The Hip-Hop scene has always been known for the outrageous style choices of rappers, video girls, the entourage and producers. From chains that hang low to dyed green cornrows, if you wanna make it in the Hip-Hop scene, you gotta come correct with your style. Let’s take it back to the late 70’s when the Hip-Hop movement started to get mainstream popularity and explore how fashion and style has evolved. Back in those Brooklyn days cats were looking fly in their bright tracksuits and bomber jackets. Sneakers such as high tops and trainers were also popular due to the aerobics craze of the decade. My least favorite part of the 80’s was the bucket hat, but it was definitely a must have for anyone on the Hip-Hop scene. Working out was THE thing to do so anyone spotted wearing any kind of sporty item looked like a hot ticket. Rappers rocking this style included LL Cool J and Fresh Prince AKA Will Smith. In 1984, the first Air Jordan sneaker came out which would forever change the shoe game, making athletic shoes a premium high priced fashion item. At the same time a man by the name of Dapper Dan was taking high fashion items like Luis V and Chanel and bringing them to the streets. When those bourgie fashion houses wouldn’t sell to him, he would learn their logo and remix it onto items like bomber jackets, jeans and shoes. This was a style that anyone could be a part of from the alpha thug male to the average Joe. Dapper Dan sold his remixed masterpieces out of his own little boutique in Harlem and outfitted big names such as Eric B & Rakim, Mike Tyson, Heavy D and the Fat Boys. A mixture of these trends continued into the mid 80’s until a new trend came into town -- Black Nationalism.
Rap group Public Enemy had began to put out conscious rap that spoke to the plight of the African American community and offered social commentary. Public Enemy and NWA channeled Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which got people to seriously start thinking again. Many African Americans were feeling the need to get in touch with their roots so African influence began to be the accent to topping off many street styles. African touches were seen on acts such as Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and others. This brings us to the early 90’s where females were on the rise. Most notable were Aaliyah and TLC who popularized that baggy tom-boy style. These Hip-Hop honeys would wear their ultra baggy pants with tiny sports bra tops and large fitting flannel shirts to show that there were other ways to be sexy; back then it was okay to leave some things to the imagination. R&B began to collaborate with Hip-Hop; thus the grown and sexy look was born. For obvious reasons, the movie Scarface really became popular among the Hip-Hop community; suddenly everyone had to have bowler hats, silk shirts, suits and a snazzy pimp cane. There were still the OGs who preferred their gangsta street style, but for everyone else it was smooth sounds and even smoother clothing. Towards the latter half of the 90’s is when super models started to gain popularity and women in Hip-Hop responded by showing some skin themselves. Femcees like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown began to sex things up with designer labels, fancy fur coats, short skirts and lots of cleavage. Trends for women and men continued to have a strange mixture from past and present that drifted into the new millennium.
In the early 2000s everybody and their mamma came out with a clothing line! Nelly, Russell and Kimora Simmons, P. Diddy, Eminem, 50 Cent, Jay-Z… the list goes on. This is probably due to the strange relationship that Hip-Hop has had with the major European fashion houses. We see everyday how rappers and the general Hip-Hop community’s style is appropriated to the run way, and then disappears for a season or two. They’ll stick a rapper on the stage for some ratings, but you don’t see Donatella Versace out for lunch with Missy Elliot now do you? I speculate that rappers and other urban entertainers were tired and wanted to do it for themselves, FUBU! With all these new Hip-Hop fashion houses coming out, style took an interesting turn that P. Diddy calls “Ghetto Fabulous”. The millennium saw the reoccurrence of oversized clothing, heavy chains, heavily logoed clothing and for some reason cowboy hats. It’s as if everyone finally got the chance to put something out there, so half of the people were putting a spin on what they knew and some were just reaching out of their imagination. Unfortunately all of these brands did not stand the test of fashion.
These days Hip-Hop has taken on a more contemporary view of fashion. Successful urban brands live in the here and now and produce clothing accordingly. As for the artists? We’re now living in a time where everything goes. We have Nicki Minaj changing her hair color every week, Jay-Z wearing suits, Kanye wearing women’s clothes and rappers in skinny jeans riding skateboards. Overall, the Hip-Hop world has become more eclectic like the music and there’s room for anyone. - Asha Mullings