The Color Theory: Embrace Your Culture for Black History

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

As we all know, February is Black History Month. With racial injustice being brought to national attention within the past year, this time around feels a lot more important compared to recent years.

Said best by N’dea Yancey-Bragg of USA Today, “Black History Month recognizes the contributions African-Americans have made to this country throughout time. Specifically this year, on a national scale, we reflect on the continued struggle of racial injustice.”

For those interested, how did we get here?

Early Beginnings

The story of Black History Month dates back to 1915, almost fifty years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The founding fathers of this celebration, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, were dedicated to promote accomplishments made by African-Americans. They wanted these newly profound leaders to embrace their culture, while being put on a higher pedestal for the whole world to see. 

Photo: Matheus Viana – Pexels

Before 1976, Black History Month was “Black History Week” – formerly known as National Negro History Week, residing between Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays (who were important advocates of black lives).

Rising philosophers and leaders in the civil rights movement (such as Malcolm X, John Lewis, James Meredith, and Martin Luther King Jr.) brought awareness of the Black identity. Thus, evolving “Negro History Week” into the modern Black History Month.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Today’s Impact

As said in my previous post, we started this whole pandemic with lots of uncertainty. But there seems to be a forecast of hope on the horizon. With heartbreaking events, such as the death of George Floyd and many other countless names, became eye-opening for our nation. This year’s celebration, the on-going focus is heavily reflective of last summer’s Black Lives Matter Movement.

Although some may argue, just this year alone, this particular “reflection” is overly emphasized. Somebody once told me recently, “Well, why are people finally recognizing our struggles now? Why are people finally bringing up this issue after so many decades of pain?”

I hear you, my friend. But recognizing this issue now is better than never. We were bound to face the issues of police brutality, racism in the workplace, ignorance, and every injustice the black community has dealt with throughout the history of this country.

Nichelle Smith of USA Today agrees, “The short answer: Forward. Through still-difficult times to the other, better side. There’s no going back to a “normal” that never worked well for Black people anyway.” 

Everyone has been through a lot this past year. What’s keeping us alive is for us to keep progressing and pushing forward as individuals.

Current Sting President and Editor-at-Large, Leonard Robinson, also agrees to my philosophical advice as said in his last post: “The big thing that happened? Humanity got better at simply…being alive”. To put it in perspective, every day (hopefully), we are becoming more tolerant to our neighbors.

Photo: Scott Olson – Getty Images (via NPR)

The Colors: Symbolize Through Wear

With this celebration going on now, and still in a worldwide pandemic, the most common way to express your heritage and “blackness” is to dress up for the culture.

Dressing in a way can be considered as a reflection of one’s cultural values and morals. Think of it symbolically: there’s a story or meaning behind certain colors and patterns.

The colors red, black, and green have always been associated with African-descent and used as the colorway for Black History Month – inspired from the iconic, Pan-American Flag (or known as the Black Liberation Flag). Said by NPR editor, Leah Donnella: “Red stood for blood — both the blood shed by Africans who died in their fight for liberation, and the shared blood of the African people. Black represented, well, black people. And green was a symbol of growth and the natural fertility of Africa.”

I’m not saying you should wear red, black, and/or green to support this national celebration – but only my suggestion. You could go even further into embracing your culture by wearing traditional wear, such as head wraps and fine prints.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, an influential fashion column.

The Color Theory: Finding Your Style

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

I don’t know about you, but fall has always been my favorite season of the year. This is the time to experiment with different arrangements – ones that are already in your closet combined with ones that you recently just “copped” for the chilly season.

Our bodies change over time every year, as well as that favorite sweatshirt that keeps shrinking in the wash – no, just me?

Anyways, that’s why we shop for new products at every tilt of the Earth’s axis. Seasons change and so do we. Like I previously said in my last post, a change in season can possibly mean a change in your wardrobe.

BUT it does not entirely have to be that way. Of course, you can always stick with the same style that you identity yourself with.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

“But what if I don’t know my style? Or what if I don’t associate myself with an identity?”

Well first off, you actually do have a style! What’s great about streetwear, is that there are no limitations at all! Streetwear is a combination of styles from numerous subcultures, according to Bobby Hundreds of Complex.

Take a look at your closet and notice what all of them have in common. For example, see the similarities that you have for your upper body wear. Compare all your graphic tees, gym/workout shirts, button-ups, hats, jerseys, blouses, dresses, tank tops, or whatever you may have.

