Style is first and foremost about confidence. Apparel, accessories, how it is worn is all secondary. (See our 12 Cardinal Rules of Style.) The most iconic style figures in history broke societal rules of their time, or created new ones – Coco Chanel, Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, Diana Vreeland, Madonna, Debbie Harry. Rihanna is just one such figure.
Rihanna will emerge from history with the same esteem – drawing style from subcultures not yet ? with popular appeal. Last night’s Dancehall – a West Indian reggae dance party usually taken place in basements or dodgy venues where dancing is the foremost purpose and outrageous fashion in the most scant form is expected – brought a Caribbean subculture to mainstream TV. It was a shocking moment for people familiar with the culture but triumphant. It was the curtain being pulled from over a subculture to a pop culture reveal.
But the triumph was lost to many unwittingly exposed to the partying ways of Caribbean culture. Rihanna opted for a do-rag, T-shirt, fur trimmed bra, Harry Winston jewelry, fishnet stocking and joggers look, a far step from the Givenchy or Wang that we are used to. It was a celebration of urban subculture on a high profile show and pretty fitting for a “Vanguard Award”. Think Michael Jackson’s high waters, crotch-grabbing, and single sparkled glove. With these icons, trends seem to “be damned”, propriety notwithstanding.
Many labeled her performances “lazy” or a “careless performance rooted in her confidence” – the ladder may be more true but the West Indian crowd knows, the pop expectations of female pop stars, with a full dance routine, may well never come from Riri – cause she’s a Bajan star and will always have that Caribbean, reggae star finesse but what pop culture calls bold and edgy. We call it style.