Commentary: From Baby Hair to Timbs, 'Black' Is the New Black

Commentary: From Baby Hair to Timbs, 'Black' is the New Black

Commentary: From Baby Hair to Timbs, 'Black' Is the New Black

Appropriation of our cultural touchstones would be laughable if it weren’t so symbolic.

Published October 17, 2014

I have a long history with Timbs. My senior year of high school, circa winter ’98, found me on a mission to buy a pair of gray Timberlands. Yeah, everyone was rocking the butters, but I wanted something a little different, a little sexier to my 17-year-old mind. Ironically, I finally found them at Kid’s Foot Locker. Nevermind that they were a smidge too small; I wore them all winter long, suffering for fashion because they were too hot to leave on the shelf.

And I know I'm not the only one who goes way back with Timberlands. From our own feet to those of our boyfriends and our favorite emcees, Timbs have been a staple in the closets of Black folks forever, and are still in heavy rotation as temperatures drop. So imagine my (and Black Twitter's) surprise when Elle’s fashion director, Danielle Prescod — who is black — decided to declare that Timbs are the hot new trend.

“Last summer, it was the beloved hippie sandal, the Birkenstock, that was resurrected by the fashion pack. This season, I predict a similar ascent to fashion greatness for the classic Timberland boot. Here’s why: All cool girls are wearing Timbs, from Cara Delevingne to Rihanna to Gwen Stefani. (And it’s no coincidence that they all hang out, either — cool begets cool. I’m not saying she’s not cool, but Taylor Swift has never been photographed in a Timberland.) Anyway, now that stylish babies North West and Blue Carter have been spotted in Timbs — and they just learned how to walk — I know that they’re about to explode. They. Are. Happening.” (The original post has been taken down, but you can still see the tweet Elle posted about it.)

Word?

At the very least, Prescod could have mentioned that both Blue Ivy and North West’s daddies (and Beyoncé) have been wearing Timbs forever. This is a straightforward case of not giving credit where it is due; there is nothing new about fashionable people slipping their feet into these shoes.

And her Twitter response didn’t make it any better: “Wow wow wow wow. People please. What I am saying is that ALL cool girls wear timbs and am predicting a mainstream absorption this season.” Translation: mainstream absorption = white women, which as we all know means Timbs have finally hit the big time, history be damned.

This is yet another example of appropriating something that, while not representative of "the Black experience," is a cultural touchstone for many Black folks (and construction workers, natch) and only declaring it hot when celebs and white people become enamored with it. Just this year, they discovered baby hair, du-rags and cornrows (again). Hell, “twerk” was added to the dictionary last year courtesy of the dubious spotlight that Miley Cyrus and her ilk shone on it. #NeverForget

But Prescod wasn't even the first to declare Timbs a shoe-in for “fashion greatness” this year. Stylecaster did it back in January, which is still annoying, but that writer at least had the sense of history to shout out construction workers and hip hop heads alike. It’s almost like she was doing her job; you know, putting “trends” into context and giving readers a full view of the picture, rather than discovering something that never went away.

But I'm not up in arms about this latest hit. This isn't even a rant, so much as the literary equivalent of a side-eye. While creating a market for Timberlands and causing a run on Let's Jam gel and toothbrushes is doing nothing for my pockets, it's annoying that it's so easy to rewrite history on even the most inane things.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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(Photo: Beyonce via Instagram)

Written by Kenrya Rankin Naasel

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