Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead

Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead

These new successes show how hard it is for small, independent creators to break into sportswear-as-womenswear — especially Black designers, who popularized and innovated it two decades ago.

It started as a fun project. A white bodysuit, emblazoned with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning’s number and initials.

Taylor Damron had made it for her cousin, Browning’s girlfriend Stephanie Niles, to wear to the Jan. 7 game against the Cleveland Browns. Then, the outfit went viral.

“The next day, I woke up, and the world had kind of fallen in my lap,” Damron, 29, says.

Damron’s design rocketing to internet fame is just one story of how women’s fan apparel has found itself in the spotlight. Just a few days later, Taylor Swift would don a red puffer jacket with boyfriend and Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce’s number for his game against the Miami Dolphins. Within a month, that jacket’s designer, Kristin Juszczyk, would score a NFL licensing deal.

These meteoric success stories have illustrated the potency of a market for women’s sports apparel that merges fashion and fan culture. They have also highlighted how hard it is for smaller, independent creators to break into the business — especially Black designers, who popularized and innovated sportswear-as-womenswear two decades ago.

Before Swift catapulted Juszczyk’s clothes to a new level of attention, the 29-year-old designer built a following online by repurposing jerseys into more high-fashion pieces — corsets, suits, skirts — for herself as she attended San Francisco 49ers games to support her husband, fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Her NFL chic couture has spread to other players’ partners and supporters across the league, including Simone Biles, Taylor Lautner and Brittany Mahomes.

Before Juszczyk sent Swift and Mahomes jackets for the Jan. 13 game, she had about 100,000 followers, according to Social Blade. Within a month, she had more than 1 million.

With her official license in hand, Juszczyk designed puffer vests commemorating Super Bowl LVIII, sported by celebrities. One such vest sold for $75,000, with proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Juszczyk herself wore a jacket stitched from jerseys, an ode to her husband’s football career, for Sunday’s big game.

While players’ wives and girlfriends have long represented their partners with custom designs, adopting team colors, logos and numbers, the interplay of fashion and gameday apparel was energized in the ’90s and early aughts, when Black artists were “pushing the needle of what was cool and trendy,” says Tayler Adigun, a culture and style writer.

“A lot of up-and-coming entertainers in the Black sphere maybe had difficulty getting larger names or fashion houses to want to outfit them or costume them for events and award shows and performances, so they kind of had to be a little bit more innovative in their approach,” Adigun says. “It’s something that was definitely born out of necessity.”

It led to a fusion of sportswear, fan merchandise and cutting-edge design, she says. And, of course, iconic looks: Mya’s blue North Carolina jersey dress was one. Then there was Mariah Carey in a floor-length Washington Wizards dress. Carey’s dress prompted a surge of interest and the NBA increased the designs they had in their NBA4her collection, according to a 2003 Baltimore Sun article.

When Larena Hoeber began doing research on women and sports, she didn’t set out to study apparel. But women kept bringing up how difficult it was to find something they actually wanted to wear to rep their teams. A decade ago, licensed women’s merchandise was often made with three key principles: “pink it, bling it, shrink it,” Hoeber says.

Sports leagues not taking risks on smaller creators is to their own detriment, says Hoeber, a University of Regina professor who has written about women’s sportswear and its perceptions. Smaller designers sometimes understand the market, and women’s varying desires, better.

“What’s really critical for women, I think, as sports fans, is they want the official logo, like they want it to look like, ‘This is it. I’m supporting my team,’” she adds. “So they want that, but they want it in clothing that matches their style.”

Women have wanted variety, and sports leagues have often underestimated the market, leading to innovation. Damron, who designed Niles’ viral bodysuit, launched a new collection of themed clothing that nod toward league teams after an outpouring of interest.

At Frankie Collective, employee Sara Gourlay saw a chance to rework vintage jerseys that weren’t selling — they became women’s streetwear, including corsets and crops, says Zak Miller, head of operations. The mission of the company is sustainability, and even without licensing deals, they’ve partnered with big brands like Adidas and Nike, or even the National Hockey League, to keep clothes from ending up in landfills.

“I thank Kristin just for the fact that, like, hey, she’s brought some visibility to an industry that has been around for a period of time right now,” Miller says.

