The Evolution of Style in R&B

From Motown pioneers to today’s current R&B artists, we’ve seen fashion styles that made major statements, influenced fans and transcended decades. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable fashion moments in R&B:

Diana Ross reigned as the lead singer of the Supremes during this era, and glamorous gowns, wigs and heavy makeup ruled.

The hippie movement began heavily in the 1970s, so afros, over-sized earrings and sunglasses and bell bottoms were huge. Natalie Cole, who made many hits in the mid-1970s, also sported bohemian dresses, one-sleeved tops and a flip hairstyle.

Whitney Houston was one of the biggest breakout stars of the ’80s, and she sported many fashion trends of that era including shoulder pads, pantsuits, leotards and big, frizzy hair. For the male community, Run D.M.C. made Adidas the sneaker of choice (remember their hit song, “My Adidas”?) The sneakers were usually worn unlaced with over-sized, gold chains.


Denim, over-sized sweaters and t-shirts, leather jackets and leggings became popular at the start of the ’90s, and pop star Janet Jackson incorporated many of these into her wardrobe. Tattoos and body piercing also became acceptable during this time, and Miss Jackson proudly sported her nose and nipple rings.

Beyonce was one of the biggest fashion icons of this decade: initially as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, and then as a solo artist. Women began to wear more feminine styles including Daisy Dukes, low-rise skinny jeans, tunics worn with a belt, and knee-high boots. Straight and naturally wavy hairstyles were popular (Beyonce sported both) as well as cornrows (which Alicia Keys mainly wore during this era). Baseball caps, fitted tees and Nike Air Jordans became the stylish choices for men.

2010 and Beyond
Edgy, funky fashion became huge in 2010. It was all about pushing the buttons literally from head (Cassie and Solange shaving their heads) to toe (spiky, 6-inch heels worn by Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj). We’ve seen military-inspired, sheer and lace clothing, cross-body bags, wooden heels, bangs, turbans and metallic nails make a hit in just the past year and a half. This era proves to be all about setting the trends, not following any: Rihanna and protégé Willow Smith serve as the key trendsetters for this era.

—— By: Crystal Tate


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