Understanding how style impacts perception has always been an interest of mine. It’s been one of those inescapable interests as a professional Black woman with natural hair (sans chemical processors), a predisposition for nail art, and a commitment to being absolutely fierce! This is why I value the scholarship of Dr. Tanisha Ford on fashion & style politics. In her article, Haute Couture In the ‘Ivory Tower’, she states, “From slavery to the present, African Americans and other people of color have used fashion as a form of cultural-political resistance and creative self-expression…”
The way that fashion & style intersects with socio-cultural identities is an area that we navigate each and every day – from the time we wake up, to the time we decide how we’re wearing our hair, to the matrix of thoughts we use to configure an #OOTD (outfit of the day). We are making meaning for ourselves and others are forming perceptions about us, as well.
The other day I was talking with my friend Michelle. She told me that she wanted to dedicate a post on social media that celebrated all the great things about her, and that she thought about me in that moment. Anyone who knows me, knows that I encourage these types of shenanigans! [They’re so important]! When I told her to go for it, she responded back with #Putonyourhoopsandwin <tweetable!! (And the charismatic churchgirl in me said, “That will PREACH if you let it”!)
“Put on your hoops and win” is associated with Michelle’s expression of sociocultural identity in a professional context. She explained,
“It came from a time that I was told to look more professional when I was wearing a nice pant suit and tasteful hoops. Apparently it was “too urban”. What’s crazy is that it was a person of color that told me to take the hoops out at first. He told me, ‘Know your audience’. I walked in and the board member goes, ‘How brave of you to wear those earrings at a presentation’. But I owned that meeting… brought all the ideas and innovation to the table while folks were chillin’ and taking notes… wearing my hoops the whole time.
I thought about the fact that hoops have always been around my whole life. When I wanted to feel sassy or fly or strong… I would see other women who looked like me and I admired them. They were taking care of babies with hoops on, doing laundry, going to the bank…
…And I’m not gonna take them off so you feel better. Because it’s more than the hoops. It’s the taking off of the sources of your power. From that day, I decided that I was going to put on my hoops and win!”
I’m pretty sure at this point that some are inclined to offer a lengthy rebuttal on how it’s inappropriate to wear hoops in the workplace. But then you’d have missed the point of this piece. The appropriateness of wearing hoops in the workplace (generally) will depend on the history, context, climate, policies, and protocol within your work space. So, the point here is similar to one I’ve made in a previous post:
There are countless ways of image management that professional millenial women of color are asked to conform to. The choice to conform or resist lies with the individual and their values (Weitz, 2001). For some, looking professional in regards to dominant cultural mores seems most secure and / or beneficial. Others choose to redefine what professional dress is in their professional context. Some chose counter-cultural ways to express their style politics. And some days, it’s a blend of all three of those things. Again, the questions here become, “What compromises your soul?” Do you feel like you’re being asked to “take off (a) source of power”? In other words, what feels like an erasure of a key sociocultural value or expression? Because the fashion choices of professional women of color are that deep, even though many would like to assume that they aren’t.
Your choices may (and probably will) change from context to context. At the conference, you might choose to rock studs, a natural bun, and a retro blazer to keep things interesting. At the office you might choose to rock a wash & go, business slacks, a blouse, and “put on your hoops & win”. Either way, professional identity… including the expression of professional style… is always crafted within a context.<Tweetable
What are some professional style essentials for you? (Ya’ll already know how I feel about Ruby Woo). What makes you feel like you’re “putting on your hoops (to) win”?!
Image Credit: CreateHerStock.Com: “a collection of awesome resources and images for the everyday female blogger and creative of color”. #Support!
“Put On Your Hoops and Win!” by Jade T. Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.