The Unrecognized Influence of Black and Latino Culture on Viral Trends

woman with big hoop earrings applying red lipstick on a car rearview mirror

Trends have a knack for popping up out of nowhere and taking over our social media feeds in no time. Be it fashion, makeup, the latest dance craze, or a catchy new tune – they just sort of become a part of our everyday lives. What slips by a lot of people, though, is how many of these trends are actually born in communities that don't get enough of the spotlight.


Have you noticed a recurring pattern of popular internet trends being seemingly 'new,' yet strikingly familiar? More often than not, these 'trends' are deeply rooted in Latino and Black culture and subcultures. With social media, things can go viral at the speed of light, and everyone’s quick to jump on the bandwagon, often not bothering to dig into the origins of the trend. Sure, this can lead to people learning about new cultures and ideas, but it can also spread misinformation and foster ignorance about other cultures and their history.

So, let's take a moment to appreciate the origins of some viral trends and acknowledge the cultural influences that made them possible.

Slicked Back Hair (the “Clean Girl” look) and Baby Hairs

@melisekrem

Sleek Bun Tutorial ✨ #sleekbun #cleangirlhair #cleangirlhairstyle #hairtutorial

Seeing women slick their hair back until not a single strand is out of place is like a throwback to our moms brushing our hair so tight it felt like it was glued to our skulls. Back in the day, being all "peinadas" wasn't a style choice; it was like mom's law.

Now, you've probably seen a multitude of influencers sporting slicked-back hair, dubbed the "clean girl look," or those meticulously styled baby hairs, courtesy of some gel and a toothbrush.

These hairstyles have been a staple in Black and Latino communities for decades. African American women have used this technique not only as a method of hair management but also as a significant expression of personal and cultural style. While Latinas, and particularly many Mexican-American Cholas, also notably sported slicked-back hair, usually nailed with hair gel or pomade, for that sleek and shiny vibe, a look that was all about showing you're tough as nails and exuding confidence.

Similarly, the increasingly popular “baby hair” styling had its boom in the '90s, when R&B and hip-hop were all the rage and Black and Latina women were coming up with some pretty detailed designs for their baby hairs. They'd use gel or whatever worked to shape their baby hairs into swoops, waves, or curls, framing their faces and really making their features pop. It was another way to flex their creativity and show off their sharp eye for detail.

Winged Eyeliner and Thin Brows

@spiciblondi

me and my controversial brows 4 ever #thinbrows #y2k #mcbling


Winged eyeliner, or 'cat eye,' has become a must-have skill in the makeup world. However, its origins are not as contemporary as many might think. This look can be traced back to Ancient Egypt and was notably embraced by Mexican-American Chola culture in the 80s and 90s. Similarly, the thin eyebrow trend, often linked to the 90s supermodel era, was a distinctive Chola aesthetic long before it hit mainstream fashion.

Baggy Clothes, Flannel Shirts, and Bandanas

Screengrabs from music videos from Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Selena Gomez sporting the distinctive "Chola" fashion.

You know how fashion's like a merry-go-round? Old styles get a new lease on life; all spruced up and ready to be the next big thing. Enter oversized flannel shirts paired with bandanas. This trend might be the uniform of edgy influencers today, but its roots are firmly planted in Black hip-hop culture and the Cholo style of the Latino community, dating back to the 60s.

This combination was more than a fashion statement; it was a symbol of unity, identity, and resilience in the face of adversity. Black and Latine women would rock these, usually with high-waisted jeans and some blingy gold jewelry, adding a bit of swagger to the ensemble.

Brown Lips and Liner

Screengrab from Hailey Bieber's "brownie glazed lips" TikTok video

Brown glazed lips and liner became a significant trend within Black and Latina communities during the 90s as a means of self-expression and cultural identity. The contrasting lip liner, often several shades darker than the lipstick or gloss, defined and accentuated the lips, a feature celebrated in these communities. This style was, and still is, a unique way to highlight the natural fullness and shape of the lips.

The choice of brown shades specifically was, in part, a rebellion against traditional beauty standards, which often favored lighter, more 'neutral' colors. Brown shades, on the other hand, better complemented the diverse range of skin tones found within Black and Latina communities, making this trend not only a fashion statement but also an assertion of cultural pride and self-love.

Today, as the brown glazed lips and liner trend is adopted by mainstream beauty culture, we're seeing beauty standards from these communities getting the limelight only when white or white-passing folks decide to jump on the bandwagon. The same styles that were once labeled as "ghetto" when worn by their originators are suddenly trendy, laying bare a beauty bias that puts whiteness on a pedestal.

It’s crucial to remember its origins and the empowering message it held for the women who pioneered it. The trend serves as a testament to the ability of these communities to redefine beauty standards and influence global aesthetics.

Hoop Earrings and Nameplate Necklaces

@girlsbeinggirly

Wear mine literally everyday🫶🏼😍#thatgirl #aesthetic #fashion #inspo

We can't overlook the ubiquitous hoop earrings and nameplate necklaces. Hoop earrings date back to ancient cultures, but in modern times, they have become synonymous with the bold and beautiful aesthetic of Latinas. The nameplate necklaces, currently making rounds on social media, have long been a part of both Black and Latine culture as well, particularly in hip-hop fashion during the 80s and 90s. These pieces were more than accessories; they were declarations of individuality and self-pride. I mean, who doesn’t love their hoops and their cadenita?

So the next time you come across a viral trend, it might be worth digging a little deeper into its origins. These styles and aesthetics are not simply passing trends—they're enduring expressions of culture, identity, and history. By acknowledging the roots of these trends, we can appreciate them for what they are: celebrations of the rich diversity and creativity embedded in Black and Latino cultures.

A trend is only as influential as its reach, and it's clear these cultural styles have impacted us globally. So, here's a call to recognize, appreciate, and give credit to the vibrant Latino and Black communities whose stylistic innovations continue to shape global fashion and internet trends. As we appreciate and adopt these styles, let's ensure we're not just consumers but also respectful celebrators of the cultures that birthed them.

Shoutout to @veteranas_and_rucas for their inspiring collection of “herstoric homegirl imagery” showcasing the beautiful lives and incomparable style of SoCal women.

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