Do they all have the same color scheme? Do they all have similar patterns? Are there any cultural ties with them? How do all of these shirts make you feel?

If you are still having trouble figuring that out, find pictures of yourself from the past and start comparing your outfits off of that.

I would say, think deeply about how your clothes represent you and how they make you feel. I know this is cliché, but it always stays true to any advice, do not worry about what other people think about you. Let’s face it, we all live in a world (or country, should I say) where people do not care about how you feel inside. As I saw on Twitter from the other day, “be your own cheerleader”. In most basic terms, be confident in yourself!

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Finding your style does not happen overnight. Tan France, co-host of Netflix’s Queer Eye and guest instructor for Masterclass, says “I’ve helped thousands of people to find their personal style and find a look that makes them feel good about themselves. The most important step I tell my clients is that they must make an effort”.

To add onto that, I believe having the patience with yourself and getting out of your comfort zone is important as well. It takes time and a little inspiration to kickstart a new wardrobe.

Remember, your body is your canvas. You are taking all this time to invest in your aesthetic and showcasing on how you present yourself.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Also, don’t be so “pressed” about limiting yourself to one specific identity.

If you like the outfit that you got on, if it reminds you of something (ex: say you wear overalls with a striped shirt – hence, the 90s and The Fresh Prince), wear it out!

Everyone should always feel comfortable and confident on whatever they are wearing. If you have any doubts about that particular outfit, maybe it’s not the right time to wear it. But also, do not trash the outfit. Save it for later!

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

To sum all of this up, I am proposing “The Triple C Rule” as a method to find your aesthetic – Comfort Zone, Consistency, and Confidence.

  • Step out of your comfort zone. Take time to shop around and try new stuff on. Do a little bit of research and get some inspiration from your family members, friends, an influencer, or whoever it may be.
  • Be consistent with your closet. Find shirts, jackets, shoes that represents you the best.
  • Be confident!

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, a bi-weekly fashion column.

The Color Theory: Denim is Not Going Anywhere

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

For some, a change in season can possibly mean a change in your wardrobe. Coming into this newly fresh fall season, you might switch up your style and experiment with different combinations – maybe wearing more baggy clothings, rather than ones that feel tight around your jungulars. Or just tweaking it up a little bit that best fits your aesthetic – maybe wearing more colorful shirts, rather than wearing all black everything (I promise you, I am not judging!).

But the one thing that never goes out of style, no matter what day of the year it is: Denim.

We all have it, whether it be your favorite jeans or that one timeless jean jacket that came from the 90s. Denim has always been the frontier of the fashion industry, according to fashion historian Emma McClendon.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Over the years, denim has transcended the fashion industry. In her book, Denim: Fashion’s Frontier, McClendon explains that denim has transformed from a “working class fabric” to everyday dress and high fashion since it’s creation by Levi’s in 1873.  Its image has shifted throughout history as a symbol of the American workforce, youth, rebellion, sexuality, social-political movements, and the ephemeral quality of dressing “cool and edgy.”

Notably, denim is currently the world’s leading fabric, and has been for the better part of the last century. For most people, denim clothes (whether it be jeans, jackets, or shirts) is always a great choice for any wardrobe.

According to Statista, the global market for denim accounted for almost $90 billion US dollars in 2019 alone. This year, the current jean value is up to over $110 billion US dollars so far; and it is projected to increase to $127 billion by 2023. To say the least, denim is not going anywhere anytime soon.

You can look at other statistics of the denim industry here.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

So you are probably wondering, “Ok Jeff, I get it. Denim is in style. But how can I incorporate it into my outfits?” Well, you basically have two options: wear something that complements your denim or wear double denim.

Lets say your favorite jean jacket is the piece that you want to stand out. Take a look at its color/shade – hence the name of this column, The Color Theory. Lighter shades of the denim blue complement lighter colors, such as white, yellow, and rose/pink. Similarly, darker shades complement dark shades of the color spectrum, such as black, grey, and red.

What about wearing double denim?

That is totally fine, but be cautious. Wearing denim on denim can make it look like you are wearing a uniform, or maybe a jumpsuit (unless that is your approach, that is fine too!). Double denim isn’t really all that bad though, just keep in mind you can still look good as long as the two pieces of denim are matching shades.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Since fall is here, traditionally some people start to look for outfits for the colder weather. It seems like almost every year, we buy a new pair of jeans because naturally our bodies change over a period of time. Plus, having those same jeans lose its color and size from washing it over time is also a huge factor. But I would say though, probably the hardest part about finding the perfect jeans is having your ass fit in them – and for the guys like myself, having your jungulars breathe too (those damn, skinny jeans!).

