or is he… as we Jamaicans like to say: ” ‘im jus a fallah fashun! “
We all consider ourselves attractive… or at least want others to consider us attractive. There are billions of dollars spent for products and surgeries, by both men and women, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, region and religion, in a personal effort to attain a semblance of what is considered attractive by the society at large. This begs the question: what is considered to be “attractive” by our particular society? Obviously, since our dominant community is eurocentric based and their influence is indeed worldwide, then European features are presented to us in daily images, whether on t.v. or in print, as the standard to which attractiveness is judged and therefore to be attained.
Straight hair (preferably blond), pointy nose, thin red lips, blue or light coloured eyes, white complexion, red cheeks, slim body, large but firm breasts, flat butt and long straight legs is the measure of perfect eurocentric beauty. Now most people in the world do not conform to this ideal image, however any combination which includes as many of these traits as possible, moves one up on the attractive-ness scale.
We see the effects of this within the black community. Black women sporting straight hair or weaves, with red lipstick, red blush on their cheeks, white powder to lighten their skin clour… and some even going so far as to wearing contacts to make their eyes lighter. Take a look at any fashion magazine, or magazine in general for that matter, which features Black models and/or female celebrities like Beyonce, and you will observe that the lighter the Sister and the more European features she displays, the more attractive they are considered… so the more prominent they are. Look at the cover of any issue of O magazine. Oprah’s skin tone is always “lightened up” with bright red lips, long straight hair and airbrushed to look thinner and firmer than she really is. I remember the buzz around the July 2008 issue of Italian Vogue which featured “Black” models. Click on the image below to see a preview of some of the pics. It’s interesting what is blatantly portrayed as black beauty.
One of our more popular posts here is “Do Black Men Respond To Natural Hair”, which brings to mind the documentary produced by Chris Rock called “Good Hair”. It has been estimated that Black women spend an estimated $9 billion per year getting the kink out of their hair!
Growing up in Jamaica, I observed the issues around colourism in a neocolonial eurocentric society. Light-skinned women and men, with predominant European features were considered more attractive and therefore desirable. They were referred to as “Royals” or “Brownings”. Jamiacan reggae singer Buju Banton’s first hit in 1992 was a song entitled “Love me Browning”. Conversely, African features such as dark black skin, woolly hair, a broad nose and thick black lips were considered ugly. Here is an excellent and informative article about the issue of colour in the Dominican Republic where Sosa is from entitled: “Black Denial”.
So really it’s no wonder that Sammy Sosa feels that to be considered more attractive, desirable and therefore acceptable by the society at large, including the Black community, he needs to lighten his skin and wear green contact lenses. Although the obvious poster child for this mindset was Michael Jackson, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us are complicit in some way in making it a “fashun”.
This is what I say all the time to the people I work with… and it has nothing to do with making “friends” with a “person of colour”. What I am referring to is that they, especially the men, need to add some colour to their business attire.
If I have one vice… if one would call it a “vice”… is that I have a love for clothes. When I am in a bad mood or feeling down, going shopping for clothes always brighten my spirits. Not so much the average commercially based style and/or fashion, but I love buying clothes which enhances my particular fashion sense. That is why I envy women when it comes to their choices of clothes, especially for business attire. They have many, many more options. While for us men, it comes down to your basic suit, blazer, sweater, dress shirt, tie, dress pants and shoes.
For me, as someone from a performing background, who understands, appreciates and, yes secretly craves what I call… “the subtle attention of me”, the choices for men’s clothing is, well in a word… boring! There is nothing more empowering than walking into a room or meeting and commandeering attention before you even open your mouth. This begins first and foremost with how you are put together. Clothes are important in this, but the key is the psyche of the person wearing the clothes. I therefore believe it is vital to be physically, emotionally and spiritually fit. If your mind, body and soul are right, then your clothes will certainly enhance your presence.
Since I am no longer a “young buck”, and I do prefer to dress like an adult, wearing baggy clothes is not really my thing. Plus in the business environment that I work in, wearing clothes to make a cultural and/or political statement wouldn’t be considered appropriate… and as a Black man… in Canada… in the field that I’m in… that is not the “subtle” type of attention I crave. So for the men, it’s business or business casual attire. Nothing too colourful, bright or what would be considered LOUD!
To develop my own style has been difficult because it’s very time consuming. I find that for men, the fashion magazines cater primarily to eurocentric sensibilities, which is understandable since that is the largest market. So I find that magazines such as GQ, Esquire, Men’s Vogue, FHM, (I find Maxim too distracting to read… or look through), Details, Men’s Journal, etc., are very ordinary and “colourless” for my taste. Not to mention the models look too effeminate and emasculated for me to relate to. Ebony and Essence do feature some men’s fashion, but it’s not really any different than what is in the magazines I mentioned above… other than it’s Black men dressing “white”… if you know what I mean. Back in the day I used to read EM-Ebony Man all the time to get fashion ideas. Unfortunately they discontinued the magazine in 1998.
However I am inspired by what I see in magazines, t.v., movies, the internet and by what I see other people wearing. A piece of clothing, or a combination of dress within these sources, may attract my attention and I’ll put something similar together for myself. Many times I will be watching a show or film and I become more interested in the clothes than the storyline. I get some of my creative ideas from The Urban Gentleman and Sean John websites. I find that Karl Kani and other rap inspired urban wear, like Def Jam, too juvenile for my tastes.
So in my business attire I always like to add a bit of colour to compliment my chocolate skin, which in turn accentuates the colour of that piece of clothing. Sweaters, dress shirts, ties, socks and scarves of various shades of (and stripes with), purple, orange, green, earthy brown, yellow, light red, maroon and blue, are some of the colours I frequently add to my attire.
Accessories are also vital… but they should add to, not take the attention away from the attire. I own a variety of tinted glasses, including my prescription glasses. I own two watches, a gold one that belonged to my father and a black sports watch. Nothing flashy… traditional. A number of different belts and cufflinks to compliment the whole style. I could do a whole other post on grooming, skin care, moisturizers and colognes. Another day for sure.
Last week I went to a meeting wearing a medium grey shirt (no tie), over which I wore a sweater with diamond patterns of dark and light shades of orange and grey on the front. I had on chocolate coloured relaxed fit pants, with a brown belt, dark grey socks and dark reddish-brown shoes. I wore a dark brown blazer with very light brown tinted glasses. Needless to say, everyone else was in your standard suit and tie or casual business attire that you see in a Sears catalogue. After some playful banter back and forth, the meeting started after I once again appealed to my co-workers: “Let colour be your friend.”