The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: when the mainstream met afrocentric style | Fashion

When it debuted on TV in 1990, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – which finished 20 years ago – brought with it a new vanguard of style.

In the same year that The Word and The Mary Whitehouse Experience altered the pop-culture diet, the sitcom allowed mainstream audiences to digest hip-hop culture both as a non-threatening concept and a bold new visual identity.

A bold new visual identity – Will Smith. Photograph: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

In the infamous opening credits, Will Smith’s character moves from the mean inner-city streets of Philadelphia to the plush surroundings of Bel Air, bringing with him a sassy attitude, but also a street style that was new for TV. Smith’s visual identity had its roots in the afrocentric style that had become popular in the late 80s.

Coming up from the streets … a style that was new for TV. Photograph: NBC/NBC via Getty Images

This mainstreaming of hip-hop style can be seen from the rich palette of A Different World (costumed by Judy Richman, who also worked on The Fresh Prince) and Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing (1989). There was also a sartorial movement in music, led by artists such as Queen Latifah and The Daisy Age crew (De La Soul, The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest), in reaction to the likes of NWA. Stylistically, this meant a contrast to those tightly regimented monochromes and golds, opting instead for brightly patterned shirts worn loosely, stone-washed denim and Gatsby caps worn in various colours.

Looking fresh … Coach’s SS16 range.

Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

In the show Smith’s style was OTT and daring (he described it as “Classy Splat-ow”). Combining labels like Nike with edgy items like paisley blazers and patterned trousers, it’s saucer eyed visual identity was tailor made for the cartoonish GIF-age, where the one stand out visual was everything.

Tyler, the Creator shows a Fresh Prince influence. Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

You can see the stylistic influence on labels like the LOL-core Lazy Oaf, founder Gemma Shiel says that the fashion was: “bold, playful and verging on the cartoon.” She says that it was a stylistic inspiration. “I have, on occasion, gone back to reference the show as the costume design was pretty full on and brave. I loved that (Smith) wore his blazers inside out and patterns went with patterns (and) no apologies.”

You can see the influence in contemporary menswear lines like of Coach and Sibling, too. And it speaks volumes about the show’s continued sartorial influence you could totally see Smith rocking this season’s biggest jacket.

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Johny Watshon

Life is like a running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">News</a> is my passion. Because my visitors have the right to know the truth and perfectly.

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Life is like running cycle right! I am a news editor at TIMES. Collecting News is my passion. Because my visitors have right to know the truth and perfectly.

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