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, a bi-weekly fashion column.

The Importance of The Color Theory and Why Your Sneakers Are Your Foundation for Streetwear

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

You do not have to be a total “sneakerhead” or a “sneaker connoisseur” to know which shoes are the best when it comes to streetwear. It really all depends on which colors you have to complement your shoes based on your knowledge of The Color Theory.

The Color Theory proves that every color (no matter what shade, intensity, and other combinations) have an immediate effect on each other. Marcie Cooperman, professor at Parsons University of Design in New York and color theory expert, explains the importance of the Color Wheel. “The color wheel helps people visualize colors, and understand what to do with all the opportunities,” Cooperman says.

Color Wheel (Photo Courtesy: HGTV)

So how do we know which colors complement each other? Color Harmonies.

They are basically a set of different color combinations calculated to make a specific color theme. There are six main types of color harmonies: analogous, monochromatic, complementary, split complementary, triadic, and tetradic. Click here to experiment with different colors.

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

What does this have to do with sneakers?

Some sneakers already have their own color theme, in which they might feature up to four or five colors. Your safest bet is to probably wear neutral colors (such as black, white, beige/tan, and gray) for your top and bottoms. Or match the scheme from your shoes and work your way up.

Photo Courtesy: Jeff Dominguez (The Sting – University of Baltimore)

Don’t go overzealous on the brighter spectrum of your color theme, but layer dark and lighter shades of your “fit”. For example, if you have a pair of sneakers that contain a theme of yellow, blue, green, and white; my suggestion is to wear a matching yellow graphic tee, black or gray shorts, white socks, and those dazzling shoes.

Take a look at your sneaker collection and observe all of its colors, whether it be your favorite Nikes or your favorite pair of Converses. Small details like the sneaker’s laces, tongue, soles, and toebox are things to look out for.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, a bi-weekly fashion column.

KahnJunction: Just What The Doctor Ordered

One of the many variations of Benjamin Kahn’s telecommute uniform. Credit: Benjamin Kahn, UB Post.

First, it came for the toilet paper. Suppliers were caught empty-handed with their pants down  before more could be rolled out. Then, it came for our jobs and, all of a sudden, like the partner who forgot that anniversary, people all over America found themselves living on the couch. 

Now, in our final hours, COVID-19 is coming for America’s ability to give a shit. 

No, I’m not still talking about the toilet paper. 

It’s even worse: it has come for the enthusiasm and passion of American workers. Non-essential personnel all over the country find themselves in self-isolation, and have been told not to leave their house or apartment unless absolutely necessary. This has taken a toll on all of us.

With these quarantines, unforeseen problems are beginning to reveal themselves. One issue that isn’t garnering enough attention, however, is style. I know what you’re thinking, “Ben, how I dress is literally the last thing on my mind–it’s just me, my cat, and my 70 rolls of stockpiled toilet paper in my apartment–why should I care about how I dress?” 

I’m so glad you asked.

I’ve been just like you, for the past month or so, navigating the world of telecommuting.  Believe it or not, I do have a real job–surprisingly, writing a weekly piece for a college paper does not cover rent. Every morning I get up, put a t-shirt on, slide into some sweatpants, and slip on my slippers (if I’m feeling bougie). I then go and sit in front of my laptop for 7-8 hours and wish I was doing basically anything but exactly what I’m doing. I slowly feel the ability to give a shit slipping from my grasp.

Prior to the pandemic, going to work involved a commute to Washington via MARC train with a 16 or so odd block walk to the office. My morning prep routine was more complicated (and longer): wake up, suit and tie, trainers (Oxfords are under my desk at work), lengthy commute, and sitting at my desktop for 7-8 hours and wishing I was doing anything but exactly what I was doing. 

But guess what? During this time, I felt like I had a purpose.

Notice the only habits I am repeating are what I find to be the worst part of my work day–the actual work. 

Now with telecommuting, my walk to and from work is gone limiting my exercise.  Unless I make a special effort (or my roommates chase me out the door), I’m not really getting any fresh air. 