Her high-fashion pieces stand out among other NFL license holders, which include powerhouse companies like Nike, Under Armour and Fanatics. (Juszczyk isn’t alone, though: Kiya Tomlin, a designer whose husband Mike Tomlin is the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, has a license for her high-end apparel.)

Juszczyk did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the NFL said that the league has a standard application process for all partners, like Juszcyzk. A number of programs seek to make it easier for smaller companies to partner with the league, he added.

Twenty years ago, when fashion like this was taking shape, there weren’t the same partnerships and opportunities, Adigun says.

On one hand, Alexis Robinson, 32, is glad to see Juszczyk got a license.

“I’m glad more of this stuff can start being made,” Robinson, a Black designer who runs Boujee Basics, says. “And then on the other hand, it’s like it sucks because it’s been getting made for a long time and it’s just the process has been nearly impossible.”

Robinson started by making cropped denim jackets for herself. As they caught on, she started looking into licenses. It kicked off applications to all major leagues — from basketball, to football, to hockey and baseball. While it was a relatively simple process, with fees for all of them, she never heard back about her application to the NFL.

The upfront costs were too steep for another Black designer, De’fron Fobb, 45, who wanted to craft items when the New Orleans Saints made the Super Bowl in 2010. Since then, the Louisiana native has focused his apparel on college sports. He’s followed Juszczyk’s work for a while, he says.

“She does great work. Her designs and custom stuff is amazing,” he says. “But again, she’s fortunate enough to be in that field. So it’s a different lane for her than it is for most small business, like myself.”

Hoeber hopes the attention will open the door for more creators.

“Women are not a homogeneous group or a homogeneous market,” she says. “I think we’re starting to see cracks with recognizing that, it wasn’t just an offering of, ‘We’re going to take the men’s stuff and shrink it down to women.’”

The post Black designers who popularized fan gear 20 years ago struggle as white designers leap ahead appeared first on TheGrio.


Angry White Conservatives Just Can’t Accept The Black National Anthem Being Sung At The Super Bowl

Angry White Conservatives Just Can’t Accept The Black National Anthem Being Sung At The Super Bowl

Andra Day performs Lift Every Voice and Sing prior to Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Source: Perry Knotts / Getty

At this point, it’s just kind of amusing to watch white conservatives get their Klan-derwear all in a bunch over literally any mundane thing that has the word “Black” behind it.

For the second year in a row, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” aka the Black National Anthem, has been performed during the Super Bowl, and for the second year in a row, prominent white conservatives, along with their white-and-teary followers, have complained about it ad nauseam.

Here’s Megyn Kellythe former Fox News host who famously took umbrage with Santa Clause and Jesus being depicted as Blacksuddenly taking a pro-colorblind stance on the official national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“The so-called Black National Anthem does not belong at the Super Bowl. We already have a National Anthem and it includes EVERYONE,” said the woman who thinks blackface is fine but considers the Black National Anthem an insult.

Honestly, it isn’t clear why Kelly and other white people feel left out of a song that literally directs us to “Lift EVERY Voice and Sing.” It’s not as if the original poem written by James Weldon Johnson included the lyrics: “Lift every voice and sing…aht aht aht…not you, white people, y’all gotta whisper.”

Ironically, none of these so-called American patriots appear to be familiar with the history of either anthem.

White people across social media have insisted that America has only ever had one national anthem and that’s why it’s the only one that should be observed. Factually, America has only had an official anthem at all for less than a century. “The Star-Spangled Banner” may have been written in 1814, but it only became the national anthem in 1931, and that was after racist lyrics were omitted that have been interpreted as threats to enslaved Black people who fought for the British during the Revolutionary War.

They also appear to think the Black National Anthem is something new. I mean, we all know that like critical race theory, the word “woke,” Swag Surfing and Travis Kelce’s haircut, a thing doesn’t really become a thing until white people discover it no matter how long said thing has been around. So, it isn’t terribly surprising that ever-Columbusing white people appear to believe the song is something new put forth to further divide America, as opposed to a poem written in 1900 before it was adapted into a song and eventually dubbed by Black people as the “Black National Anthem.” The anthem isn’t something that was given to us, it’s something we created during a time when their anthem simply didn’t apply to us—which is the real reason they need it buried. 

It’s also worth mentioning that white America’s favorite jingoism jingle is essentially a song about war, whereas the Black National Anthem is a song about peace and love—so which song is really the divisive one? (Hint: it’s not the one that had to Etch A Sketch pro-slavery lyrics.) 

