i.e. 80’s West Coast African American Style Interpretation
You’re probably wondering why I’m creating a “cultural appreciation” post for the recently released movie, Straight Outta Compton, right? Well that’s simple to answer. American culture (no matter the race, creed, or area) needs to be better understood. So now you’re probably wondering what a sustainable life + style blogger has to say on that matter. I may not have much to say politically, but I’ll let the facts speak for themselves. I will start with this quote.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As an “African-American” (that’s what the government papers call me), I can say I haven’t had the “typical African-American” experience. But who has? I’m from Northwest Arkansas, and my friends from Southeast Arkansas have had totally different life experiences from me. A white person in Alabama may not be able to relate to a white person from New York. So on and so forth.
It is crazy to think that the same injustices happening to people with brown skin today were happening just the same in the years surrounding my birth nearly 30 years ago (late 1980s), which were the years that Eazy E, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube formed a group called NWA – Niggas With Attitude. In the movie, Straight Outta Compton, those three men show how police brutality was an inspiration behind many of their rap lyrics. They were considered “gangster rappers,” but the movie tells the story that they were rising up against what they felt was oppression of the minority by the people in power. Not to give too much away, but in the movie there was one scene where a young Ice Cube was exposed to gang members threatening the life of a student on his school bus, and another scene where he was harassed by police while trying to simply cross the street to get home. In both cases, he was a simple bystander. I also respect the fact that the movie shows the truth of all sides of the story. Eazy E started out as a drug dealer. He knew that it would either land him in jail or in an early grave, and he had the mental strength and financial standing to step away from that lifestyle.
So, back to the “African American” lifestyle. What is it, exactly? My experience is totally different from Ice Cubes, Dr. Dre & Eazy E’s. This should teach us to not generalize a person’s life experience based on race or stereotypes. Stereotypes are not negative until they are used in place of actually getting to know someone. This counts for police profiling, as well. To think that my skin color could one day easily cause me to be killed by a police officer or a civilian who profiles people due to irrational fears is almost unfathomable, and not to mention it just sounds ABSURD! But isn’t that the reality we are witnessing today, and the reality that generations before us have seen again and again? Social media may have amplified our knowledge of wrongful police deaths, violent hate crimes and unfair punishment for the officers and civilians that kill innocent people, but this ain’t the first time. I constantly pray that each time it will be the last, though.
After a weekend of thrifting and watching Straight Outta Compton, I was inspired to share my interpretation of west cost style in the 1980s-90s. A major theme I took from the costume design, which accurately reflected the real life style of the group, was the Black & White color scheme. I’m not sure if this was popular to pronounce their non-affiliation with gangs, or if the neutral colors were just very popular – but crisp, clean black and white clothes were what I saw the most of. Their looks were also sporty with several Raiders team gear. As Ice Cube said, when asked “what does a Compton kid do when he gets so much money from rapping?” – he buys more raider gear and curl activator. Can’t forget those Jheri Curls!
Style: Straight Outta Compton
A 21st Century Woman’s take on Non-Gang Affiliated West Coast African American Men’s Style in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
(You see how specific I had to get? That should serve as a reminder that there is no way you can generalize or oversimplify the American experience.)
photography by Stephanie Drenka
Thrifted Banana Republic skirt
Thrifted Simply Vera Wang heels
simple black t-shirt with sleeves cut off
Target chain necklace & bracelet
The Beanie Bar beanie (support small business!)