RESEARCH TASK 1
I chose ‘Image Analysis’ as my first research task because I found this method the most engaging, challenging and meaningful. To be able to explore the meaning of an image through dress and photography and depicting the ideas and stories being presented through imagery, leads me to develop a deeper understanding of fashion photography. Image analysis can lead to different socio- cultural values and critical issues.
Whilst undertaking this research task for the first time, I found that describing and dismembering the image in a concise and clear way quite difficult. On the other hand, this method was successful because it allowed me to notice many details in the image such as dress, background and posture that I did not notice before when analysing fashion photographs. After undergoing this research method I realised that these small details that make up the image are just as important in revealing different connotations and leading me to explore different contextual ideas. Every small detail in an image all have a meaning and purpose that needs to be explored and image analysis leads to further questions about history and culture. Furthermore, image analysis allows me to develop new insights and questions, therefore continuing to aid my development of research for my dissertation.
Ibrahim kamara (stylist), photographer Kristin Lee Morgan, 2026
The image below depicts a young black man topless standing in front of a light blue wall, with two chunky gold chains around his neck; revealing his white underwear wearing two blue denim jeans layered over each other, one sagged really low past his bum with a brown belt. Wearing white satin long gloves and a bowler style hat revealing parts his synthetic curly wig.
Kamara’s contrast in references such as the sagging of the jeans and satin gloves challenges the sexuality, masculinity and perceptions of black men through dress.
The sagging of the pants revealing his underwear and gold chains was a fashion trend worn by African American men living in urban landscapes of New York city, Morgado (2007) states that ‘media coverage suggests that there controversy over hip- hop style peaked in the early 1990s…underwear was sometimes visible above the baggy trousers and the excess lengths of exceptionally long belts swayed suggestively on the crotch’. The controversial way of dress was adopted in prison as inmates were not allowed belts. Sagging pants is worn by young people as ‘emblems of a gangster or thug lifestyle identified with the incarcerated’ (Baxter, Marina”,2008). The extremely oversized dress violated the rules of conventional dress. Hip hop is a resistant subculture that demands rebellious masculinity and hardness.
I will be exploring and challenging whether hip hop fashion foregrounds negative stereotypes towards black men. How have these stereotypes changed in today’s hip hop scene?
I will be looking into how white designers culturally appropriate Black culture such as Karl Lagerfield for Chanel, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein by marketing the style.
I will be analysing how hip hop fashion has become mainstream in the media.
RESEARCH TASK 2
I chose ‘Object Analysis’ as my second research task because I found the process highly engaging. To be able to deduce the changing relationships between things, people, places and time from a single object was challenging for me. Object analysis develops many approaches into aesthetics, consumerism life stories and social textualism. Whilst undertaking this task, I found describing the object in detail difficult because there was different elements of the object I had to consider such as the construction, material and physical dimensions. After the second try I became more confident at being able to describe an object itself compared to the deduction stage of the object analysis.I was able to pick up on details that I had missed before such as wear and tear of an object.
I chose to analyse a head-wrap know as a ‘do-rag/du-rag’, originally worn by African-American women during enslavement in the 18th century, it is stated by B.Eicher that it ‘originated on the west coast of Africa, probably at the very beginning of a trade which compelled millions of Africans also to become Americans’. The du-rag protects and keeps cornrows/other hairstyles in place.
The do-rag I chose to analyse belongs to myself and I purchased the item online from the ‘Asos x Laquan Smith’ collaboration on asos.com . It is made out of a light black stretch polyester fabric with long panels/tails. A clear diamanté embellished mesh fabric that covers the top of the polyester du-rag. The du-rag is shaped with two panels that are sewn together down the centre with two long tail straps measuring 64cm long on opposite side of the head covering. Both panels create a large square flap that hangs behind the neck. The tail straps finish towards the end with a pointed triangle shaped finishing and tail straps that can be tied into a knot.
The du-rag has been a key staple in the black urban communities for decades and has adopted many different style variations such as the lace or embellished du-rag making it more ‘high fashioned’. It became a popular fashion trend and was accepted by the mainstream media during the early 2000’s, worn by many hiphop artists during the time such as 50 Cent”,Jay Z and LL Cool J. Hip- hop fashion worn by black men was an ‘expression of anti-mainstream sentiments, frustrations, anger or hatred’”,stated by Yuniya Kawamura. This lead to many stereotypes of black men such as a criminal or thug, but once this way of dress become mainstream by hip hop celebrities it became more of a trend rather than a negative connotation.
