Why is Hip-Hop Fashion on the Rise?
No matter where you turn, the indelible impression of the American hip-hop scene is everywhere. From the streets of the inner-cities to the slopes of snowboarding resorts, everyone seems to mimic the styles and fashions of the world’s biggest hip-hop stars. Many of the largest fashion companies in the world, including Fubu, Sean John, and more, all got their start in the hip-hop community, and they’ve parlayed their success into a diverse range of clothing and accessories that accentuate the hip-hop style. What does it mean to dress hip-hop, and why has the clothing proven so universally popular?
“New” Hip-Hop Style
There was a fundamental shift around the turn of the century in hip-hop fashion that made this entire global craze popular. In the 1990s and before, hip hop fashion prided itself on being so distinct from other cultural groups – specifically in the display of wealth and identity – that it wasn’t easily adaptable in other situations. MCs in the 80s and 90s wore bright colors, tons of accessories, and they had lots of expensive “bling” that just couldn’t be replicated among their fans – but the expense was part of the appeal.
New hip-hop artists like Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar rejected this fashion trend by dressing in a much more casual way. Even artists like 50 Cent and Kanye West rode this trend – dressing in casual clothing because it made them seem more authentic and drew attention to their roots and to their background rather than their conspicuous wealth. Hip hop style evolved to take in this new type of artist, so simple “street clothing” styles that were popular in different American cities like long t-shirts and football jerseys made it into the mass culture.
Why is Hip Hop Style so Popular?
For one, hip hop style has grown along with the popularity of the music. It wasn’t too long ago when the vast majority of hip hop music didn’t get any air time outside of the urban communities that it originated in. We live in an era of instantaneous media dissemination now, and hip hop music can spread all over the world – and nearly every Top 40 Hit in the world is either a straight hip-hop song or it incorporates hip-hop in some way. This means that many international audiences have started listening to hip hop music, and they have been able to emulate hip hop fashion because it is relatively cheap and the looks are timeless.
Buying Hip Hop Clothing
What really sets hip-hop clothing apart is how versatile all of the elements are. If you try to buy into fashion fads, you usually end up with a closet full of things that look ridiculous a few years later. With hip hop clothing, the individual elements like the tall tee and the basketball jersey will never go out of style. Hip-hop clothing just combines the various items that you would wear anyway – finding new ways to wear casual clothing and hip new fashion labels that can push the envelope each year.
When you think of hip hop generally you think gangsta wear, tatts, girls in hot bikinis and general all around bad-assery. However there have been some moments in the past when this hasn’t always been the case, and some true bad asses have fallen flat with some extremely dubious fashion choices. We’re going to do a quick timeline of some of the worst hip hop fashion fails of the past 25 years, and let’s kick it off with these two fresh faced massive stars from the early 90s.
Kriss Kross – wearing your threads backwards
Waaaay back in 1992 the teenage duo of Kelly and Smith aka Kriss Kross blew up around the world (thanks in no small part to Jermaine Dupri) with their debut album Totally Krossed Out which contained the ever pervasive single Jump. These two showed that in hip hop you gotta do things differently to make waves, as they were known for wearing alll their clothes backwards. Jerseys, sweats, jeans, hoodies, you name it. Thank god this style didn’t stick around too long.
Puff Daddy & Ma$e in Mo Money Mo Problems
One of Biggie’s biggest songs, released in 1997 after his death featured both Puffy and Ma$e being absolute goofballs. This was the stage at which Puff was dressing his most eccentrically, and in this video the two of them dressed in red shiny puffy suits, blue shiny puffy suits, white shiny puffy suits, and as we see demonstrated here: yellow shiny puffy suits, of course accessorised with yellow shiny ski goggles.
Tupac – overalls
Around 1993 rappers of all persuasions started wearing overalls. That’s right, the bastard child of denim jeans usually relegated to pregnant chicks and toddlers. Up here we have Tupac “rocking” a standard pair complete with Thug Life sewn in. Unsure if having Thug Life written across you and double bird flipping makes you look tough or not in these babies.
Busta Rhymes & Flipmode Squad as a Mariachi Band
Busta’s been known for pulling some interesting looks across the years, but perhaps one of the most bizarre was at the MTV awards in 1998 where he and the Flipmode Squad dressed as a Mariachi band. Ummmmmm, what?
Lil Kim’s daisy bra
Lil Kim is more likely than not to step out of the house in another fashion fail every day however when she walked out onto the red carpet at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards jaws dropped even more so than usual – but probably not for the reason she intended. Why didn’t she brush her wig? Is her bra lopsided? Are her boobs lopsided? No one one will ever know.
I can’t even imagine Big Boi and Andre’s conversation when they were picking outfits for the 2001 VMAs. I’m going to assume they were on some serious drugs. “Ummmm… dude I really like FURRY stuff… And pink makes me feel funny!” “Lead da hoes in.. man i reckon we dress to lead da hoes in.. Oh shit! I know! Lederhosen!”.
Cam’ron’s all pink all the time phase
Seen here in a pic from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2002 is Cam’ron rocking out with a pink fur hat, pink fur coat and matching pink cell phone. Fur has long been a staple in the wardrobes of rap’s most elite however I believe this may have been the first time that pink made an appearance. When Cam’ron is rhyming about how he’s going to steal your girl just imagine if he could actually pull it off in this mess.
Redfoo’s crotchless silver pants
Here is LMFAO at the 2011 VMAs. Yes, those are (belted) crotchless silver pants. Yes, that is a fringed cape jacket. Yes, those are boxer briefs with a handprint on them. No, I do not know why he thought this was a good idea.
Kanye’s Givenchy leather skirt
There’s no denying that Kanye is an amazing rap artist. However it’s when he turns his hand to trying to influence fashion that he sometimes drops the ball. Seen here rocking a leather skirt at a gig in 2012 he later demanded all images of him in the skirt be removed from Getty Images. I’d be embarrassed too.
2Chainz wearing 2 Givenchy t-shirts
Back in 2013 at the BETs 2Chainz (that’s right, the rapper dude known for wearing not one but two chains) decided to one-up himself and wear two tees. Except not one tee over the top of another but one t-shirt up top and one wrapped around his waist like a skirt. Better stick to one tee and two chains instead.
Nicki Minaj pre-2014
Hey remember when Nicki Minaj used to wear bizarre outfits and give crazy eyes in every picture? Thankfully she has gone back to a naturally sexy look these days. Here she is above posing at the 2011 Grammys. Those wigs need to be burned.
Drake’s silk shirts circa 2014
Nope, this isn’t the only silk shirt Drake owns. Mr Steal Your Girl probably asks the ladies to run their hands down his chest in it to see how the fabric feels. Let’s hope this trend from the rnb bands of the early 90s doesn’t start catching on again.