Curiosity Matters

An Exploration of Branding, Design and Cultural Trends

Trend Series: The Innocent Late 80's

I noticed this trend about five years ago. Suddenly black teenagers were modeling their hair and fashion after Kid 'n Play and The Fresh Prince, the more PG rappers of the late 80's to early 90's. My guess is that it's a defense towards racial profiling and the stereotype that most urban youth are violent, drug-dealing gang members. It's also a backlash towards the more violent, extreme rap. So like any planner should, I asked some friends to back up or dispute my hypothesis (something I will try to do with each trend spotting post). From my friend Jai Wilcher:

Indeed I am black and a dude and from BK, so I think I qualify to serve this panel. I think your DEAD ON with the observation as far as this trend goes, absolutely ... I honestly feel we can have a similar conversation in another 5 years ... and the end result would be close to if not the same, just goes to show the, dare I say "circular" evolution of the trend and the culture of hip hop.

I think now a days, things are extremely different than the way they used to be, image is still important, however the presentation has changed a ton and with that - the idea has altered as well. Gives the whole culture a cleaner, fresher more creative and artistic feel, conveys the same message, but in a more universal manner, I think. I also think those small, independent cells that were the "thinkers" or the "abstracts" those, De La Souls and A Tribe Called Quest and Poor Righteous Teachers version of hip hop advocates from the 80's that were seen as the back burner, weirdos of the movement are finally getting their shine on, and yes, I'd say Will "Fresh Prince" Smith as well falls into this category.

And from a good friend and former classmate, Dr. Shonda Lackey who's a clinical psychologist and freelance writer in NYC and who's conducted research on how racism and stigma can affect interpersonal relationships and health:

I hadn't noticed this trend, but in most cases, the way people dress often indicates something about the way they perceive themselves and how they want to be perceived by others. This is what fashion designers and brand marketers know. Some Blacks adopt a particular style of dress so as to deflect negative perceptions others might have of them. Others might adopt a style that challenges the status quo as racists will view Blacks in a negative manner regardless of how they present themselves. Yet, it can't be assumed that a Black is making a political statement based on his or her choice of clothing. The only way to really find out an individual's beliefs and values is to get to know him or her on the individual level.

So I think this is another great example of two aspects of account planning. The first is straight from art history 101; that visual trends; whether in fashion, architecture or design can be outlays of cultural shifts. The second is that once again, we can't categorize people (or our consumers) based on their age, race, location, etc. but must get deeper into understanding what their experiences and viewpoints are to better understand their culture.