The du-rag has been culturally appropriated by celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and white fashion designers such as Rick Owens. Michael P.Jeffries Staes in his book ‘Thug Life:Race, Gender, and he meaning of Hip-Hop’, that ‘white people who wear hip-hop and listen to rap music are often regarded as ‘posers’ who don’t posses a great deal of hip-hop knowledge’, it’s shows that they are not invested in learning about the culture or where the du-rag originated from. Furthermore, white people wear it as a trend and do not understand what they are actually wearing. White people who culturally appropriate African American style ‘acknowledge race while disregarding racial hierarchies by taking racial coded styles and products and reducing these symbols to commodities or experiences that whites and racial minorities and share’ (Rodriques”,649). The du-rag loses its purpose of keeping Afro hairstyles in place and its cultural symbol because it is produced on the catwalks and worn by white celebrities making it a trend that white people can have access to and purchase, which results in mass marketing and production of the du-rag. Whites acquire ‘the characteristics of blackness associated with being cool’ (Rodriques, 649) without acknowledging the struggles of the black race.
RESEARCH TASK 3
EXHIBITION VISIT-GRACE WALES BONNER
I chose the ‘Grace Wales Bonner- A Time for New Dreams’ exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries as my third research task as I enjoy the experience of going to an exhibition and the moods and feelings it invokes in a particular space. Before attending the exhibition I did not know what to expect as I had not done any research before hand about Grace Wales Bonner as a practitioner. This meant that I was very perceptive of what was going to be on display in the exhibition space but also I experienced a sense of enthusiasm and insightfulness to learn about a new practitioner.
As I walked into the exhibition space, one of the first things I noticed was the brick wall surrounded by a spacious setting with white walls and ceiling. The first set of objects that was presented to me was a zebra upholstered daybed, underneath the daybed was a Persian style rug. At first I did not automatically assume that this was a displayed item because there was no barriers between the object and its visitors, so I thought this a place where visitors could sit down but then I was told that I was not allowed to walk on the rug. This made me question what was so significant about this Persian rug and daybed? Who did it belong to? Why did Bonner present these objects first? Where did they come from?.
As I continued to look around the exhibition there was small installations that were all very different and unique in its own way; they all told a different story with a wider context but at the same time each installation linked together. There was literature from Ben Okri on the walls, music and objects creating different ‘shrines’ as mentioned by Bonner. ‘Magic realism in West African Fiction’ is one of the books that I noticed first, thinking that it was for visitors to read I picked it up from the wooden cabinet, to then be told it was part of the installation and only to be looked at. Objects such as books are considered mundane but to be a part of an installation along side a television was very engaging. I had noticed the juxtaposition of the book and television in the modern world. Bonner may have been trying to engage a wider audience of young and old, as well as depict ways of communicating her research through different forms of media. Each book was placed in a precise way on top of or inside the wooden storage unit which shows the importance of these books to Bonner. They present ideas about identity and expression of Africanism.
It made me question whether these books were a part of Bonner’s everyday research as a practitioner or maybe a starting for the exhibition itself. Why weren’t the visitors allowed to look through these books? What was so significant about these books?. Each book is unique with different imagery and titles on the front cover ‘The Black Monastic’ and ‘Brother to Brother’ to name a few. This shows that many of the front covers are impactful enough to invoke a story or mood without necessarily opening the book, it left me wanting to engage and learn even more about African studies. These books capture black culture, ethnicity and ritualism across the Black Atlantic.
The exhibition consisted of an assemblage of installations and shrines which compose of images and objects. By forming imagery and objects together, it depicts a story, a sense of being and intentions in a way that provoke a spiritual aesthetic through assembling and repurposing.
I came across a series of abstract instillations that were composed of different colours, textures and weights of fabrics that all juxtaposed together. I was very curious by this particular art form because of how the fabrics were transformed in a less knowable way to its viewer. However, I could still relate to it being a fashion design student and exploring the relationship of these clothes through texture/colour was insightful and rewarding.
