Monday, August 06, 2018

Po Folk Create Their Own Aesthetic

medium |  Walking into a beauty supply store in the hood is like walking into a parallel universe. Cheap bright lipsticks grab your eye immediately. Hair hangs from the ceiling. There is an abundance of dyes, cheap gold jewelry, and every hair accessory known to man. It is a familiar home to Black and Brown women struggling to make themselves beautiful in a world that pays them no mind. If you look past the owners — who are often not of the community and who follow patrons around as if they are going to steal something — and past the lasting effects of colonization, buried in the ingredients of the skin lightening creams on the third shelf of the skin care aisle, it is almost perfect. Almost.
But while it may not be perfect, it is home.

It has the kind of magic that is a byproduct of most hood creations. You tried to destroy us, but [bitch] we’re here. Mining the grime at the bottom of the barrel and turning it into gold.

It is in our strut.

It is in our fashions.

And our fashions, specifically femme fashions, have existed as a subversion of the politics of poverty that says poor people can’t have nice things. Our fashions are loud, making up for the years they tried to take our voices. How fitting that people who are told they are worth nothing adorn themselves like royalty?

This is the genesis of what has come to be known as the “baddie aesthetic” of Instagram and Tumblr. People don’t want to talk about how white and racially ambiguous girls on social media are profiting off of the style of the women from my hood, the mamas who were donning five-inch acrylic nails with three gold rings on every finger long before it was cool, but I do.
Okay you don’t see us as beautiful, you won’t make anything for us; we’ll create our own world, our own beautiful, our own aesthetic.
I grew up being taught that the visible markers of Black style, of deep deep hood Blackness, were unsophisticated and should be looked down upon. Don’t wear bamboo earrings, that’s ghetto. Don’t wear 15 bangles on each wrist, thats ghetto. Don’t mix patterns, that’s ghetto. Even something as innovative as a digital name belt, something so futuristic(!), was something to shy away from. It didn’t matter that these looks belonged to the people of my community, who were sweet and kind to me, the goal was not to be a “ghetto girl.”