Appearance & Fashion

Our bodies come pre-wired to connect. They (we) are on high alert and ready to respond and build connections. But with billions of people milling around us, how do we increase the odds that we can find real connections?


Welcome to the vast and wonderful world of ethnic and racial fashion. The most amazing array of variations await us at every turn. How much history goes into the kimono? Or the thobes or keffiyev of Saudi Arabia. Or the bright red shuka of the Massai … or the cowboy hat. One of the most powerful ways we have to express our belonging is through what we wear. Each culture has its own designs, shapes, colors that range from full traditional clothing to contemporary styles with hints and references that proudly keep these in our consciousness. We are proud.

Grooming & Hair

Each race or ethnic group develops approaches to daily grooming, finding ways that accent and leverage their unique skin tone, hair texture and other features – their own special kind of beauty. These aren’t seen as rules as much as sources of wisdom and pride.

Every ethnicity fosters profiles of extraordinary beauty and dignity. Masculinity and femininity are communicated by hairstyles and facial grooming. Men’s ethnic fashion might, for a while, support a certain beard shape. Women’s trends might favor specific hairstyles or colors. Even eyebrow control follows trends.

Often, people from other ethnic groups envy what they see – and do their best to re-create it. Way back in the 1960’s, Dave Clark’s American Bandstand featured African-American performers and Philadelphia teenagers dancing. This defined cool for a new generation and launched a trend. Kids in the white community got Afros – with mixed results – to try to replicate the look. And, today, one only needs to look at the sales numbers for hair straightening or curling products to appreciate how much effort (and money) we put into trying to make our hair do something against its nature. The cultural image we present matters to us – a lot.

We do this because we want to belong AND be special. Whether we like it or not, any grooming choice says something about who we are.

Tattoos, Scarification, Piercing

It is important to people in most cultures to provide some visible identifier – an indication of membership for all to see. The permanence of tattoos, piercings and scarifications make even bolder statements. Humans are endlessly capable of developing patterns and symbols to expand and reinforce a culture’s identity. It is incredible that – with just a few markings – we can tell if a tattoo hails from New Zealand or Africa or the Hawaiian Islands. And, even if one of those cultures is not in our personal heritage, many of us proudly wear them as a statement about our own values.