It was, hands down, the most nostalgic moment of the 2018 Grammys: Building on the tremendous success of their In Living Color-inspired video, “Finesse,” Bruno Mars and Cardi B staged a technicolor takeover of the Grammys stage entirely outfitted in ’90s-juggernaut brand Cross Colours.
It was a Gen X flashback come to life, filled with equally oversized and oversaturated silhouettes—except, of course, Cardi B, in a Rainbow Brite-meets-video vixen bra-and-hot-pants combo. It was an adorable gimmick, and enough to raise the question: Is Cross Colours due for a comeback?
Launched in 1989 by Carl Jones and T.J. Walker, the black-owned urban-streetwear label marketed itself as “clothing without prejudice” and was a perfect fit for the era of new jack swing, a Fresh Prince and “happy” hip-hop—not to mention how well the clothing coordinated with our African medallions.
Distinguished by boxy silhouettes—worn intentionally even more oversized, of course—Cross Colours’ trademark bright-hued schemes were initially inspired by a swatch of kente cloth, as Walker told Bobby Kim’s The Hundreds magazine in 2014:
It elevated into a lifestyle, a collection, a look, a style. It morphed. ... For us, the colors were not only for the people, but for the fabric, for the thread, for the united force of people. Gang violence was also very prevalent at that time. So then we said Cross Colours for all that too – to unite the colors of the gangs.
The brand was a hit, dominating the early-’90s urban-fashion landscape, and seen on everyone from Muhammad Ali to Paula Abdul. And then, just as quickly as it peaked, it fell, due in large part to its affiliation with Merry-Go-Round—one of the era’s premier fast-fashion retailers—which declared bankruptcy and defaulted upon millions of dollars in orders from Cross Colours in the process.
The downward spiral would continue as trademarks changed hands; eventually leading the brand to become dormant for the next two decades.
But if Cross Colours’ appearance on the Grammy stage came as a surprise to most, it’s only because Walker and Jones have taken a tactical approach to quietly rebuilding their brand, beginning to harness the power of social media several years ago to gauge the interest of, and access to, a new generation, as they told Kim in 2014:
We’re trying to sort out how we really want to present ourselves. ... Is it all vintage? Do we have better pricing? Higher pricing? So we’re going through that – the motions right now. And what do we really mean to the consumer today? It’s a younger, different generation. Do they know our brand? So we start with a little bit of Instagram and now we have 5,000 followers.
That following is now over 25,000—and rising since Sunday night. [Editor’s note: As of press time, we are still awaiting comment from Cross Colours.]
But while Bruno Mars and Co. rocked the classic baseball jerseys and bucket hats that Gen X instantly waxed nostalgic over, a visit to the Cross Colours site offers a refreshing update on the aesthetic, in addition to “retro reissues”—where there was not an orange jersey in sight. Military-inspired looks and message T-shirts are in abundance, as well as a surprisingly sexy underwear line perfectly made for peeking out of the waistband of your saggy jeans.
And while we’re not sure we’re ready to rock rainbow stripes again (sorry, Cardi), we have to admit that just seeing the brand back in action takes us back to a happier time and place. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that these days?