The 1970s was a time where both style and politics seemed to be welded together, and self expression was omnipresent, globally, Flared hems and fluttered sleeves were eclectic mixings that made for the perfect look! Effortless pairings of Puma Clydes, with oversized collars and sprinkles of mauve and pastel tones told your Style Story. Fast forward to 2019, and theres a subculture of cool cats in New York City that make time traveling seem like an obtainable superpower. We caught up with two catalyst, Sola and Tashawn "Whaffle" Davis of this movement and learned how they use history, and social politics to influence who they are each and every day. Sola, a lover of history and a self timer aficionado, shot and scouted the captures of him and Whaffle, a designer, artist, and close friend. Each coming together to archive the perfect Sunday afternoon.
-What inspires your personal style?
Sola: Lots of things inspire how I dress. History and older people do the most though, that's for sure. I've always been intrigued by how style has evolved over time and what different people were wearing over the course of an era. Watching movies, seeing photos and videos, and even looking through ads have given me style inspiration.
Older men just dress a certain way that makes them look so formal, yet casual. I'd see those seniors on the street hanging out, looking so sharp in their italian knits and their creased pants. I just loved how comfortable they looked, even though they had on pants and a button-down. I thought it'd be cool if I dressed like an old man, so I started to study the ones I'd see on the street.
My political views do inspire my personal style as well. Around 16, when I started college, I was really annoyed by what they call "fast fashion" now. I didn't know the name for it, but I knew I hated Zara and anything like it. It just made everyone look the same and the clothes sucked in quality. All the streetwear stores in SoHo and the LES were closing for these big corporate stores and it was really bothering me. So I said "Fuck big business" and only bought from thrifts and online marketplaces. This forces you to shop for mostly vintage clothes which is what my wardrobe consists of.
I should say that one statement still sticks with me when considering how I should dress. My cousin came here from Nigeria to study when I was in high school. I was telling him about all the stuff we wear here. Streetwear at the time was big so BBC/Ice Cream, Stussy, Bape, and brands like that were the topic of discussion. He told me "All this is cool, but will you wanna wear this as a 40-year-old man?" I knew for a fact that I didn't. I started to switch to my present style from that day on. That was in 2012.
Tashawn: I’ve always loved 70s fashion and i was originally obsessed with 70s furniture. I grew up watching things like cornbread, earl and me like that was the first movie I ever remember watching. I loved blaxploitation movies and the colors of 70s gear. Then I met Koolout-K, Leerock Starski and Sola’s and they were all very retro and vintage. Which made me convert from dressing retro sometimes to completely living the lifestyle.
-How did/does growing up in New York influence your style?
Tashawn: I always say that growing up in New York is a privilege for several reasons. I grew up in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Growing up in Brooklyn really gives you an education! You learn about many different cultures, people and experiences. Hearing stories from elders, seeing photos, having roots/connections to these past experiences and being born into the culture influenced my style heavily.
Sola: One thing that influences style growing up here is the fact that no one knows how to drive. Almost everyone takes public transit or walks as a teen, so you're always in public space. You care more about what you wear because you're constantly around other people. People are always looking at you and vice versa. All those different people you see serves as an inspiration on what to wear and what not to wear. "I wouldn't be caught dead in that if I was in public". Everyone wants to be different from the next person and express themselves in a way that gives people a certain feeling when they walk by. That energy has definitely influenced me. Since I was young, the whole city was full of different styles to take from that were both native to, and never left New York. Uptown guys would dress different from Brooklyn guys, and Bronx dudes would have a slightly different style but still bringing an overall New York City flavor to it. It's been like that for generations. That's why I'll always wear Wallabees and Mauris and colored leathers. Because that's New York.
-Your top three favorite albums of all time?
Tashawn: I honestly hate this question because I can never pick a top 3 anything in almost any case. But some of my favorite albums are probably lovers rock, currents and where Polly people go to read. Don’t judge me these are the first 3 albums I could think of that I can listen all the way through.
Sola: This question is so hard to answer. Some albums just can't be ranked on the same list as others because they're incomparable. If I had to choose, though? Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. I can listen to that anytime and anywhere. Don't Be Cruel by Bobby Brown I think might be one. I can play that from front to back and never be disappointed. I feel the same way about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye. That was an absolute masterpiece.
