Harlem Ragin Wright

“Men picturing me in their clothing…that's a fantasy. Every guy wants to picture their girl in their t-shirts and shit. Which is fine, but I think you exploit the genuine nature of people who really do like these things.”

Imagine someone saying this while eating a vegan dish and sipping beer. With very lit brows, a puma crop top, and Birks on. Meet Harlem. 

A combination of multiple “types” in the best way, Harlem Ragin Wright brings surprise after surprise over brunch. Named after the Harlem Renaissance, artistic articulation come easy. Just about any thought she is having flows right out and fills anyone listening with deep thought and intense laughter. Harlem sat down with CGS at Father Knows Best in BK and dived into growing up with Sketchers, living in PG County Maryland, and trying date as a cozy girl. 

CGS: What was it like growing up in Chicago and Maryland style-wise?

Harlem: It was a culture shock because I grew up in a really diverse area in Chicago. And then I moved to Maryland, in DC, and it was just like "PG County.” It was different, much different. Where I lived in Chicago, it was like really diverse. If you had Sketchers, you were like the shit. So when I moved back on the East Coast, I had the freshest pair of Sketchers and everybody was like "what are thoooose.” I was like hurt.

So you've always been into sneakers then?

Yeah, I love sneakers. Well, depends. I was never into Jordans or anything like that. My parents never bought them for me. So, my dad always wore Converse when I was growing up. He always Converse, Adidas, and Puma. I get a lot of my style from him, he's really stylish. He always wears sneakers, fashion sneakers. I never grew up really liking Jordans, but then when I was living in MD, everyone had Jordans. I bought my own, my parents wouldn't.

What's your favorite pair of shoes?

I have these white Nikes, I don't know what they are, I've never seen anyone with them before. I wear them pretty much everyday. They're pretty dirty, but they’re really cool to me. I love Pumas, I love my yellow Pumas. I love Converse. That has been probably the most consistent brand I've ever worn throughout my entire life. I have like 15 pair of chucks/converse. So its the white Nikes that I don't know what they are, then Converse, and I love Birkenstocks. I have like 6 pair.

What's your mom's style like? I'm sure your dad is into your whole look if he's stylish, but how does your mom feel about it?

My mom...she always thinks that I dress too casual. She always says that i look like a bum *laughs*, you know? She wants me to wear a skirt with a jean jacket, you know what I’m saying? She thinks that I dress way too casual all the time and my sneakers are too dirty.

So she has a more clean cut, traditional look then?

Yeah she works in government, she wears a lot of black and brown and grey. She wears tunics, she’s so cute though. She's just like a mom.

I don’t wear consistent jewelry, none of my jewelry ever matches and she always wants me to wear a statement. Pretty much always since I've had short hair, she always tells me to put on earrings. She always wants me to have dangle earrings on, like chandelier earrings.

Does she ever think that your style sacrifices anything in the name of femininity?

Nods She's always talking about how things I wear don't hug my body or show off my boobs or something. But, its out of love, it’s not out of her being mean. She'd probably prefer to see me in a skirt or a nice pair of jeans, or sandals. Which I don't mind, but its just not who I am all the time. I love dressing up and going out with my friends, but I’d much rather go somewhere where I can dress casual and wear sneakers. Something transitional, that I can wear to work and go out with it after work and still be comfortable.

Is there any method or theory behind why you don't necessarily wear super tight clothing or stuff is that is traditionally more form fitting?

It might just be the attention. I kind of want people to know me and not know how I look or you know, judge me based on how I look. That and I like to be comfortable. I like to feel free so I can move around. I feel like I am myself when I’m dressed down. When I dress up, which I love to do on occasion, I feel cute and sexy and all that. But I don't necessarily feel like Harlem. I feel maybe like some sexy girl that Harlem is trying to be tonight.

Do you ever feel like anyone society wise challenges your femininity because of how you dress?

I feel like I've had guys that I’ve dated tell me that I dress really casual all the time. I feel very feminine, but I don't feel girly. I do my toes and nails my stuff most of the time. I do my own manicures and pedicures, I do my hair. I'm very much feminine, l like to care of myself. But I’m not so much girly. 

People think its ok to make those kind of comments or try to assert what they've been taught is feminine and what they've been taught as sexy on you.

I've had people who I've met, never talked about sexuality with, assume that I’m a lesbian cause I wanted to wear some Puma track pants, sneakers, and a t-shirt. Which is really thought was cute. 

So how did street wear get into that thrifted type of feel that you have to your style?

I used to play sports when I was little so I love t-shirts, I love sports brands and I have a little brother too that influences my style a great deal. I used to always growing up steal his clothes. That and then a lot of streetwear…it comes from people who are like me or like you, just regular people and it turned into something big. Most streetwear brands weren't created by people who were already super rich or like you know super fashionable. 

If you had to pick your #CGSEssentials, 5 things, that absolutely made your look and your day cozy as hell, what would they be?

 

I always carry some sort of big sweater. Even in the summer, if I'm in an air-conditioned building or the train, I always an oversized sweater. Usually I’m always wearing something tight at the bottom and loose at the top. So essentials...my dirty white Nikes, I need a huge tote bag because I put my purse inside of it. I’m not a purse girl, I put all my shit inside the tote. Dainty jewelry. I love small studs, really thin bracelets, really thin necklaces. Probably just a nice oversized shirt or dress, something I can just throw on.

So just a thin dress with sneakers and dainty jewelry, if I get cold I can throw my big sweater on top. Have my tote bag with my purse in it and that's my ideal look. As long as I have on eyebrows and my hair is ok.

So last thing, if you had anything to say to other women that are into this culture, that don't let people and society police what makes them feminine, what makes them sexual, what makes them woman, what would you say to them?

I would say that you could be just as feminine, just as sexual, with your individual style. There's so much more to women, if someone is judging your character based on now you're dressed, that says more about them than it does about you. I can appreciate anyone who sticks to her style. And if you know you like to be comfortable, then keep being comfortable, y'know? I think that’s the beauty of having a cozy style is you’re able to dress up or dress down. You can be more creative.

 I think that if you have a cozy style you are taking a risk and I think that's okay. If Kanye West can walk into somewhere nice with ripped jeans and long t-shirts, so can I. Why do I have to have on a bodycon dress to show that I'm sexual or feminine or anything like that? I just think just as much effort goes into it for people who would rather just be comfortable.

 

Harlem: I hope that was good.


Donette Lowe