Culture Hack

Black Ivy: A Subtle Style Revolution 

Within recent years, a fashion trend had re-emerged among Black students attending Ivy League schools. Dubbed ”Black Ivy Fashion,” this style combines classic preppy elements with bold African prints and bright colors. Black Ivy fashion is more than just a trend, it’s a way for Black students to celebrate their culture and identity while also fitting in with the traditional Ivy League aesthetic. 

The history of Black Ivy fashion can be traced back to the late 1950s and 1960s when prominent figures like James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. dressed well to challenge racist stereotypes. Through the generations, more and more Black students from urban areas had a different sense of style than the traditional preppy look that was popular among Ivy League students at the time. Black Ivy fashion challenged the traditional notion of what it means to be preppy. Preppy fashion was traditionally associated with whiteness and privilege, but Black Ivy fashion challenges these assumptions by asserting Blackness and cultural identity within the preppy aesthetic. Jason Jules, author of Black Ivy: A Style in Revolt argues “Black Ivy fashion represents a new form of cultural capital, in which Black students use fashion to assert their cultural identity and gain social status within the Ivy League.”

According to a recent survey done by Women’s Wear Daily, ‘U.S. minority consumption is on the rise and Black consumers show a strong preference for Black-owned fashion brands and brands that culturally resonate with Black culture’.

Today, Black Ivy fashion has become a recognized style that is celebrated by Black students and fashion enthusiasts alike. In fact, Ralph Lauren recently collaborated with the HBCUs Morehouse and Spelman, releasing a collection with Polo Ralph Lauren. Black Ivy represents a way for Black students to express their culture and identity in a predominantly white environment, and helps create a sense of community among Black students at Ivy League schools. With Black students on Ivy League campuses reclaiming and infusing cultural aspects into college style, their style also evolves with them after college as well as into their careers. As the style of Black Ivy continues to shift and change throughout generations, the integrity of Black unity is at the foundation of the style. 

-Kimberly Heard