Laudan Payne ’21
For my 18th birthday my best friend gifted me a little gold necklace with my name written on it in Farsi. I remember tearing up and being absolutely touched, she had completely surprised me and I never thought I would receive a gift so meaningful and special. Growing up with a forign name I never got to pick out the little souvenirs with my name on it, constantly had to correct those around me that mispronounced my name, and dealt with the never ending racist jokes about surrounding my lineage as a Middle Eastern woman. Nameplates are a common accessory for women of color, with a rise of their popularity on apps like Tiktok, Instagram, Etsy, and depop, it’s important to recognize their meaning in BIPOC culture and its origins.
The trend within communities of color to gift nameplates as a coming of age gift, birthday gift, or simple token of appreciation began in New York during the 1970’s. This was a widespread practice within many communities of color, specifically Italian, Latine, Middle Eastern, and Black communities; women from these communities typically had unique names that were rarely represented or understood outside of their culture. In order to show representation and pride in their heritage and name they donned gold nameplates around their neck or as bracelets. Names that were typically hard to pronounce or were not seen commonly around the streets of NYC would be proudly broadcasted via jewelry, and foreign names would be written in their mother tongue much like my necklace in Farsi. Later in the 90’s with the rise of hip hop fashion, this trend was specifically seen on Black women as they wore flashier statement jewelry, with chunky glittering name plates. This iced out style paved the way for cyber Y2K fashion and further fashion iconography that remerged recently in 2020-21.
However the popularity of nameplates was not received with admiration in the begining, in the 1990’s in one of the most popular shows of the era Sex and the City starring Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Carrie is seen wearing her name on a simple gold necklace which called “ghetto gold.” The negative stigma surrounding women of color has never been uncommon, in regards to style, looks, and jewelry they’ve been faced with critical racist remarks and vast defeminization. But the complexity of womanhood as a BIPOC is something that has been represented throughout the various fashion phases, jewelry being one of the most prominent features of the movements widespread within the diasporas.
For many women of color our nameplates represent to us more than just a fashion, it is ther “essence of their identity and can tell a story about their life and family history” according to Pakastani fashion blogger Yursra Siddiqui. I wear my necklace with pride in my name, it represents my culture, my background, and all the women before me who iconically fought for our style to be seen as more than “ghetto.” Nameplates are both simple and statement pieces that remind me and others of who we are, and the triumphs we have had.
Photo Credit: Pinterest