What Makes Black such a Staple?
Black is the new Navy
Words by Billy George
Black is the new thing. Well. Not really. Black has been an outfit colour (or shade) choice for centuries. It's become a staple in many wardrobes around the world, but have you ever really wondered. Why? What made Melbourne so synonymous with the shade?
In Funny Face (A RomCom ahead of its time in the 50s), Kay Thompson rides the elevator remarking “Think pink, think pink!” as she makes her way to her Manhattan office.
That's how it always in New York, where trends are generally set and spread across the globe. It's an endless cycle from fashion week to just down right endlessly buying. New Yorkers wear black as a neat backdrop as they navigate through the streets that are dirty, grimy and grey. If you've ever been to NYC, you'll know it's not always the cleanest place so wearing colours is sometimes a no go zone! Many New Yorkers were famous for wearing black, from Lou Reed to Laurie Anderson. Grace Coddington usually only wears black on the front row of fashion shows. Michael Kors & Alexander Wang then take a bow, all dressed in black. It's that deep.
In a lot of way, Melbourne is a lot like New York. Riddled with tiny laneways and back alley cafes that are all infested with grime and graffiti. Black tends to be worn for it's inability to reflect light as well as colours. That means you don't see folds and bends in the fabrics as much so it doesn't extenuate your body; instead it's quite slimming. Black is sexy and smart and denotes power. We're not tourists in our own city and we tend to blend in. It's never really a time to shine when in Melbourne.
Traditionally, black was worn in a period of mourning. According to the Costume Institute at the Met, NYC, the duke of Burgundy in the 15th century was the first to break this rule. The colour thus became a symbol of power, elegance and luxury (after all, black dye was expensive!). Centuries later, black became much more available - dyed fabrics like velvet and satin were considered ideal because of the clean lines and strong silhouettes. While NYC or Melbourne didn't invent the black fabrics we see today, we definitely know how to own it as our own.
By the mid 20th century, black had become a thing to wear if you were creative and powerful. From artists like Jackson Pollock who only wore black jeans and t-shirts, to the jazz musicians and the punks. Black became much more than a colour, it turned into a symbol; their identity. The punk standing on the corner rocking that mohawk with pride is made that much better by the fact that hostesses and restaurants around town do too. Taking cues from Audrey Hepburn wearing black with white pearls, despite being a hooker, was the epitome of refinement and elegance.
Wearing black is like you're writing a manifesto to the city. Wear it well.
What I Wore: