It is no secret that when it comes to homecoming, HBCUs show out all week in every aspect. From step shows to celebrity guests to shutting down the entire city, it’s a scene. Homecoming week at an HBCU is a celebration of legacy, tradition and campus culture. What we don’t talk about enough though is the impact that fashion and style have on bringing the homecoming week to life.
New York fashion week is nothing compared to the way HBCU students and alumni turn their campuses into their stomping grounds with new hairstyles, outfits, shoes and nails for the long week full of events sponsored both by the school and their surrounding communities. It doesn’t matter where you’re going, at an HBCU, every day is a special occasion to dress up for the homecoming week.
In a study conducted by Carlie Beard of Hampton University, the researcher noted that, “Students in a video titled ‘Fashion Is more than Tradition at Historically Black Colleges; curated by National Geographic describe the attire of their fellow HBCU students as ‘Almost like a fashion show,’ confirming that fashion is a huge part of the culture and history of HBCUs.’’
Students at Florida A&M University share this narrative for their homecomings and are encouraged to switch up their styles this year for the sake of keeping up with the homecoming culture.
Shardeia Maddox, a health science pre-physical therapy student, says she’s switching up her look this year in three different aspects.
“A new style that I’ve tried is colored hair, specifically blue which is out of my comfort zone,” Maddox said.
Along with a new blue hairstyle, the fourth-year student is trying out short nails outside of her usually long ones and branching out by wearing more heels than sandals.
Fashion has been a large medium of expression at HBCUs, an expression one can begin to grow into the more they are saturated in their own culture, grow within their community and figure out how to stand out among the majority.
“It’s homecoming, everyone should change their style up,” said Kylan Guerrier, a fourth-year broadcast journalism student.
Guerrier says that this year he changed up hair by adding a more “intricate” braiding style.
A flashy hairstyle can last the whole week, but in terms of outfits, everyone knows you always have to save the best for last.
“The importance of having the best outfit for homecoming is only one of the intersections between HBCU culture and emphasis on fashionable dress as a representation of personal image creation, empowerment, and community building,” Beard said.
The bigger events of homecoming are where outfits really count. Toward the end of the week when celebrity guests usually pop into town, the big game occurs, alumni come down, and of course the weekend leaves more time to really show off the planned outfits.
Guerrier and Maddox each shared with The Famuan that they plan to save their “new” outfits for end of the week events including the game and off-campus parties and promotions which they have budgeted around $500 to put together.
Platforms including Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest have been a digital portfolio of look books for students to find their inspiration for these new outfits-from braids, to Halloween nails, fashion tips and more for their big homecoming looks. Hashtags and searches trending on TikTok include, “homecoming outfits,” “homecoming captions” and “homecoming hairstyles,” which have become a quick source of inspiration for looks.
Outside of the social media platforms, students have even looked to their personal GroupMe’s and campus vendors for help completing their looks, including the “FAMU Beauty” group chat. For weeks on end, the chats have been filled with young student entrepreneurs promoting deals for students looking to buy new clothes, get their nails done, fill their eyelashes in, get outfits tailored, and more.
Not only does homecoming really bring together those near and far to the heart of their campuses, but it also encourages students to look outside of the box when it comes to style, how they express themselves, and what it means to stand out amidst a majority.