In the 1920s the Zoot Suit’s cool urban slouch evoked the Harlem Renaissance, while the Dashiki personified Black Power of the 1970s. In more recent times, low slung jeans, backwards ball caps and hoodies have crossed from African American youth into mainstream culture, fueled by musical artists and A-list celebrities.

Scholar and author Tanisha Ford has always been fascinated by African American fashion, even as a child growing up in Fort Wayne, Ind. She loved watching her mother, a police officer, dress up for parties in vividly colored leather jackets and statement jewelry.

Ford’s latest book, "Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion," explores the impact of recent African American style on the community, on mainstream culture and, most poignantly, on herself, as a young woman finding her place in the world.

Watch Ford explain how iconic forms of clothing helped elevate black music and culture across racial lines since the 1980s, and became a symbol of the #blacklivesmatter movement that highlighted the perils faced by people of color. 

And don't miss Ford getting to the roots of the political struggle over black hair.


Published on Jan 21, 2020