Is It Hip-Hop Homophobia Over French Nails and Skirts?

Battles over fashion expose hip-hop’s continuing struggle with the boundaries of black masculinity.

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Perhaps the most well-known response to the sagging phenomenon is the “Date With the Booty Warrior” episode of Boondocks that portrayed black youth who are “scared stiff,” providing a satire of the homophobic rhetoric.

When Triple XXL white tees became the uniform of choice, Andre 3000 of Outkast told black boys to “look like a man,” stop wearing “night gowns.”

Hip-hop artists are increasingly courting the high-fashion industry, a move that might help the culture become more accepting of diverse fashion choices. Pharrell’s Vivienne Westwood hat and sequin shoes show that artists are moving beyond the T-shirt and urban-wear market. However, the advent of social media may also work to further ridicule and restrict their fashion experimentation. In 2011, Lil Wayne’s leopard-print women’s leggings at the MTV Video Music Awards became the laughing stock of the Internet with the @Waynes_Leggins Twitter account, while Wiz Khalifa suffered a similar leggings scandal in late 2013.

Instead of the haterism and homophobia, Snoop Dogg and Omar Epps should be celebrated for pushing the boundaries of what fashion-forward black men can rock in public. In fact, Epps’ reply to Lord Jamar should serve as a warning to the ignorant. What appeared to be a skirt was really African tribal gear, according to Epps: “The uninformed couldn’t understand my contemporary ode to the Zulu warrior roots. The Maasai, Fanti, etc ... it’s all tribal, study our history.”

Is this the beginning of a tipping point in hip-hop? Can we foresee a time in which black men can wear actual dresses and be hashtagged #fierce and #yougoboy? Or would that still be too real for hip-hop?

Travis L. Gosa, Ph.D., is assistant professor of Africana studies at Cornell University, where his research focuses on racial inequality and African-American youths. He has written for Ebony, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fox News and a number of academic journals.