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“The Imitation of Life”, “Carmen Jones” and “Mahogany”. What do these three films all have in common? Well, for starters, besides having some of the most iconic movie stars of their time, they are all classic Black films from the 1950s to the 1970s. With the old styles of the past creeping into the closets of many today, there has been a resurgence in retro or vintage art, film and music. As seen in the music of Silk Sonic, what it means to have something that is vintage or to be vintage has done a complete 180. As time rolls on and new, but old, styles come and go, it is important to give flowers to the vintage architects that paved the way for the styles that we enjoy and feel nostalgic over today. 

Beginning in the 1910s, the Harlem Renaissance has become the epitome of what Black glamour is. With decked out furs and stylish hats, the fashion of the Harlem Renaissance is irreplaceable and can’t be duplicated. In addition to the parties and good vibes of the Harlem Renaissance, the creative and intellectual movements within the Black community were at an all time high with scholars and artists such as Louis Armstrong, Jospehine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston and many more. Also, the Harlem Renaissance ushered in the golden age for Black artists whether in art, music, playwriting or fashion.   

Considered to be the “Golden Age” of the film and entertainment industry, the 1950s, while with its undeniable challenges posed against the Black community, saw the arrival of some of the first Black movie stars who have become icons in their own right. Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Sideny Poiter, Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt and so many more are Black film and television icons who have blazed a path for the actors and stars of today. Even in the midst of Jim Crow, Black movie stars were able to make a name for themselves by making movies and programs for themselves, focusing on the stories surrounding a Black cast. Without the confidence, swagger, and style of the Black movie stars of the 1950s, some of your favorite actors today might not be in the position they are in now.

Last, but not least, is a decade of vintage style that has made a name for itself unlike any other. The 1970s, with the afros, bell bottom jeans, and disco, is one of the best examples of what Black vintage glamour and style was. With the reigning record label Motown running the airwaves since the 1960s, the fashion, music, and ambiance of their iconic music stars have been very ingrained in the Black community. From Diana Ross to Donna Summer, to be Black in the 1970s meant to also be fabulous and proud.

Black vintage style is an accumulation of the decades of the past, mixed into the contemporary. Reflecting on the now termed vintage styles and trends of the decades prior to us can allow us to see where and how we will move into the future as a community. By incorporating the confidence, glamour and pride of our now vintage past, we can appreciate all that the nostalgia has to offer, while also ringing the next triumphs in Black art, music and style.

Simone Nixon is a junior biology major, chemistry minor from Maryland. She enjoys telling the stories of the world around her and hearing the stories of others. She plans to pursue a career in the healthcare field, while also pursuing her interests in writing and lifestyle.
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