Here’s the thing, white people, you really just need to let this one go. You have no argument here. Black people, by and large, have never identified with or had an affinity for your precious little white nationalist Diddy-bop, so we made our own. If you have a problem with the existence of dual anthems, we can always just ditch yours. It’s been our anthem for a relatively short time, and just because it came first doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. It doesn’t have to be our default just because centuries after it was created by and for white people, white people suddenly decided it’s a song for everyone.

Actually, if white conservatives really took issue with two opposing symbols being represented in America, they wouldn’t be flying the Confederate flag and protecting Confederate monuments with every “patriotic” breath they breathe.

So, the issue with the Black National Anthem clearly isn’t that America already has an anthem. What is the problem then? It’s a positive, inclusive song about love, God and unity. What part of that has MAGAts of the MAGA world all up in arms? Is it simply the “Black” part?

Nah, couldn’t be. That would be racist.

The post Angry White Conservatives Just Can’t Accept The Black National Anthem Being Sung At The Super Bowl appeared first on NewsOne.

First The Swag Surf, Now This: X Users Collectively Roll Their Eyes At The Fade Being Called The “Travis Kelce Haircut”

First The Swag Surf, Now This: X Users Collectively Roll Their Eyes At The Fade Being Called The “Travis Kelce Haircut”

Source: Patrick Smith / Getty / Travis Kelce

Damn, we can’t have nothing. First, the Swag Surf, and now the fade haircut.

Barbershop enthusiasts are stark raving mad, and understandably so, after witnessing the colonization of the fade haircut. The hairstyle that Queensbridge MC NaS and other rappers have famously donned has become the go-to hair choice for white men trying to be like Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Taylor Swift’s boo, Travis Kelce.

Like with the Taylor Swift Swag Surf incident, Kelce is not directly responsible for what’s going on; instead, a news article from the New York Times is getting folks riled up.

In the article, Jeffrey Dugas, a barber at Obsidian Barbers in New Brunswick, Canada, says his white clientele are rushing to his shop to get the “Travis Kelce cut” because they know he made the hairstyle popping, according to them.

@jeffcutshairsTravis Kelce Haircut! My brother in law walked into the shop today wanting me to perform a miracle. @taylorswift who’s hotter? Mike or Travis?♬ original sound – Jeff Dugas | Saint John Barber

Black folks on X collectively rolled their eyes, pointing out that Kelce’s haircut ain’t nothing but a damn fade.

“Isn’t the Travis Kelce haircut a regular fade?? Isn’t this more Caucasian people throwing sum blonde hair on things POC been doing and saying it’s new and exciting/trendsetting?” another post on X, formally Twitter, read.

There were white folks just as perplexed. “That’s called a buzz cut and it has been an extremely popular hairstyle for men for like… a century,” a post read.

Another noted, “Isn’t the Travis Kelce haircut a regular fade?? Isn’t this more Caucasian people throwing sum blonde hair on things POC been doing and saying it’s new and exciting/trendsetting,” Bossip reports.

We’re sure even Travis Kelce rolled his eyes at any posts suggesting he made the fade popular or invented the haircut.

You can see more reactions in the gallery below.

Cathy Hughes Tells Inc. Magazine Her Mission With Urban ONE: “I’m In The Black People Business”

Cathy Hughes Tells Inc. Magazine Her Mission With Urban ONE: “I’m In The Black People Business”

Source: Carol Lee Rose / Getty

Here at the Urban ONE / REACH Media family, we take serious pride in our leadership, particularly when it comes to our founder and chairwoman Cathy Hughes.

In addition to making sure the African American community has a nationwide media outlet that can always be trusted with the truth and journalistic integrity, she also hasn’t been a slouch in the least bit when it comes to making sure all employees — race, creed, gender, sexuality, region or any divider you can think of aren’t a factor whatsoever — are taken care of professionally and, yes, well-paid.

With that said, we have to salute the prestigious Inc. Magazine for profiling Mrs. Hughes on our company history, in addition to our values as a whole and where we plan on leading out culture in the foreseeable future.

….now that’s how you kick off Black History Month!

