Nineteen90 Something: Colours

Photos by Ashley Nguyen

Photos by Ashley Nguyen

If you asked me for a summary of the 90s from the perspective of my childhood memories, I'd say they were loud, jubilant, scary, proud and colourful in every sense of the word. I remember being in awe of...everything. The music, including the stuff I wasn't allowed to listen to (but snuck anyway), was honest and raw. It celebrated our history and told tales of what was going on around the country in our communities. Sounds of Blacknesses "Be Optimistic" still to this day gives me the warmest, fuzziest feelings. It still makes me gleeful about my heritage and even more proud of my skin color. Rappers were boastful about their pride in selves. They were angry about police brutality, drugs and gang violence that claimed the lives of loved ones. Programming was groundbreaking and whimsical. A Different World solidified for me at a young age that I would ultimately attend an HBCU while Power Rangers blew the roof off my imagination and gave me hours of backyard karate inspiration with my cousins and friends. The LA riots were terrifying from my 7 year old vantage point. I remember my father making my brothers, mother and I duck whenever we drove anywhere from fear of stray bullets and looters. My 5th grade graduation was 96 olympic themed and I remember culminating with the sense that I could literally do anything when I grew up while my classmates and I sang Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." And the fashion...WOO!!!

It wasn't until 8th grade that I had any remote interest in fashion and saw myself in that world. Daymond John and the other guys at FUBU, along with Diddy, inspired career aspirations in me that I'd never considered until then. But that's a story for another day. 

Just like any other kid growing up, I didn't care about clothes at all until I was a teenager. That is, with the exception of Cross Colours. Carl Jones launched his clothing line in 1989 and its cultural impact was monumental and lasting (see Bruno Mars and Cardi B's "Finesse" video and 2018 Grammy performance for reference). Back then, Cross Colours was not a brand that was carried at major retailers like Robinson's May and Montgomery Ward. It was underground. My mother would find out about warehouse sales and pop ups around LA and we'd pack up in our van, arrive, divide and conquer. While I didn't necessarily care about fashion, Cross Colours was so much more than that. It was literally the coolest thing you could put on your body. My favorites were my oversized green jeans and black "Dig It" tee shirt that I wore every free dress day at school. 

Fashion is always cyclical and if I changed the fit, I could walk straight out of 2018 into 1993 with this same look on. It's equally nostalgic and stylish paired with this Cradle of Civilization t-shirt from BlackberryVine

The 2010s are feeling like the 90s all over again. Black sitcoms are back and thriving. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar have captured the spirit of NWA and continue to carry out their mission of telling our stories. Recorded and broadcasted police brutality cases still go unpunished. There's a Republican piece of shit in office. Loud colors and Black pride are at an all time high. It's the Black Renaissance and proof that no matter what the circumstances, Black people are resilient.