Also, the suit and tie are out the window and while I never enjoyed dressing formally for work, it gave me something to be proud of. Putting together an outfit is something I enjoy–from the suit to the belt, shoes, and a nice pair of cufflinks⸺that’s the stuff I enjoy showing off. 

Research from more than 10 years back illustrates that your work outfit DOES impact your mood. So, during this time when the lines between home and work are becoming more blurred than ever, for the love of G-d, please put some effort into your outfits now! 

Look, virtually no one enjoys self-isolation. Take it from me, a guy who started self-isolating a month before his state instituted it and has stared into the abyss of loneliness to only notice it looking back. 

Consider the following a prescription for the rest of the pandemic:

  1. Stay inside. 
  2. Wash your hands. 
  3. Don’t touch your face. 
  4. Dress to impress. 

Don’t worry, I’ll actually practice what I preach. 

For the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting a photo of my outfit every day, and I challenge you to do the same. Check me out on Instagram, and start posting your own outfits!

Benjamin Kahn is a senior writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

Bye Bye, Necktie

Andrew Yang. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before–what did the shirt say to the tie? “You’re antiquated and do not belong in a professional setting nearly as much as gatekeeping elitists think you do.” Classic. 

On June 27, 2019, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang stood on stage in Miami, Florida, for the first Democratic debate of the 2020 Election. He stood there without a tie. The move provoked the ire of Brian Williams and led to the ascension of Yang’s missing tie to meme-status. It fascinated me that an act as seemingly benign as eschewing a necktie could elicit such an intense response. As Americans, are ties an indispensable facet of our professional discourse? Can we simply not function without them? I would say no. In fact, I would argue that the age of the required necktie should come to a close.

The internet is awash with clips of good samaritans aiding Millenials and members Gen-Z tie ties. Most people describe these videos as heart warming–or they say something like, “this restores my faith in humanity,” but to me, these videos reveal a more serious truth: The de facto requirement of neckties is another layer of unnecessary gatekeeping that disincentivizes both young and lower-class people in particular from participating in professional and formal settings. The simple fact of the matter is that one can dress professionally without the added complexity of a necktie hanging them up (no pun intended). 

It was refreshing to see Andrew Yang appear on a stage in front of millions of Americans with the implicit message, “You do not need a tie to be taken seriously.” When Yang visited then-President Barack Obama in the White House he arrived without a tie. One of Obama’s staffers removed his tie and gave it to Yang to wear, which he did. It seems ridiculous that Obama would be offended by Yang’s lack of a tie, but Westerners, Americans in particular, seemed to have it ingrained in their psyche that not wearing a tie is somehow unprofessional.  

For my woke readers out there, I will present another argument for why you ought not to wear a necktie. You may not know this, but neckties are successors of the cravat–an ascot-like neckband that was the height of fashion in Europe some three hundred years ago. The word “cravat” is actually a bastardization of the Croatian word for Croat, “Hrvat.” The Hrvats were a Croatian mercenary troop hired by the French emperor as auxiliary soldiers. So, by wearing a necktie, what you’re really doing is appropriating Croatian Mercenary Culture. You should be ashamed of yourself. 

Unlike Americans, Iranians typically do not wear neckties. Sure, there are those out there who will tell you that they do this symbolically to show that they are throwing off their perceived oppression by the west. Some will even tell you that there is a nationwide ban on the accessory because it is deemed “unIslamic.” But I’ll tell you the truth–Iranians have figured out the neckties are just confusing bullshit that should have been left to Croatian mercenaries, not a 22 year old car salesman dependent on his commission to keep the lights on.

I look at neckties the same way I look at wristwatches, or cufflinks, or any other accessory. Yes, they can look nice, but they are by no means required to look professional. Just look at billionaire Mark Cuban–unless you google, “Mark Cuban necktie,” you probably will have a difficult time finding a picture of Mark Cuban in a necktie. Even when you do google “Mark Cuban necktie,” you’re greeted with more photos of him without a necktie. This is all to say that ties are not earmarks for professionalism and success. They are overly complicated pieces of fabric stuck out of time, and thrust upon western men of all walks of life; from the lowly interns navigating coffee orders to the stock broker doing line equations with his fellow dude-bros, every man will find himself in a situation where he is required to look in the mirror and don a tie.

Indeed, it is time to close the door on this accessory. Maybe, even slam it.

Benjamin Kahn is a senior writer at the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.