It is pretty much a universal belief in the advertising/entertainment circles that African American youth are pretty much the initiators of many trends that eventually reach the mainstream. Is that still true?
As an agency that prides ourselves on being rooted in research we are seeing that this is not necessarily the case.
We recently went to LA and Atlanta to do some trendspotting on behalf of one of our Clients, and what we saw developing was antithetical to that traditional belief that Black kids start trends. What we witnessed was that many African American youth are mimicking the fashion, musical taste, and activities of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn “hipsters” and West Coast skate punks. We are talking about young people wearing skinny jeans, the hipster scarfs, backpacks, streetwear graphic tees, etc. In addition to the fashions, we noticed that many Black youth in Atlanta and LA were into skateboarding and BMX biking. The icons of this Black hipster movement are Kanye West, Spankrock, The Gym Class Heroes, and Pharrell Williams. The cool clothing brands are no longer Phat Farm, and Sean Jean, they are now Hollister, Ed Hardy, Abercrombie and Fitch, Krewe, The Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles. It should be noted that none of these brands originated from urban hip-hop icons.
Did skateboarding originate in the hood? What about BMX biking? Or the skinny jeans trend? The answer is no. As you may or may not know, these are activities that emanate from the Southern California suburban areas.. So we see this new dynamic at work where suburban trends are shaping the taste of Black urbanites. Our research points to the internet being one of the key catalyst for this new dynamic. My Space, Youtube, celebtity gossip blogs have democratized informational flow. So the influence dynamic becomes two way (suburban to urban, urban to suburban). This is a HUGE trend we see developing that will shape attitudes towards racial identity, and youth trends for years to come. Issues of class also come into play here. The bottom line is that corporations and marketers cannot continue to live on past assumptions. Dynamics are different and agencies like ours will become more valued partners as these dynamucs change so quickly.. Real time research and trendspotting will continue to gain in stature.