Boyz II Men’s pioneering preppy style
Prep is everywhere again: Tyler the designer dresses like he’s ready for a day at the golf club, people are swapping sneakers for moccasins and I can’t wait to see what preppy expert Michael Bastian will do at Brooks Brothers. But the role bands like Boyz II Men played in the BCBG revolution – and their influence now, with the look on the rise again – is under-discussed. In the 2012 Yale University Press book Ivy style, the few paragraphs devoted to Tommy Hilfiger explain that the clothes of the mark were appreciated by “young urban men”. Still, there’s more to the story than that: it’s about taking a style and elevating it, making it modern and accessible to more people, and Boyz II Men played a big part in that, serving bridge between the preppy boom of the 1980s and the return of the 80s.
“The popular mainstream narrative is that the ’90s were all about oversized sportswear, baggy jeans and Carharrt jackets – but that’s only part of the story,” says Jason Jules, the “Saint. boss of English Ivy “. The author of the next book Black ivy, Jules sets out to draw attention to the fact that our obsession with Ivy overlooks style’s indebtedness to Malcolm X, the poet Amiri Baraka or the artist Charles White. “There is a kind of reluctance to recognize the contribution of black culture to this style because the style, in essence, is about maintaining some kind of status quo,” explains Jules. “And the way generations of black consumers have worn these garments undermines the strength of this establishment ideal.”
Rappers wearing the occasional Tommy or Ralph piece was one thing. Boyz II Men took it to another level. Look at any photo of them in the ’90s and you get a handful of tennis sweaters and cardigans, turtlenecks, blazers and ties, Easter pastels and Nantucket reds have been replaced with colors. that emerge from photos or videos. The group often presented themselves dressed the same, as if they had just graduated from the coolest prep school in the world. Watch them show up at the 1994 VMAs, wearing clothes you could pull off a contemporary Todd Snyder or Rowing Blazers collection: jeans, white brogues with colorful stripes, and red three-button Brooks Brothers blazers. To top it off, everyone wears a Mississippi state hat.
Boyz II Men made the styles played fun. They helped usher in a new kind of emerging fashion sensibility, which was very current, but also incredibly avant-garde. They announced that anyone can wear this thing, but you really have to own it to make it stand out.
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