The Birth of Cool

The Birth of Cool : Style Narratives of the African Diaspora

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From the zoot suit and Black dandy through to Rastafarianism and beyond, Black style has had a profound influence on the history of dress in the twentieth century. Yet despite this high profile, the dress styles worn by men and women of the African diaspora have received scant attention, even though the culture itself has been widely documented from historical, sociological and political perspectives. Focusing on counter - and sub-cultural contexts, this book investigates the role of dress in the creation and assertion of Black identity. From the home-dressmaking of Jamaican women, through to the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary streetstyles such as Hip-Hop and Raggamuffin, Black Britons, African Americans and Jamaicans have been at the forefront of establishing a variety of Black identities. In their search for a self-image that expresses their diaspora experience, members of these groups have embraced the cultural shapers of modernity and postmodernity in their dress. Drawing on materials from the United States, Britain and Jamaica, this book fills a gap in both the history of Black culture and the history of dress, which has until recently focused on high fashion in Europe.
Because dress can both initiate and confirm change, it provides an especially useful tool for analyzing identity and resistance.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 256 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 19mm | 589.67g
  • Berg Publishers
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 40 b&w illustrations, bibliography, index
  • 1859734650
  • 9781859734650

Table of contents

PROVISIONAL Introduction Angel in the Market Place: The African-Jamaican Higgler 'All of Me': Billie Holiday Lasting Impressions: Harlem, Portraiture and Newness Strawberries and Cream: Dress, Migration and the Quintessence of Englishness My Man Let Me Pull Your Coat to Something: Malcolm X Beyond the Frame: Hair, Headwraps and Identity
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Review quote

"The Birth of Cool makes a unique contribution to studies of dress and culture, as well as to black studies and diaspora studies. Tulloch deconstructs and reconstructs black aesthetics to open new pathways for understanding the lives and social histories of figures like Billie Holiday and Malcolm X. It is one of the most impressive works I have read in years." --D. Soyini Madison, Northwestern University, USA

"The Birth of Cool is a sound examination that fills a yawning void in fashion studies literature, in its content as well as its methods. The book reaches across academic disciplines, geography, time and culture to mark 'cool' as a (re)volutionary act, providing a nuanced examination of fashion as a tool for individual and collective agency." - Fashion, Society & Popular Culture
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About Carol Tulloch

Carol Tulloch is Senior Research Fellow, Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London.
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