Cloth has a lot of cultural significance in West Africa, it can signify wealth, status and even spirituality. Most of the cloth are hand woven textiles made on looms that are wrapped and draped around the body as stated by Joanne B.Eicher (2010). She also states that ‘warp-faced stripe is the most basic design element in woven textiles’, for example ‘Mende textiles from Sierre Leone and Liberia, known as kondi-gulei, or simply “country cloths” in English, consist mainly of plain-woven, warp-faced striped cloth in contrasting muted tones of natural, indigo, and kola nut–dyed cotton, either hand-spun or imported’. The ‘Oshugbo’ textiles from Nigeria are known for their vibrant textures which even include wefts of animal skin such as ‘crocodile’ that are used in the ‘Oshugbo shrines’(B.Eicher (2010). These textiles are worn during shrines; they signify spiritual power, its a way of communicating messages such as feelings within a person whether thats spiritual problems or even marital status. I am keen to continue exploring how cultural cloths are used, its different representations and symbolisms around different regions of Africa.
Title: Masculinities and representation: An analysis of Hip Hop fashion in contemporary media.
Themes and Issues:
Tricia Rose (2008) outlines the important impacts of ‘invisible white consumption’ in commercial hip hop in the 21st century, such as the consumption of harmful stereotypes that are perceived to be actual representations of black people. Rose argues that hip hop allows racial unity and its more about the culture, using music to bring people together creating ‘cross-racial exchange’ but the racial stereotypes within commercial hip hop consumed by young white fans is due to a ‘lack of knowledge of the the history of black culture or racial oppression’. This leads to many white youth imitating black culture (music and fashion) without understanding the culture and racism that black people experience in society, especially the use of imagery in the media (television, fashion magazines, newspapers) creates a false depiction of black people that people are easily convinced by. Since the mid 1990s, ‘racial fantasies’ such as crime and violence (gangsters, thugs, hustlers) have been impelled into the minds of white consumers of commercial hip hop.
Rose discusses that ‘this distorted form of cultural exchange is framed/masked by a post-civil rights rhetoric of colour-blindness’ (Rose”,2008″,p.229), the idea that white hip hop consumers believe that its no longer about race, its for everyone; a new form of multi-cultural exchange. White consumers also deny these driven stereotypical images of black people and the appropriation of black style and music within the mainstream commercial hip hop. The colour-blind approach to consumption of hip hop’s black style means that they only associate themselves with the ‘coolness’ of black culture and ‘avoid confrontation with their own racial privilege’(Rose”,2008″,p.230).
I think that the discussion of hip hop is so important because the culture of hip hop has been impactful to the mass media such as the television and magazines but also has influenced the contemporary fashion industry.Hip hop challenges race, class and the value of black culture in society. Another reason why this discussion is important is that the perceptions we have about hip-hop-how did it start, why is it so significant to black culture, how is it impactful to society-has been used against the black urban community.The idea that black people and their culture are accountable for ghetto conditions they live in and their working-class status.Many people are misinformed about hip hop due to the mass media glamourising the black gangster rapper lifestyle but fail to bring to light the imperative context of post-civil rights era ghetto segregation for hip-hop’s development. Why has the black gangster pimp been a depiction of black men in the mass media?Why did hip hop style base on drug dealing and crime become hip hop’s economic and cultural representation?
In my dissertation I will explore the relationships between hip hop culture in relation to fashion and the mass media, answering the following questions:
-How does the mass media allow hip hop fashion to be culturally appropriated?
-How has the consumption of hip-hop style impacted the fashion industry?
-How is hip hop presented through the mass media? and how has this affect the black masculine identity?
Methods and Sources:
As I will be looking at the mass media and hip-hop style I feel that it is necessary for me to use image analysis as one of my main research methods in order to see how the clothes are worn in the subculture and how it is being presented in the mass media ie.fashion magazines and television. In terms of primary resources I intend to use an image photographed by Jenny Baptiste called Brixton Boyz(2001) and a photograph taken by Normski called Silver Bullet Posse-The Loyds Building”,London. I will first describe these images in detail, then I will depict and state its social and cultural issues that the images raises then devise questions from these issues.