RELATED: A Timeline Of How Cathy Hughes Built A Black Empire

Take a look at a few standout excerpts from Cathy Hughes’ profile on Inc. below:

“As a publicly traded company, Urban One’s executive team and board of directors is beholden to its shareholders. But Hughes hasn’t changed her approach to the business since she moved from her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska to Washington D.C. in 1972 to work at Howard University’s WHUR. ‘Alfred is in the media and communications business,’ Hughes says. ‘I’m in the Black people business.’ It’s a perfect marriage, Joyner says. ‘Alfred and Cathy are a perfect combination for the company,’ he says. ‘She cares about Black people, and he gets to focus on the shareholders. That’s the way it should be.’

When Hughes and her then-husband Dewey Hughes purchased WOL, an AM station that hit the airwaves on October 3, 1980, launching a company that was then called Radio One, she wasn’t planning on becoming one of the largest Black-owned media companies in the country. ‘I was just planning to be there the next day to disseminate information of value to the African American community,’ she says.

Hughes’s focus on Black people has often driven both her business decisions and her personal relationships. Retired now, the 74-year-old Joyner, who earned the nickname Fly Jock after doing a daily radio show in both Dallas and Chicago, has formed a close bond with Hughes over their shared love of Black people and urban radio.

‘Tom and I are equally yoked because we have the same level of commitment to the Black community,’ Hughes says. ‘I think that’s important when you talk about the merger of Black companies. The common denominator between Urban One and Reach Media is that both companies are unapologetically Black.’”

Salute to the head honcho, as per usual! We hope the team is making you proud, boss lady!

Read the full Inc. profile by clicking here. Want the Urban ONE story from the chick in charge herself? Listen below to Cathy Hughes’ interview on Amplify Black from Oct 2023 to hear it all in her own words:

The post Cathy Hughes Tells Inc. Magazine Her Mission With Urban ONE: “I’m In The Black People Business” appeared first on Black America Web.

Looking like Mom, Lauryn Hill's Daughter Slays At Sweet 16 Birthday Party in NYC

Looking like Mom, Lauryn Hill’s Daughter Slays At Sweet 16 Birthday Party in NYC

Lauryn Hill’s family knows how to throw one hell of a party. Her daughter, Sara Marley, looked stunning as she celebrated her Sweet 16 at the Cipriani Ballroom in New York City. She is the daughter of the legendary singer and Rohan Marley.

The theme was roaring ‘20s and the lady of the hour donned a breathtaking, floor-length white Galia Lahav gown. Later in the evening, she switched into a short Lahav dress as the party really got started. To make the look even more memorable, she added stranders of pearls and a feather boa.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Galia Lahav (@galialahav)

Galia Lahav took to Instagram to share a gorgeous snapshot of Sara from the evening with the caption:

“@whoissaramarley shines at her Sweet 16 in GL gowns NALA and JILL, a stylish celebration at the Cipriani Ballroom in NYC ✨ A dazzling tribute to The Great Gatsby and regal nod to her to her roots as the daughter of the iconic @mslaurynhill and granddaughter to Bob marley #galialahav”

The company’s official website stated: “Sara’s choice of Galia Lahav wasn’t just a fashion statement; it was a powerful nod to her family’s rich artistic heritage. Her mother, Lauryn Hill, is a musical icon known for her groundbreaking style, while her grandfather, Bob Marley, was a reggae legend whose influence on fashion remains undeniable.

“Sara, with her vibrant spirit and effortless elegance, seems poised to carry on this legacy in her own unique way.” Photographer Irma Mchedlishvili also shared several images from the party.

Marley’s parents were present as well and wore suits with bow-ties. Hill famously has five kids — Zion, Selah, Joshua, John and Sara — Rohan. She also has a son named Micah. Last year, Hill performed at Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman festival in Atlanta.

Remember how Donald Trump did everything wrong that a budding politician could muster?

All of his racist, sexist and anti-LGBT invective delivered at a third-grade reading level? His comments about grabbing a woman’s you-know-what? Remember how, despite all of that, he steamrolled over his competition and spread his plague throughout the Oval Office seven years ago this month?

On Monday, former Trump campaign staff member Michael Roman, one of the 18 Trump co-defendants whom Willis indicted last August over election tampering, made a court filing accusing Willis of “an act to defraud the public of honest services” for her failure to disclose her engagement in a “personal, romantic relationship” with attorney Nathan Wade, whom Willis hired for the case when they already had relations.

Wade has allegedly earned more than $650,000 since starting on the case in January 2022 – money from Fulton County taxpayers on which Willis signs off and which she’s allegedly benefited from by way of luxurious trips with Wade.

