come to her and one man wanted to own her, while the other wanted to give respect and value. The man who wanted to own her got the thunderbolt, the other who wanted to honor her received the gifts, the pipe and the people thrived.
We are lacking in intelligent discourse. I believe that we as a society are much more capable of being tolerant and loving to one another, than what might appear on the internet.”
Read the full interview at Indian Country Today.
If you don’t know Frank Waln, you need to know him. The Sicangu Lakota rapper and activist has given voice to the voiceless and educated fans with his timely, moving, and politically sharp lyrics. He’s also put his words to power by working with The Dream Defenders in Palestine, fought against the Keystone XL pipeline, and regularly promotes his activism through his Twitter account. Understand Waln better by reading his own words about his music, his politics, and his message to fans old and new.
On his latest EP, The Bridge:
“The world is hungry for Indigenous voices and stories right now. This album [The Bridge], like all Indgenous art, holds centuries of Indigenous stories, personal and universal. I made this project for myself and other Indigenous people like me who need honesty, vulnerability and healing in their lives.”
On the historical background of his song, “Treaties”:
“As an Indigenous producer and songwriter, center the voices of Indigenous elders in a song is a great way to show my audience who I learn from, and to share knowledge directly from the source. Thhis song is as relevant now as it was hundreds of years ago, when the U.S. government was breaking its treaty rights. It’s happening right now with the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines being built onto treaty land.
How can the United States call itself the greatest country in the world when it won’t even honor the treaties that founded this country? I hope this song spurs every American citizen who hears it, Indigenous or not, to pressure our government to follow its own laws and honor its treaties. This song is about justice.”
The song that started his hip-hop journey:
“…[W]hen I was seven or eight, I fell in love with playing piano. I started teaching myself how to play keys. So, I would say, my dedication to music started at the piano when I was seven or eight. Eminem was my introduction to hip-hop. But then, when I heard the Nas song “One Mic” that’s when I decided I wanted to be a rapper. That’s really when I devoted myself to hip-hop.”
On hip-hop’s resonance with Native Americans:
“Hip-hop resonates with a lot of people of my generation, whether they be in a city or on a reservation. I was thinking about this a lot lately. When I was growing up, the representations of Natives that we saw on TV were nothing like what we were living. Nothing like our reality. It was always, like, these savage Indians of the past. Very stereotypical. The media we saw, the artwork that we saw, the images in mainstream media that we related to the most, were hip-hop. Those artists were telling stories that definitely related to things we were going through, and are going through on the reservation.”
Describing his activism:
“What I’m doing – the ideology and worldview that I’m using to approach what I do – is older than the word and concept of an “activist.” I’m just Lakota. That’s why I care about my people. That’s why I care about the earth. That’s why I care about the water. That’s why I care about my community. That’s why I care about people around me. That’s why I devote my gift of music and why I use my platform to protect those things. Because I am Lakota. That’s how I was raised by mother, and my aunties, and my community. That’s what I’m taught in my culture and in my ceremonies. A lot of time Native people get pinned as activists, but really we’re just being Native. I’m just living my life, and trying to live my life in a way that my ancestors and elders and my parents and my culture raised me.”
Rapper, model, and actor Kris Wu is making waves in America as the first Chinese artist to reach the top spot on the US iTunes charts with his single DESERVE, a collaboration between him and Travis Scott.
Wu, who moved to Vancouver as a kid, has blown up since his time in K-pop boy band juggernaut EXO–he’s starred in xXx: The Return of Vander Cage and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, reps Burberry as the brand’s first non-British global ambassador, and is killing it on Weibo and Instagram, among other accolades. He’s also only 26 years old.
I-D’s Taylor Glasby interviewed Wu about his big iTunes recognition and where he sees entertainment going as it relates to representation and his own brand. Here are four key takeaways from the interview.
On reaching #1 on US iTunes:
“I always want to be the pioneer when I do things..if I hit the Billboard top 100, I’ll be the first Chinese male artist to do it, I think. I’d treat my entire team to a vacation!”
On the responsibility of being a trailblazer for Chinese artists in America:
“I want to set an example to the youth but at the same time, this is me, this is what I do. I say I want to be a pioneer but some things just happen, then they work out and I get more ambitious, and there is responsibility. It doesn’t get so big like, I’m representing the people of China…no way. But I want to make my fans and myself proud.”
