(If anybody knows who created that celebrity afro-centric picture, please let me know.)
When I got to Morehouse College in 1997, there were two groups of people on the yard whose geograhic residence was pretty easy to point out: Atlanta and Washington, DC. Atlanta was easy for me for obvious reasons, to the point where it was even fairly easy to distinguish between an East side dude and a West side dude. But DC, those cats were on a whole other plane. DC had some of the most distinctive fashion styles I’d ever seen. Everybody from DC seemed to go out of their way to be as DC as possible, from the cut up t-shirts and bedazzled headbands and HOBO, Madness, and ddtp tshirts. Not to mention the drop socks, love affair for foamposite sneakers and affinity for New Balance, Warner Bros, branded race car jackets, Harley Davidson, and oddly enough, cowboy boots. From 1997-2001, it was almost impossible to NOT be able to tell the people, guys and gals, from DC.
In 2001, I moved to DC for grad school and expected that trend to continue, except I realized something: folks from DC came to Atlanta and went extra hard for their region. Truth is, folks in DC pretty much looked like everybody else when not wearing DC specific attire. Well over time, and as hip-hop and the internet have taken over, the DC culture that I thought was so cool has pretty much all but disappeared. Kids in DC look like kids in LA who look like kids in NYC, etc. And they all look like Lil Wayne knockoffs. It’s not dis, it’s facts only. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve stopped paying so much attention to specific DC stylings as I used to anyway. Because of where I live in the city, I do catch remnants of old DC: lots of New Balance, go-go, and occasionally somebody who still somehow has a ddtp shirt.
Now, I’m a young urban professional in a city overrun by them. Most of the “real” DC has been pushed to the fringes of the city and out into Maryland. This city is so expensive that living around here is a financial burden even for those with a very good job. Prince George’s County, Maryland (or PG as it’s affectionately called) is not only the spot where most of the people you know from the DMV are actually from, but it’s also the most inexpensive part of the entire region. It is ALSO the area with the worst malls known to man. Look, I realize that I’m reaching considering that on almost any given Saturday, I could be found at Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta and it was almost the standard bearer for “fuck-and-run” malls (urban malls with lots of baby clothing store and shoe stores), but three malls in PG County definitely compete.
Iverson Mall, Forestville Mall, and PG Plaza or as it’s now known, The Mall at Prince George’s.
Recently, I took my daughter to PG Plaza because we were killing time after eating dinner at Carolina Kitchen and I figured what the hell, let’s go see what the locals are up to. Never again, b. Every store was playing the explicit version of every Future of Migos song on the radio. Almost as if on cue, each store I went into played some music that made me turn around because I don’t want my daughter hearing that shit. As I walked through the center of the mall, again, almost as if on cue, from a table of three, maaaaaybe 14 year olds featuring two girls and a boy, I hear, “so do you suck dick or not?”
I left. Never will I return there with my daughter in tow. Well, while I was running through the mall and using my hands as earmuffs, I noticed something. Quite a few kids we wearing dashikis. I thought maybe there was some type of afro-centric something or other going on. But then I started paying attention, every single hood clothing store had a mannequin or a rack outfront with dashkikis. And dope ones too. Various colors to choose from, some even had hoods on them. I walked into one store (and then quickly walked back out, kids and shit) to check the prices, and they were on sale for $19.99. Interesting.
I wanted a hooded dashiki by the way, but because I was afraid I’d ruin my child, I figured I’d make that trip to Iverson Mall (nearer to me) to make that purchase because if they had them at PG Plaza, I knew Iverson Mall would.
And I was not disappointed. As soon as I made my way to Iverson Mall, sans child, I noticed a few kids rocking dashikis. I found mine, rolled out, and was happy. As I went to the grocery store near my house, I noticed SEVERAL younger kids and teenagers also wearing dashikis. Apparently, they’re the hot shit right now in DC.
Every so often that’s what I’ll do, head to the hood malls to see what each store is selling. There’s almost always some specific item or type of item that is hot in local DC at the moment. Right now, that happens to be dashikis. Colorful, vibrant, afro-centric dashikis. I have no idea why, or how that ended up as the recent fashion trend, but it is and I couldn’t be happier. As it’s almost time for kids to head back to college to continue their education at whatever bastion of higher learning their test scores and wallets lead them to, I wonder if all the DC kids are bringing dashikis back into the regular rotation. I guess it’s entirely possible that the dashiki is making a comeback nationwide, what with everything going on, a certain Black nationalism wouldn’t surprise me, especially amongst younger, “woke” types, though my guess is that folks rocking the dashikis are mostly wearing them because they’re fly.
Either way, if you’re in DC and you see a teenager rocking a dashiki and you throw up a fist for Black power (because all you want is his freedom) and he or she looks confused? It’s alright. They might not know what they’re wearing it, but wearing it is half the battle.