Making matters stickier is the discovery that Wade billed $4,000 for two eight-hour meetings with President Joe Biden’s White House in 2022. Any perception that the White House is coordinating the investigation and not Willis’ office brings the whole affair under further scrutiny. Willis, Wade and the White House have not responded to press inquires as of Wednesday morning.

Roman is leveraging these discoveries to get his case dismissed, and you can only imagine the field day Trump supporters (and general racists) are having at Willis’ expense on Elon Musk’s former Twitter.

We all love Willis here at The Root, which is why she got the top spot at last month’s The Root 100 ceremony. But she absolutely should’ve known better than to put herself in this position. There were countless elite attorneys who would’ve frothed at the mouth to take down Trump and his Trumpettes — and she picked the dude with whom she’s messing around??

Though she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons, Willis’ career might survive the legal and ethical implications of this week’s discoveries. But what Claudine Gay did also wasn’t illegal or unethical, and she had to step down as president of Harvard University president unfold because of her own lapses in judgment – or perhaps because she didn’t have enough Black friends to help steer her clear of the coming alabaster attack.

It’s as if these incredibly successful and intelligent Black folks have blinders up that make them forget that their houses must be twice as clean as those of their white counterparts.

Or they forget what happens to prominent Black folks who mess up, like disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: His operation was undeniably corrupt, but they threw the book at him with a 28-year federal sentence that was a hell of a lot harsher than what fallen white politicians received for similar crimes. (Trump commuted Kilpatrick’s sentence in 2018.)

We see it unfolding with Eric Adams, New York City’s first Black mayor since 1993, who caught every shred of legal Hell late last year. Adams’ list of alleged crimes is a Post-It Note in comparison to Trump’s, but you wanna bet which one will see the inside of a prison cell first…?

And don’t get me going on Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who was caught on video pulling a fire alarm at a federal building, claimed he didn’t realize it was a fire alarm that a blind 5-year-old could’ve parsed out and blamed racism for the “attack” on him. Anyone think his silly Black ass will ever move up in politics after that?

The sad part is that Willis is being oversexualized by the right on social media as I type, which is par for the Black woman course in America. She said during her Root 100 acceptance speech: “There is no room to hate someone because of the skin God put them in, and it aint none of yo’ business who they love at night!”

She’s right, but she should’ve known that’s not the reality of the country in which we live – especially for Black women. We hope that her poor decision making won’t destroy her career or allow Trump’s people to go free.

This Week’s ‘What to Watch’ Film List Features ‘Origin,’ ‘The Book of Clarence’ & ‘Quiz Lady’

This Week’s ‘What to Watch’ Film List Features ‘Origin,’ ‘The Book of Clarence’ & ‘Quiz Lady’

It’s been awhile, but our ‘What to Watch’ lists are back. In our humble opinion, the first film list of the year comes with some of 2024’s best movies. Whether you decide to spend your weekend inside with the convenience of these films available on your favorite streamers or catch a flick in theaters, we have a nicely curated list for you. Check out the trailers for our ‘What to Watch’ film list for this week inside.

Winter is a great time to snuggle up in your favorite hoodie, order some popcorn and head to the theater. There are a number of films being released in theaters and on streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu. Be sure that catch a few of our top picks for the coziest season.

Long-awaited films like the Ava DuVernay directed Origin, starring Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor are already poised to break records at the box office. Fans are still enamored by the dark and twisted yet comical film that is American Fiction, featuring actors Sterling K. Brown, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Erika Alexander.

Films included on our list like The Book of Clarence, The Color Purple and Wonka have remained in the box office for weeks, and they are all worth checking out or revisiting.

Another film added to the list already debuted in theaters but Dumb Money makes its way to Netflix so everyone can enjoy one of the most interesting stock market stories.

We have also included Hulu’s comedy film Quiz Lady, which stars Awkwafina and Sandra Oh. Whether it is a comedy, drama, action or documentary film that you crave, this list will give you everything that you and the family the film fix you need.

Comment what Winter films you’re excited to catch below.

Check out a list of our ‘What to Watch’ films this week below:

The post This Week’s ‘What to Watch’ Film List Features ‘Origin,’ ‘The Book of Clarence’ & ‘Quiz Lady’ appeared first on Black America Web.