On befriending fellow xXx star Vin Diesel:
“When I first met him on set, I was a little scared, like is he gonna be cool with me? But he was super nice and ever since then we’ve been close. You wouldn’t imagine that we’d be gaming at home, like on internet games all night. Every time I come to LA, he tells me to come over and chill. He gives me advice, he introduces me to good people. We’re like family now.”
On Asian representation in Hollywood:
“You know what, recently I actually had an offer for a lead male in a Hollywood movie, and not an action movie. I can’t tell you what it is because I said no to it–I don’t have any time and I’m doing music–so yes, I do see it happening. Not in the next ten years, but the next two or three. Five max.”
It’s been a long time coming for K-pop fans, especially the ardent fans of boy band BTS. In May, the group snatched up the Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist, beating out stateside mainstays like Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber. Their win served as a prelude to their biggest moment in the American spotlight yet–a full performance at the American Music Awards this past Sunday.
When I watched this performance live, I felt like the reaction the entire crowd had must have been what it was like for audiences to see The Beatles for the first time in the 1960s. There was a different energy building up to the performance, and that energy kept building throughout. It was eye-opening for me, and it should have been eye-opening to any concert promoters, stadium owners, and record labels. BTS is ready to explode onto the American scene.
But, despite BTS and other K-pop groups and solo artists having intense fans that span age groups, social classes and racial lines in America, American mainstream music coverage has largely steered clear of giving these artists press. Now, thanks to the electric AMA performance, America has to reckon with the power of not only BTS, but Asian pop stars as a whole.
The musical glass ceiling
K-pop and Asian singers in general have had it tough finding success and respect in America. Even when BTS won their Billboard Award, there were viewers (seemingly mostly superfans of the losers) who delved into racist, xenophobic rhetoric because their fave lost. The general consensus of these superfans, according to Paste Magazine‘s Martin Tsai, was that BTS stick to Korea.
“Of course, the two Canadian nominees in the category (Bieber and Mendes) have eluded this knee-jerk outrage and xenophobia, as has just about every Brit in American pop history from the Beatles to One Direction,” he wrote. “It’s the type of blowback that ensues whenever a person of color upsets the cultural status quo—as when Barack Obama first ran for the presidency, when Jeremy Lin first played for the Knicks, or when Takuma Sato won this year’s Indianapolis 500 and prompted the now-fired Denver Post sports writer Terry Frei to tweet how that made him ‘uncomfortable.’ Indeed, the American soundscape has proven to be a final frontier for Asians and Asian-Americans to find their footing.”
Tsai writes about how many Asian and Asian-American singers have tried their turn at breaking into America’s discriminatory music industry with varying degrees of success. Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki,” for instance, is the only Billboard Hot 100 chart topper by an Asian singer, and that was in 1963. (The song later became a hit for the group A Taste of Honey, who covered it in 1981, yet another chapter in the push-and-pull between black and Asian diasporic experiences in America.)
The crossover hit most people remember with some freshness is Psy, whose “Gangnam Style” became a viral sensation. However, his follow-up single didn’t do near as well, and for many in America, “Gangnam Style” was always seen, as Tsai describes, “a novelty song.” Psy’s appearance, for better or worse, also helped him gain short-lived success in America; unlike BTS, who are young and look and behave like living Ken dolls, Americans saw Psy with the same stereotypical lens used on most Asian men–Psy is goofy, funny and, to the audience, seemingly unaware of why he’s seen as such, which makes him more of a target for racial stereotypes. (However, Psy a bad boy jokester-critic in Korea, is the complete opposite of “unaware”; he was America’s Favorite Asian until word got out about how Psy had performed songs protesting the U.S. military, particularly over the beheading of a Korean missionary by Islamic extremists in Iraq. Even “Gangnam Style is a protest song of sorts, criticizing the upscale Seoul neighborhood Gangman’s needless opulence and materialism.)
