HBCU Fashion: An Unwritten History

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The clothing that adorns students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities tells stories, individually and collectively. What is worn is a testament of the times, a glimpse into “what’s hot and what’s not” for those living in the current generation and those yet to see it.

The fashion staff at The Maroon Tiger acknowledges the rich history of Morehouse College and Spelman College, respectively, and the outfits that were worn throughout history.

​For instance, a glance into the Spelman class of 1962 yearbook will produce a plethora of knee length pleated skirt suits, pearl necklaces and tightly curled hair. Later on, the Pro-Black sentiment was partially demonstrated through Afros, ethnic pendants and traditional African attire such as dashikis made with patterned cloth. This extended into the 1970s, especially when the Black is Beautiful movement came to fruition.

​From the archived material, it is clear that the 1980’s brought a separation from Afrocentrism and expression of West European glamour and luxury, along with a preppy and put-together appearance.  Along with the 1990’s came the versatility of the college sweatshirt, Nike sneakers for both sexes, and disappearance of restricting fashion standards, mirroringthat of hip-hop and R&B icons.

​Though the students of Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, respectively, have raised their voices to different causes over the years, the concept of using clothing as a symbol of expression and as a statement has remained consistent.


Lonnie Mackey II and Tyra A. Seals


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