Tashawn: The best inspiration to me is honestly the old home photos and street photos from the 1970s that I either find online or in books. Young Michael Jackson and The Sylvers also influence my style a lot.
Sola: Photographers have given me great inspiration when it comes to my style. Jamel Shabazz is one whose work influenced me a great deal. When I was 16, I was listening to a lot of Raekwon and Ghostface. They made me like Wallabees, but I didn't wanna rock it like them. I wanted a more slim, classic look. One day, I went into Urban Outfitters for some shoes and saw his "Back In The Days" book. I saw exactly what I was looking for. He documented a point in time for New York style that almost no one has documented as extensively. It was just Brooklyn kids getting fly. His work is a treasure to Black New Yorkers, in all honesty.
-Favorite childhood memory?
Tashawn: My favorite childhood memory is probably when I watched Cornbread, earl and me with my grandma. It was the first movie I ever remember watching. It was an experience that I couldn’t fully appreciate until I got older and my grandma passed. But it’s my favorite memory because it shows me how things really come full circle.
Sola: I miss all the times my brother and I would finesse a way to get outside. Apartment living as a child really makes you cherish your time outside, no matter how close to home. We'd hear our friends playing outside and tell them on the intercom to ring our doorbell to ask our parents if we could come downstairs to play. My parents were just less likely to say no to them as opposed to us. We'd do the dishes and vacuum the house without being told so my Mother can't say we have chores to do as an excuse to say no. You just felt so free being outside as a child with your friends unsupervised.
-What is it about the 1970s that makes you gravitate towards it?
Tashawn: As I grew up and became closer to my culture and heritage. Which inspired me to bring back a time period where black people didn’t have much but their pride, love and unity. I also just thought that they were very fly during that time, the way clothes fit and how people had so much style without having to wear big name brands and expensive things. In short, the vibe of the 70s and old pictures/movies really inspire me. It’s kind of like literally wearing your history and your ancestors stories.
Sola: I love the culture and history of the decade. Everyone looked so timeless, yet original. Style wasn't really about the labels, it was about how you put an outfit together. 70s pieces are usually classic with a twist, like butterfly collared button-ups and flared permanent-crease pants. I just love how you can wear all that and still look casual enough to hang with friends. You won't look back when you're 40 and be like "What was I wearing?!" I watched lots of 70s flicks when I was a teen too. Lots of Blaxploitation: Across 110th Street, Claudine, Coffy, and a bunch else. That time in New York was so special. The city was on the decline and Black people ended up in these neighborhoods drained of resources. From these environments came so many talented people that contributed to what we now know as hip-hop culture. These kids didn't have art classes to make what they envisioned on a canvas. So they took spray paint and put it on a wall, a train even. There weren't music classes to learn instruments, so spoken word over a beat or a DJ mix was the most organic way to go. People weren't dancing in a studio. They were dancing on the street. Those conditions we were subject to in New York, only to create this global phenomenon through it all, makes me proud to be Black. It makes me proud to be from New York.
-What kind of work do you do and does that work align with your personal style and interests?
Tashawn: I am a full time artist. So my life revolves around being creative. Being an artist you learn a lot about colors which really help me put outfits together. In addition to art I also design clothing which is very intertwined with my style and interest. Working gives me the money I need to invest into myself and my brand.
Sola: Well, for now I'm a graduate student, studying Urban Planning. I've always been really into history, more specifically New York history. Having read so much about how the city was developed, what groups won and lost certain battles, and the systems that helps keep the city's wheels turning...it felt like urban planning was the answer to dealing with all the historical problems of the city. I take photos as well, in order to document my life and the sights I see. It mainly started as an effort to preserve some sort of history, but photography has definitely made me become a bit more intentional when it comes to style. I never owned a full-body mirror so taking pictures has helped me realize what looks good on me and how pieces may look paired with others. Taking self-timed pictures forces you to direct your own shoot from start to finish, which pushes you to think further about your outfit and its relationship to the environment that you're shooting in. My brother and I will soon be coming out with a photo book with shots of Black women we randomly encounter. I'm pretty excited about that.
As you can see, I'm very much into history. I'm trying to get more into doing independent research. I've been posting primary sources on New York City on Twitter for a couple of years now but I'm trying to get an oral history project going right now on NYCHA, focusing on specific complexes throughout the city. I can't wait to see where that takes me. It goes without saying how avid historical research plays into my personal style. I mean....look at me.