1 year ago

From Streets to Runway: The Evolution of Hip Hop Fashion

Hip Hop’s relationship with the fashion industry has always been very interesting and one with a deep-rooted historical background. Born in New York in the 1970s, the subculture celebrated dance and music among black youth. The art form was pioneered as a means of articulation of self, creativity, and expression of cultural identity. What was earlier considered a fringe subculture garnered commercial viability and became a significant aspect of popular culture, so much so that it left an indelible mark on the fashion industry, particularly streetwear fashion.

There’s no denying that fashion has always been an integral part of reasserting hip-hop identity and has evolved at a rate faster than one can fathom. Since it first emerged in the 70s, styles have ranged from city to city, coast to coast, and scene to scene, moving in sync with the changing soundscape.

The inception of Hip Hop Fashion: Late ‘70s to Mid ‘80s

With the commercial rise of rap music in the mid-70s, hip hop fashion followed the same trajectory and became a cultural phenomenon. The nascent stages of hip-hop fashion were all about baggy jeans, oversized t-shirts, baseball caps, and chunky sneakers. It was only during the late 1970s that brands such as Adidas and Pro-Keds were established, and they attached themselves to the emerging hip-hop scene.

This landscape saw a slight shift in its course during the early 80s, which emerged on the East Coast. It consisted of Kangol bucket hats, chunky street-tuff gold chains and name-plate necklaces, shell-toe trainers with ‘phat’ laces, and black (sometimes leather) tracksuit tops. In fact, it was during this time luxury fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci began to venture into the socio-cultural domain of hip hop.

Revolutionizing The Fashion Industry: Late ‘80s to Early ‘90s

The late 1980s were all about African nationalism, and fashion reflected traditional African influences. Colors such as red, black, and green became popular in hip-hop apparel, in addition to protective hairstyles such as box braids.

In fact, rappers like M.C Hammer and Fezzes flaunted blousy pants, African chains, and dreadlocks. In fact, the most influential collaborations of all time happened in 1984, that is when Nike collaborated with Michael Jordan to create the well-known basketball shoes Air Jordans. By the 1990s, the Afro-American influences started entering the domain of the hip-hop clothing industry. Bright colors, oversized pants, and headwear were the elements — were trends that reigned this period.

Pivoting the Urban Influence: Mid ‘90s to Present

The mid-90s were all about bling and extravagant clothes, which were primarily popularised by icons like Snoop Dogg and Notorious B.I.G. As the hip-hop music industry boomed, artists began to move towards luxury consumption, in part as a status symbol and in part to challenge fashion’s racial status quo. High fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger pursued hip hop in their fashion trends, expanding its commercial appeal.

Though luxury fashion and hip-hop remained separate since the genre’s inception, rappers’ increasingly flashy logos dismantled racial stereotypes associated with high fashion and catalyzed the first wave of logo-mania in fashion.

From being on the periphery to entering the popular culture and the fashion industry, hip-hop has come a long way not only as an art form but also as a cultural movement. If you resonate with this style and are looking for hip-hop clothing stores for women, check out Birth of Hip Hop.

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A Worldwide Association of the Hip Hop Culture


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