How Sex and the City appropriated black culture


Nameplate necklaces everyone wears one. Isn’t that the Carrie necklace from
Sex and the City? Yeah. She wore one too, but she wasn’t the first. It’s not just a celebrity thing. Chances are you own one
or you’ve seen someone else wearing one. They’re fashionable now,
but for decades they’ve been a statement of girlhood and coming of age for women
of colour and ethnic minorities. The first nameplate that I got was
as a 10-year-old. And I basically had to write my mom
a letter explaining why I was responsible enough to have a pretty expensive piece of jewellery
and I had the grades to back it up. Unless you have a common name Mary, Jennifer, Katie… It’s hard to find a bracelet or a keychain
with your name on it. Personalised nameplate jewellery
became a way of making those names legitimate and visible. When I looked around in the 70s and 80s
in Brooklyn, there weren’t that many representations
of black girlhood in popular culture. For me and for the girls
that I knew, there was something about
wanting to assert one’s sense of self that was intentional. At the same time in New York,
hip hop was being born. It was more than music,
it was graffiti and break dancing, it was a style and an attitude. And jewellery was part of that. Much like graffiti tagging,
the nameplate became a way of saying, ‘I exist in this world. I want you to know my name.’ And like everything in fashion,
nameplates were influenced by what had come be before. These guys were wearing initial nameplates
and initial pinkie rings. There’s a correlation with artists
like Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick… Their major influences from style
was pimps Those medallions and personal jewellery
moved into the stripped-down styling of the nameplate necklace. And Brooklyn’s Fulton Street soon became
their mecca. And then it just becomes an epidemic
where it becomes a staple in the ghetto communities. Everyone has to have one. We are one of the few stores
that opened in the early 90s here and we were the centre mecca
of nameplates. Your nameplate is done. When Yo! MTV raps
aired in 1988 it brought the fashion of
New York’s boroughs to a wider audience. Nameplates included. Yo! MTV Raps really helped
kind of express that you know, fuel that representation. I mean, of course,
anything that then becomes a kind of national situation, right? But that was nothing
until Sex and the City came along. It was a pear-shaped diamond
with a gold band. You wear gold jewellery? Yeah,
like ghetto gold for fun but this is my engagement ring. The show’s costume designer
spotted the jewellery and the Carrie necklace was born. That name necklace was something that
black kids, Puerto Rican kids, borough kids, had been wearing forever. That was just a staple. I have a one o’clock reservation – Bradshaw. Soon the necklace became synonymous
with the show. She kind of becomes an universal
signifier for a style that many communities of people have contributed
aesthetic innovations to… There is an ongoing legacy of appropriating
the labour, the energy, the time,
the creative production, of our society’s most subjugated people. From here it’s a short step
to commercialising what is often a deeply personal item. Supermarkets like Walmart
started selling them, often only with those common white
American names. Nameplates often relate
to some type of immigration experience, an experience of origin,
some kind of identity whether that’s holding on to a perceived original identity
or synthesising a new one. Like having to change your name. Names reflect identity. Latin names like Camila,
Valeria or Maritza have continued to use
Spanish spellings and pronunciations which can be seen as a sign of heritage
and pride. Would you mind telling me what
your father’s last name was? The last name of my forefathers
was taken from them when they were brought to America
and made slaves. African Americans also began
to give their children unique names, like Ashanti, Latisha,
and Monique to represent their individuality and in some cases, solidarity
with their African ancestry. What I think it’s a brilliant about the
nameplate necklace is that it shows up right
in the black and Latino community at a moment when the community
is itself trying to figure out its very contemporary and modern representation. Label yourself but you choose that label
and then you accessorise it and make it visible just seems completely appropriate
and brilliant. So what was once perceived as ghetto
became fashionable. The trends that black youth have created
have always been absorbed by mainstream society and the nameplate necklaces
is no different. So when mainstream society wants to cut loose
and be wild, that’s when black culture can be absorbed. In the present day,
people with black, Latino or ethnic sounding names are still less likely to be called
back for job interviews, considered for housing, and they are more likely to be labeled as
troublemakers by teachers. Facing these disadvantages
because of your name and still showing enough pride
to wear it around your neck can feel like a small
but revolutionary act. But some people just like the style. Culture sharing is inevitable
and can be a great thing. But it helps to know the history
behind what you’re wearing. Just think twice about
calling it the Carrie necklace.




Comments
  1. I had no idea name plate necklaces were appropriative. Thank you for this video. I love my name plate but maybe it's not something I'll wear out

  2. if these were "appropriated," then who appropriated them from white, middle-school girls in the 1950's? prob others in dif places and times long ago worn their names around their necks. Thing is, people don't own beauty or ideas. Your view is myopic.

  3. Only a socialist can cause chaos, starvation, violence, suffering and death all with the best of intentions.

  4. The 60's? There are facts missing…. I recall The nameplate bracelet 'Amy' found at the Titanic 1912 wreckage in 1987 would have belonged to a 1st/2nd class passenger. What is the ACTUAL origin of nameplate Jewelry?

  5. what a lot of bollox. appropriated by black women from white women in the 50's.Jesus christ how desperate how are you to say everything is black!

  6. This is such an amazing video! If anyone wanted to do a deep dive on all the problematic treatment of black culture in SATC it would literally take a whole series lolol

  7. Cynical hate-mongerers will call it appropriation. I call it "learning and diversifying"; imitation is a sign of adoration.

    No one would say "black african decendants are only allowed to wear pre-colonial dress", so let's not pretend that to imitate ideas and trends from a diverse range of sources is somehow an aggression. – It's a pathetic theory with no basic in actual social science.

  8. If a race can own inventions, let's talk about the things that whites and asians have invented. Electricity, mobile phones, internet, cars, rockets….. vs ghetto bracelets.

    No comparison.

  9. When I was growing up in the 1980's, if you embraced other cultures, it was considered the opposite of racism

  10. I've had a nameplate bracelet since the 70's, am I appropriating if I wear it? I think they might be reaching just a smidge here.

  11. The Nameplate is a part of black culture/history-really ppl!!??? My Nana or mother never taught me nothin bout a NP nor have I read about this in ANY black history liturature!! This is more of a 'hip hop' culture thing regardless of colour!!

  12. I live in a border town so practically all of my school is Mexican American and it was very common to see the girls in high school wear gold chains with a name plate pendant. I saw many women in Cuba also wear them. I just assumed it was a Latina thing.

  13. This video was reaching a little to get the point across. Nameplate chains are not a part of Black culture and Latinos outside of America don't value them culturally either.

  14. Y’all are big mad in these comments. DAMN YALL SO MAD. SHEESH SORRY WHITE PEOPLE DIDN’T MAKE ANYTHING CUTE

  15. I was born in 1950 in South America, and I was given a nameplate, it was actually a tiny plate, I still have it!! Was it appropriated by y'all?

  16. there is real racism back at the top of our politics and these kids talk about the jewellery worn in some 90s tv show

  17. wow! didn't realize how powerful and rich the origin of the nameplate necklace is. been contemplating on getting one but having learned about this, there's nothing to contemplate about. Thanks!

  18. This is a big thing in mexican culture. You mostly get a bracelet with your name on it as a baby and then another one when you get older or maybe for your quinceanera

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