Discovering Afro-Punk culture

Maya and Leah crossed on a path.

The world of fashion dominates cultures around the world, controlling not only the way people dress, but also trends in homeware, design, makeup, fashion, and people’s overall attitudes. I appreciate that a person can use their body in a unique way to model clothing, shoes and accessories. 

With my little understanding of the fashion industry, I have set goals for myself. One was to work on my own sense of style and another was to understand what fashion meant to me. Growing up, there wasn’t any person of colour that I could look up to in the media that looked like me. I didn’t understand what beauty standards were, except the fact that if I wanted to model clothes, I had to be tall, skinny and white. Today, we are beginning to see the fashion industry dip its toes into diversity. Knowing this, I wanted to challenge myself by following a theme that would represent the BIPOC community in fashion. It was difficult coming up with a concept as there are many forms of fashion from different communities that have never been recognized.

Since there wasn’t a famous role model for me to look up to when growing up, I’ve always viewed my older sister as my role model. My sister was heavily influenced by alternative and punk culture, which influenced me to like the same things. The reason she was attracted to this culture is because of the music she listened to: My Chemical Romance, Green Day, 30 Seconds to Mars, Billy Talent, and others. Growing up in a society where most of the people who dressed in punk or alternative attire were white had caused a lot of confusion and judgment towards my sister. Her fashion was her sense of comfort and a way to express herself, which others couldn’t understand at times only because of her race and skin tone.

Although I don’t dress in punk attire, I do have some items of clothing in my closet that have a punk-like style. Seeing this influence in my wardrobe made me want to dig deeper. I wanted to see a different side of the culture, one where someone like my sister or I could relate to. Before this photoshoot, I had no knowledge about Afro-punk culture and I wanted to shed some light on it. From what I’ve seen many BIPOC individuals may not be knowledgeable about fashion trends that are carried by coloured people because they are  influenced by western fashion ideas, which I felt was wrong. Fashion created and worn by people of colour is barely represented in the media, unless you do your own research–and that’s exactly what I did. 

   (Maya leaning on Leah.)

During the month of November, a traditional Afro-punk music festival usually takes place in New York City and other parts of the world. This festival is where Black individuals gather together and celebrate their  shared interest in punk culture with live music and dressing up. The typical punk aesthetic is wearing clothing with spikes, ripped jeans, jean jackets, Converse shoes, band T-shirts, and combat boots, just to name a few.  The difference between Afro-punk culture and punk culture is that traditional African wear is also incorporated into this fashion trend. Individuals will show up at the festival with dots and paint on their faces to resemble tribal paint and wear bright colours with tribal prints.  Hair is usually kept natural with some traditional styles such as dreads, braids and anything they believe would empower them.

(Maya and Leah pictured in front of colorful trees. The colours combined in the background contrast with the darkness of their outfits, following the concept of Afro-punk fashion as it incorporates dark colours with light ones.) 
(Maya and Leah covering their eyes to the modern, western ideologies and following their own path in fashion.)

So what’s next? As someone who is a part of the world of journalism and is now entering fashion and photography, I feel like I would love to incorporate different cultures and styles formed from the BIPOC community within my own personal style and photography. It’s amazing to see the bursts of culture in fashion that I would never have seen if I didn’t take the chance to research myself. I want individuals who feel uncomfortable in the way they dress to feel accepted by the way they express themselves no matter what. Though my fashion tends to change over the years, I hope to incorporate new fashion trends I learn about into my own wardrobe respectfully.

What culture should I look into next?

Models: Maya James & Leah Jones