In terms of theoretical research, I have sourced three key academic texts that will help me contextualise my discussion. The first of these is Tricia Rose’s chapter ‘Hip Hop hurts black people’ in the book The hip hop wars: What we talk about When We talk About Hip hop-and Why It Matters (2008), in this she discusses the negative impacts hip hop has on the black youth. Rose states that hip hop is ‘self-destructive’ as it emphasises the use of drugs and promotes violence, ‘hip hop’s lyrical references to violence, drug activity, verbal and sexual abuse of black women, as well as homophobia in hip hop cannot be denied, defended, or explained away as only a reflection of actual lived experience’(Rose”,2008″,pg.77). Rose states that these references are the cause of destruction in black communities. On the other hand, she also challenges this by stating ‘“black” images and styles cannot be products regardless, of the degree to which corporate power define, shapes and promotes them’”,this fabrication allows us to think that commercialised hip hop derived from poor black youth but actually it is the ‘corporate power’ and ‘white desire’ who imprint these harmful ideas and images in commercial hip hop through magazines, tv and radio to generate sales. These images of hip hop are constantly being promoted and consumed by the mainstream white audience, therefore making these images highly profitable, as a result, the idea that black men a thugs becomes normalised in the media.
The second text is Michael P.Jeffries chapter ‘Understanding the “cool pose”’ in the book Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop (2011), where he discusses the relationship between blackness and coolness in relation to mainstream American culture and how the ‘cool theory’ of black masculinity highlights the lack of opportunity and ‘the pain of unrealised masculine aspiration among black men’. Jeffries states that ‘black coolness’ is ‘validation of inherent racial otherness’.Black men have adopted and used the ‘cool pose’ as a way of surviving in a pressured society. In relation to hip hop P.Jeffries discusses the ‘badman’ narratives which is a posture-performance used by black men as a mask against negative social rules. The ’cool pose’ reflects the disadvantaging social structures that society has created to restrict black men. Coolness is derived from black people experiencing racism and is a strategy for survival in society. In hip hop black men are in constant struggle with black masculinity and how they should act.
The third text is Patricia A.Cunningham and Linda Welters chapter ‘Flava In Ya Gear: Transgressive politics and the influence of hip hop con contemporary fashion’ in the book Twentieth-Century American Fashion, where she states ‘hip hop fashion is relentless and carries with it a code of dressing’. Black youth are defined by their clothing; experimenting and appropriating from preceding black fashion trends. The ice-diamond jewellery known as ‘bling-blinging’ is a ‘black commodity fetishism’ that ‘erased the ambiguous gender taboo by which jewellery signified femininity or homosexuality’, a culture that displays their wealth. The white fashion systems uses culturally-based fashion trends in America to make ‘style primitive, exotic, or ghetto, in effect, ‘to plunder “exotic” techniques and codes from “other” looks’, the fashion mainstream is constantly influenced by hip hop fashion and can be accessible to everyone. For example, designer jeans such as Calvin Klein during the 1990s was popular amongst the hip hop youth creating a ‘“sporty formal” denim suitable for more bourgeois lifestyles’ therefore creating a cross between high and low culture of dress(A.Cunningham “,p.229).
In the image Brixton Boys (2001)(Figure 1), two men face each other on opposite sides, one young black man is wearing a black vest top and black trousers, the other man is wearing black sunglasses and is topless, his pants slightly sag below the waist revealing his black underwear with a Calvin Klein waistband. Both men present a hip hop aesthetic that is hyper-masculine and hard-core demeanour. The young black man on the left also shows off his tattoos and branded underwear in a stylistic approach associated with hip hop. The sagging of the pants is a controversial hip hop style
Figure 1: Brixton Boyz (2001), photographed by Jennie Baptiste. during the 1990s as it violated the conventional rules of dress that was seen in the mainstream media. Its a form of rebellion by exposing the underwear that is meant to be private to the public eye, therefore disrupting the social norms. Are they trying to been as sexual objects to the female gaze? Are they over sexualising the black male body or are they challenging black masculinity through hip hop dress?
I chose this topic because I have always been inspired by black culture and fashion when it comes to my own design practise. I have done numerous projects on Hip Hop and I enjoy researching photographers who photographed the hip hop scene during the 1990s. I alway wanted to grasp a deeper understanding about hip hop culture and why the black American youth dress in a particular way. I am constantly trying to challenge masculinity through my fashion designs.