Psy’s success in America does, sadly, hinge partially on the goofy stereotype he was able to fill. Think back to American Idol–out of the number of Asian contestants that have tried out, how many do you remember as being 1) actually good 2) actually handsome and 3) actually taken seriously? The closest to ever reach the level of being taken as a legit artist was Anoop Desai, and even then, the judges (and the coaches, quite frankly) weren’t ever sure of what mold he should belong to. When he did sing his preferred genre, R&B, it was often taken as a surprise or even a joke. The cover he became known for, Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” was looked at as part-sideshow, part-participation trophy. Despite the crowd (and Anoop’s hormonal fans) screaming for him, his performance was still seen as “Can you believe this Indian kid is gyrating and singing black music?”
Interestingly enough, I’ve actually interviewed Desai way back in 2009, sometime after his season’s American Idol tour ended. Back then, he said he had actually quit his degree in college and moved to Atlanta to pursue music full-time. I’d hoped we’d be able to see Desai on the big stage soon, promoting his own album. So far, not yet.
For what it’s worth, it seems like Asian artists are taken way more seriously on The Voice, in which your voice, not your looks, are what goes into you being picked. Take for instance Tessanne Chin, a Chinese-Jamaican artist who was able to release her second album and major release Count on My Love and sing for President Barack Obama. Or Judith Hill, a biracial Japanese-African American artist who had not only sung with Michael Jackson and was featured in the Oscar-winning documentary, 20 Feet from Stardom, but was able to release Back in Time, a CD produced by Prince after her stint on the show.
Still, what’s holding Desai back is the same thing that has held back many Asian and Asian-American artists–the stereotypes many music execs still have when it comes to Asian artists and Asians in general. In 2007, The New York Times profiled Harlemm Lee, a Detroit native of Chinese and Filipino descent who was looking to make it big as a singer. However, after landing a spot on 2003 NBC singing reality show Fame and gaining a record contract–his second in his music career, Lee never achieved the success he was hoping for. As of the time of the article, Lee was working as a secretary.
“In terms of finding an advocate in the industry, the Asian thing has been the critical factor,” he said. “You don’t fit.” On his MySpace page, he wrote, “I was told over and over again by countless label execs that if it weren’t for me being Asian, I would’ve been signed yesterday.”
Asian artists today: BTS and beyond
Thankfully, it seems like a groundswell of support for Asian artists has been building in America, possibly leading to BTS’ big AMAs moment. Buzzfeed’s Tanya Chen released a list of 21 Asian American artists music fans should know in 2013, including rapper Dumbfoundead, whose music video “SAFE” took on the movie industry’s whitewashing and discrimination against Asian actors.
NPR’s Mallory Yu wrote about this year’s SXSW Asian-American showcase, spearheaded by LA-based nonprofit Kollaboration. And last year, Splinter News declared K-pop star Eric Nam as the first K-pop artist to actually make it big in America. It’s important to note that Nam, like many American-born Asian superstars before him, had to go overseas to find fame back home; he’s originally from Atlanta, and as Isha Aran wrote, “has a cultural fluidity that–at least by American audiences–is rarely seen from K-pop stars.”
BTS is primed to be in a position to bust open the doors for all of the Eric Nams, Girls’ Generations, 21E1s, and Dumbfoundeads on both sides of the ocean, and the AMAs is just one of the biggest glass ceilings to crack.
I remember my mom talking about how she used to mark her calendar for video release dates by Britney Spears or *NSYNC, and wake up to watch MTV,” wrote Jordyn, a BTS superfan in Las Vegas, to The Fader‘s Owen Myers. “It was something I could never relate to, and I thought that it was lost on our generation. When I saw the first video from BTS, I finally understood what she meant.”
“They are terrific and the most popular K-pop band in the world right now,” said Susan Rosenbluth, senior vice president at Goldenvoice/AEG Presents, whose firm promoted BTS’ international “Wings Tour”, to Paste.
“I think if they wanted to cross over and do more, they will…I think it will take certain things like winning awards, being in the general-market eye, so to speak, by marketing their brand in the U.S. more, in Mexico more, in other parts of the world more than just on the internet, and by virtue of the music that they put out in the future. [If] they wanted to sing more in English, they could.”
From what the band has said in interviews, they are looking to put out more English-spoken content. And, if their breakout performance from the AMAs is any indication, we certainly haven’t seen the last of BTS in our neck of the woods.