Last week Thursday, a friend invited me to meet her and her girlfriend for drinks in West Hollywood at the Here Lounge on Robertson. I hadn’t been to the Here in a year or so, but was told that Thursday was their hip-hop night and it had grown quite popular with the ladies. I’m thinking, okay, I’m game.
So I arrive at the club, park my car, and proceed to enter into the establishment when I am stopped dead in my tracks. As you get ready to walk down towards the door and a handful of security guards, a sign front and center reads:
If you look this in any shape way or form…Go Home and Change
Pants Must Be Worn At Waist
No Sports Caps, Head Wraps, or Bandanas
No Athletic Wear
That’s odd I remember thinking to myself. Tonight is the hip-hop night and it’s no secret that athletic wear and hip-hop music go hand in hand for most part.
I went inside and met my friends with the intention of taking a photo of the sign on the way out.
Since last Thursday, I’ve gone by the Here Lounge to see if that very same sign was out there on other nights. I haven’t seen that sign yet.
A while back a friend of my wrote about her experience while attending celebrity’s Video Music Awards after party at the Falcon on Sunset and was told to dress to impress. Well she did along with seven of her friends, all females. My friend’s idea of dressing to impress was a “little black dress, plenty of thigh, Victoria secret scent, 3 1/2 inch heels, hoop earrings, bracelet on one wrist, little black purse, Mac Makeup and lip gloss.” However, as she pointed out in her blog, that was her idea of dressing to impress. She then went on to question, what does it mean when your dress to impress is jeans, a shirt, and your locs pulled back? Consequently, those females in her group that didn’t conform to societies standards for how women should dress to impress weren’t allowed into the party.
I referenced my friends experience because on my way home last Thursday from Here, I couldn’t shake the vision of that sign at the door. Since last Thursday, I’ve spoken to several people regarding the sign to get their impression of it to see if I was trippin’. I wasn’t.
So let’s start with the obvious. As advertised on their own website, Thursday night, aka “Heat” is a hip-hop, reggaeton, and Latin dance music night, in that order. And as witness, I will say that hip-hop music ruled the night. I will also say that while it was a very diverse crowd of women, Black women made up the majority of the patrons that night and on more than one occasion someone said that they had to leave their cap in the car or change their shirt in car before coming in that night.
In the Black lesbian community, it is not uncommon for women to wear men’s clothing with a form-fitting shirt or a little makeup. Or for women to don athletic jerseys and baggy jeans. Just like it’s not uncommon for a Black lesbian to sport a “little black dress.” We enjoy a range of socially acceptable fashion styles, none of which means that we are gang affiliated.
Now I am the first to admit that I am not a fan of excessive sagging. As a Black lesbian, I am not immune to fact that many of us choose to wear our pants that way. I see it out in the streets and I see it up in the club. My observation has been that this trend is bigger among mostly younger Black lesbians that tend dress more masculine in their clothing. Which is not to say that lesbians in their 30s, 40s, and 50s don’t partake in the sagging of the pants, but by and far, in my opinion it’s a big trend with women under 30?
With that said, I’m not trying to ban it through legislation either. I do believe and accept that a certain amount of sag is acceptable and that a huge part of the hip-hop culture is athletic clothing. From the sneakers to the jerseys and designer jeans, as I referenced before, hip-hop music and athletic gear go hand in hand.
So why post this sign on hip-hop night for lesbian women who are sure to show up wearing the exact type of clothing referenced above?
Then there’s the issue of “no head wraps.” Sistas (brothers too if it applies), there are many times that I walk out of my house showing my African roots by wrapping my locs up in an African head wrap. Well according to the Here, that’s unacceptable clothing for their bar and I should “turn around and go home and change.” Come again?
As far as bandannas are concerned, okay, I can understand that given the use of bandannas by certain Los Angeles area gangs. But…I will say that many lesbian women I know who are not gang affiliated wear bandannas and since this is Here’s hip-hop music lesbian night…you get the picture.
What next? No cornrows, locs, or braids.
The point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to have a hip-hop themed night and then tell your patrons that they can’t dress “hip-hop” if they choose to attend.
How many rappers have turned hip-hop clothing designers? Try Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Eminem, Jay Z and Damon Dash, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, and 50 Cent to name a few.
In other words, it’s okay for Here to play their music, just don’t show up in their clothes.
Hip-hop fashion, aka urban clothing, is a multi-billion dollar industry.
According to a Forbes Magazine article, hip-hop apparel, a $2 billion market, is a small but fast-growing segment of the U.S. clothing industry, according to NPD Group, which tracks such trends. In large part that rapid growth has been fueled by those aspiring to the riches and glamour of hip-hop celebrities–the larger-than-life, bling-dripping stars such as Russell Simmons and Sean (Diddy) Combs, whose flashy lifestyles boost their own brands (Phat Farm and Sean Jean, respectively).
By the numbers, the size of the U.S. apparel industry is $179 billion of which hip-hop has seen a 20% year-over-year average growth of the U.S. urban clothing category. 60% of the urban clothing market is targeted at men.
There’s no denying that hip-hop is the look for young, white suburbanites who want to emulate the dress, music and attitude of Blacks and hip-hop music. So then, is it okay for whites to dress hip-hop, and not Blacks? I ask that question because like I said, I have yet to see that sign posted on a night other than Here’s hip-hop night and by and large West Hollywood bars and clubs cater to mostly white audiences. Some, including me, would argue for the exact reason of this post, discrimination.
We all know that hip-hop fashion has been influenced by Black hip-hop music, our lifestyle, and culture and it has set the tone for many fashion trends.
I understand that as a business the Here Lounge has the right to protect itself from anything and anyone that could harm its business. But…there’s a way to do that without being overly offensive to the people who frequent Here for its hip-hop night. I mean c’mon. Could you imagine a country music themed night and a sign out front that read:
If you look this in any shape, way or form…Go Home and Change
No Cowboy Boots
It wouldn’t happen. This leads me to my next point.
Is the sign that Here displays because of the establishment’s issues with hip-hop clothing or the idea that hip-hop clothing promotes negative behavior?
In an August 2007 New York Times article on the recent rash of cities to ban sagging bans with penalties such as jail time, fines, and community service, it’s reasoned that the hip-hop style is worn as a badge of delinquency, “with its distinctive walk conveying thuggish swagger and a disrespect for authority.”
You can’t judge someone’s actions on how they are dressed, as indicated in yesterday’s post about the racial profiling that my sister experienced.
Not everyone who enjoys the hip-hop style of clothing is banging. As referenced above, hip-hop is the look for many whites who want to emulate the dress, music, and attitude of Blacks and hip-hop music. And to keep it real, I’ve been up in the club and witnessed fights where none of those involved were wearing hip-hop clothing but instead sported dresses and heels. Hello!
In my opinion, instead of being posted at a bar catering to paying adults who enjoy hip-hop music and clothing, this sign would have better been suited for our elementary, junior high, and high schools where wearing your pants below your ass with your underwear showing doesn’t seem to evoke too much of a reaction from school officials.
My final conclusion is that the Here Lounge needs to either change the wording on the sign to be less offensive to its patrons and make sure to post it on all of the nights its open for business including for the nights were 80’s, dance, rock, and pop music are played or remove it all together.
Until that’s done, I don’t think the Here Lounge will be seeing me anytime soon.
Now for your thoughts…
ABOUT THE HERE LOUNGE
Run by the same folks who operate the G Lounge in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, It’s right beside the Abbey lounge and cafe.
696 North Robertson Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Fax (310) 360-0098