The trending rise of streetwear became popular in the 1970s after the hip-hop era commenced. From tennis shoes to denim to dresses, their popularity began as a reaction to the Movement of Black Power. The main purpose of this uprising in fashion was to shun the “respectable policies” embedded in the prior generation’s dress style. As hip-hop began to emerge in the late 70s and early 80s, emphasis on the spoken language of the Black urban life was reduced into the archetypal styles that we see more and more each day.
The fashion that women in the hip-hop era would take part in was heavily influenced by protuberant artists. These artists included Lil Kim, Aaliyah, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and so much more. The styles that these women displayed were “all the rave” in the 80s and 90s, as they debuted baggy pants, tube tops, crop tops, bucket hats, sweatpants, hoops, and crazy animal print articles of clothing. Even makeup was prominent in fashion during this time. The famous lip liner, lipstick, and gloss look was (and still is) a popular look. People also used crazy eyeshadow colors, an excessive amount of blush, and would draw on thin eyebrows. Not only were clothes and makeup trending in this era but so were hairstyles. Microbraids, box braids, 27-piece hairstyles, and of course, afros.
Men’s fashion among hip-hop artists during the 90s was iconic and still prominent today. Many artists had a unique style that they are still remembered for today. For example, the late Tupac was always seen wearing twisted bandanas, leather vests, and oversized jeans. In contrast, Ice Cube’s style included snapback and fitted hats, oversized/baggy jeans, and oversized graphic tees. Even though every artist had their style, they all were similar in one way or another. The most popular men’s fashion items of this time were oversized shirts and pants, bucket and snapback hats, jerseys, tracksuits, velvet, and much more. Many of these items are still prevalent today among modern hip-hop artists, showing that fashion trends always find a way to repeat themselves.
Some brands of sneakers (and streetwear) were popularized by rappers. For example, Run-DMC’s song, “My Adidas.” The band was especially fond of the brand’s “rain suits,” which were ideal for spinning on cardboard. This love of Adidas spread to their fans, and the group eventually made a brand deal with Adidas. LL Cool J also inspired a new love for Air Jordan Ones by wearing a pair on his debut album cover, which led to Nelly’s song, “Air Force Ones.” Timberland boots were worn by New York drug dealers and hip-hop artists alike, these shoes were sturdy and durable. They were originally created for construction workers, but they have since been associated with the general New York style. Aaliyah, Tupac, Nas, and Biggie Smalls have all been seen wearing these. Hip-hop fashion was largely defined by oversized clothing and long silhouettes. This was, at least partially, because many children growing up in cities like New York and LA would wear hand-me-downs from older relatives. Other notable brands of the time include Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Ralph Lauren, Baby Phat, and FUBU.
Clearly, hip-hop influenced the fashion of the time, turning streetwear into high fashion. Fashion is what set hip-hop apart from its rock and roll predecessors. Musicians like Rick the Ruler’s penchant for layered chains, Bally shoes, and Kangol hats are expressed through songs like his 1985 hit, “La Di Da Di.” These musicians quickly set trends with what they decided to wear. Rappers and other musicians had preferences for European fashion designers like Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton.
American brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren became popularized, with some crews devoted only to wearing Polo. Run-DMC pronounced their love for the brand, Adidas, in their hit song, “I Love My Adidas.” This song led to the first endorsement deal of a hip-hop group, cementing the relationship between hip-hop and fashion. Fashion developed as hip-hop did. When hip-hop took a more Afro-centric and black-nationalist approach, so did fashion. Artists like Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Queen Latifah rocked dreadlocks and colors associated with black nationalist movements like yellow, black, and green. During the ‘90s, artists like 2Pac, Diddy, and Biggy had an appreciation for designer styles like Versace and Prada, and included them in their music.
Fashion and Hip Hop TOday
The love and obsession with higher-end brands are still visible today. Songs like Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” boasts about Christian Louboutin, red bottom high heels. Rappers and musicians have brand deals with designer brands, such as Megan Thee Stallion’s deal with Coach Bags. Or Beyonce’s partnership with Adidas, where she releases her own line of clothing known as “Ivy Park.” Other artists such as Kanye West and Tyler the Creator have become successful fashion designers. Artists today continue to express themselves through fashion. Hip-hop continues to influence trends surrounding fashion.
In conclusion, fashion in hip-hop is extremely influential even today. As we look at popular trends and brands today such as oversized clothing, matching sets, hats, sneakers, and popular brands, The fashion of hip-hop was heavily influenced and inspired by hip-hop musicians, as well as the everyday lives of Black people.