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The New York Times: Pushing the Boundaries of Black Style

The New York Times Style section gives an in-depth look at the rise of lifestyle bloggers Street Etiquette in a recent article titled “Pushing the Boundaries of Black Style.” The ever stylish duo of Travis Gumbs and Joshua Kissi are profiled for their contributions to realm of men’s fashion from an African American perspective, as well as the new multifaceted fashion identity of the modern black man. Excepts of the article can be seen below while the article in its entirety can be seen here.

“There’s more than one cool now for black people,” Mr. Gumbs said on a recent Tuesday at the Bergen Street studio, wearing a slight wisp of a goatee and dark glasses that sharpened his round face. “When we were growing up, it was just one kind of cool.”

That was hip-hop, with its hegemonic style. But the men of Street Etiquette and their peers practice a deliberate elision of hip-hop style (except in the site’s early days, when the two were still shaking free of their Air Jordans). They even eschew the prim eccentricity of an Andre 3000, or the cosmopolitan flamboyance of Kanye West.

Instead, this generation emphasizes the basics: great fabrics, aggressive tailoring, thoughtful accessorizing. It’s a return to style as a source of dignity, a theme that has run through generations of black American style, from Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance to the civil rights era to the mixed messages of the hip-hop era.

“I used to wear size 42 jeans,” Mr. Kissi said. “Coming from that to a tie and shirt, people perceive you in a whole different way.”

Mr. Kissi and Mr. Gumbs stumbled upon their calling in high school. “We was too cool for Evisus,” said Mr. Kissi, his hair fashioned into a field of twists and knots, recalling the dominant hip-hop denim of the day.

He and Mr. Gumbs, who was born in St. Kitts and moved to the United States at age 8, met as students at Mount Vernon High School, in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and bonded over their shared aversion to the style of their classmates.

First came streetwear: skinny jeans, complemented with brands like Stüssy and Supreme. As the only ones in their high school who favored that look, they turned online to find peers.

The pair honed their writing skills not in the classroom but on Internet forums, particularly the ones on HYPEBEAST and NikeTalk. “It was like a high school within a high school online,” Mr. Kissi said. “I felt like I had a voice, and a lot of people followed me.” This was in stark contrast to the reception the pair got in real life: “It was like, ‘Why can’t I think outside the box?’ Our peers, in our neighborhoods, they’re the ones who hated us the most.”

That online training ground was also responsible for the signature Street Etiquette mood: Even a dig deep into the site’s archives fails to turn up a single grin. “In the forums you post what did you wear today and you don’t smile because it’s cheesy,” Mr. Gumbs said. Added Mr. Kissi, “I can be silly, but I don’t want to look silly.”

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