"Things that can make blacks feel good about their appearance are bought in great quantities," said Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News. "Clothing is one of the ways we can make a statement of personal progress. We want to be stylish, and we'll sacrifice in other areas to fulfill that."
In 1991, African Americans spent an average of $1,803 per capita on clothing, or 8.2% of their average annual income of $21,929. Whites spent an average of $1,725 on clothes, or 4.8% of their average income of $35,311, Smikle said.
"Kids come in and they'll ask me, 'What's new, what's fresh?' " said Shane Wall, manager of the Lady Foot Locker outlet at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City. "City kids care about looking good. A lot of people say we're in a recession, but the urban customer doesn't care how much it costs. They just say, 'Wrap it up.' "
Currently, Nike's Deion Sanders shoe, Guess? sneakers and black combat boots are hard to keep on the shelves, Wall said.
Darlene Young, whose 7-year-old son, Cedric, attends Hillcrest Drive Elementary in the Crenshaw district, said many parents don't mind buying their children designer sneakers and clothes because they're just as fashion-conscious as their kids.
"Kids are just copying adults," she said. "The pressure to look good passes on from parents to their kids."
Young, however, said she doesn't have the money or interest in fashion to buy her son Guess? jeans or Cross Colours clothes. She said Cedric soon may be wearing his school's uniform.
"When he gets older, he's going to have to get a job," she said. "That's how he's going to pay for his clothes."
Rashad Frierson, the Crenshaw High freshman, said most students buy clothes with money from their parents or part-time jobs. With money he earns helping his father take care of their family's property, Rashad said he can afford to shop for clothes only a few times a year.
"But I still look good without a lot of money," he said. "At our school, we have a lot of kids who come from the projects. They don't have a lot of money. But people don't care because it's the personality that's important."
Still, in nearly the same breath, Rashad talks about how wearing designer fashions is key to being respected at school.
"Next semester, I'm going to change my style," he said. "I'm going to go to an all-(Levi) Dockers look because I have to provide a good image for my younger sisters to follow. Having a good look gets you noticed."
A Look at the Price Tags
Students who wear uniforms to school can dress in an entire outfit--including shoes and accessories--for less than $50. But fashion-conscious youths can spend $300 or more on just one ensemble. Here's a breakdown of costs of some in-vogue items:
Nike Deion Sanders Tennis Shoes: $75
Guess? Shoes: $65
Karl Kani Denim Jacket: $75
Karl Kani Vest: $80
Cross Colours Women's Shirt: $52