The history of African American clothing can be divided into three main eras: Pre-colonial, Colonial, and Post-colonial. Because most academic studies have tended to focus on white views, the clothes worn by black slaves usually is seen as either a tradition imposed by white oppressors, or as merely static. However, this research shows, in fact, that the style and symbolism of the black slaves’ clothing significantly changed over time, it served many different purposes, and also developed a distinctly separate history of its own. What emerges is an intricate portrait of slave life in the early United States, as well as a glimpse of the way black Americans perceived themselves and the world around them. Slavery was an important part of African American history and identity but understanding how slaves represented themselves and how they formed their own cultural and political identities required a detailed look at the ways in which African Americans lived and thought about themselves and the world around them.
The pre-colonial period saw the introduction of slavery into the American South through the efforts of the European colonizers, who wanted to free up the vast tracts of land that they had captured in the war of independence. Although the United States was not prepared to handle the sudden influx of African Americans, the creation of a black middle class had a significant impact on the development of the country. In the aftermath of the Civil War, white Americans had become disenchanted with the prevailing black political power structure and began seeking to establish black families as economically independent and able to control their own communities. By placing the black upper class under the dictate of Europeans, America’s slave trade provided an outlet for these feelings of social resentment toward the black race, and the need for black Americans to assert their right to live independently.
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Slaves brought from Africa were often used in dangerous and grueling work conditions, such as the construction of what became the Mississippi Delta. Because of this, many of these former slaves were left with nothing but the clothes on their backs, literally a skeleton suit. However, with the development of new ideas and fashion trends at the time, more free blacks were able to purchase quality clothing and accessories, allowing them to finally emerge from the shadows of former slavery. The newly freed blacks decided to use these new clothes as a way to make a statement about themselves, and the new styles of African American clothing reflected this spirit of freedom and pride.
It is important to understand that by the late 1990s, when fashion designers began to experiment with new designs and patterns, African American clothing tended to be geared towards relaxation. Simplicity and comfort were the design philosophy for this new style. Simplicity and comfort though are two ends of a very complex equation; designers were looking for ways to make this clothing more appealing to the mass market, without sacrificing its original characteristics. After all, African Americans were once slaves, forced to live in an otherwise harsh and cruel world.
Designers Developed New Cuts Of Fabric
In order to succeed in this task, designers developed new cuts of fabric, invented new patterns, and created unique motifs. Many of these new techniques were patented, which gave rise to modern fashion cuts and patterns. One of the most important aspects of African American clothing was the creation of headbands, which were considered a necessary accessory for African Americans. Headbands played a key role in uplifting the look and feel of the African American’s ensemble. In fact, headbands are the basis of many popular African American headwear items, such as the afro, dreadlocks, braids, ponytail, updo, and the dread.
Another important aspect of African American clothing, which emerged in the latter part of the twentieth century, was the popularity of African American inspired and themed apparel. In fact, more African American individuals began to dress alike, due to the widespread of slavery in the south. Many of these individuals developed their own sense of pride and identity by wearing outfits inspired by the cultures of the other blacks who lived in the same areas as them. Some of these outfits included pieces that showed signs of their slaves’ captivity, while others showed signs of their freedom.
One notable and beautiful example of African American headwrap was a headwrap called the headgear. Headgears were basically long pieces of cloth, often dyed red, black, or white, which were tied around the back of the head and fastened there. This headgear was originally used by African Americans in the rural areas of Mississippi, Kentucky, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. However, as time went on, many people adopted the headgear as a fashionable and trendy item of their own clothing.
The popularity of African American clothing in the middle to late parts of the twentieth century resulted in the development of a large number of clothing lines for both men and women. Many of these clothing lines were targeted specifically at African Americans, in an effort to provide a more masculine, yet stylish look for the group. However, even though this increased popularity may have led to more demand, this didn’t lead to increased profit. In fact, many clothing companies saw the downturn in the industry, which could lead to lower profits. Due to these factors, in order to prevent the company from closing its doors, in early 2000s the government had to step in and help in conserving the African American fashion industry.