Hip hop fashion is, according to KRS One, one of the nine "extended" elements of hip-hop culture. It refers to a distinctive style of dress, originating primarily with African-American and Latino young people in New York City, that goes hand-in-hand with the expressions and attitudes of the rest of the culture.|
Early hip-hop fashion
Since the 1970s, hip-hop fashion has changed significantly over the years, and today is a prominent part of popular fashion as a whole across the world and for all ethnicities. During the 1980s, such clothing items as large glasses(cazals), Kangol hats, multi-finger rings, and sneakers (usually Adidas-brand shelltoes and often with "phat" or oversized shoelaces) were prominently worn by the big-name hip-hop stars of the day, including Run-DMC and LL Cool J.
Performers such as Kurtis Blow and Big Daddy Kane also helped popularize the wearing of gold necklaces and other such jewelry. Popular haircuts ranged from the early-1980s Jheri curl to the late-1980s hi-top fade. Also during the late 1980s, fashions and hairstyles symbolizing the Black Pride movement, including Africa chains, dreadlocks, and red-black-and-green clothing became popular as well, promoted by artists such as Queen Latifah, KRS One, and Public Enemy.
1980s hip-hop fashion is remembred as one of the most important elements of old school hip hop, and it is often celebrated in nostalgic hip-hop songs such as Ahmad's 1994 single "Back in the Day", and Missy Elliott's 2002 single of the same name.
Hip-hop fashion from the late 1980s to the 2000s
As hip-hop music and culture grew and developed, its fashion began to change as well. Pop rappers such as The Fresh Prince, Kid 'n Play, and Left Eye of TLC popularized the wearing of bright, often neon-colored, clothing and the wearing of regular items such as baseball caps and even condoms in unusual ways. A number of fads existed during this period as well, including Kris Kross' method of wearing their clothes backwards.
Gangsta rap became one of the most prevalent styles of hip hop, and by the mid-1990s, hip-hop fashion had taken on significant influence from the dress styles of street thugs and prison inmates. The wearing of baggy clothes, often without the use of a belt for the pants, originated from prison, where belts were among the first things confiscated while new inmates were being given their uniforms. Hooded sweaters ("hoodies"), military hats, field jackets and fatigues, Hi-Tek brand para-military boots and Timberland boots were especially popular in New York City, and the West Coast culture contributed the wearing of flannel overshirts and classic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars to hip-hop fashion. Gold teeth were popularized by Southern hip hop artists such as Master P, many of whom often wore a full mouth of gold fronts or permanent dental fixtures with precious metals and precious gems which were used as a fashion statement and status symbol that can't be snatched from around a neck or out of a pocket.
In the mid-1990s, mafioso influences, especially and primarily inspired by the 1983 remake version of Scarface, became popular in hip-hop, and classic gangster fashions such as Fedora hats, and alligator-skin shoes ("gators") became fashionable, most prominently popularized by The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Although in some areas in the mid-west these styles have been a constant staple of the fashion scene. Detroit is an area where this element of style has seemed to endure regardless of outside influences that may flow with or against it.
The rise of hip-pop in the late-1990s, primarily the work of Sean "Puffy" Combs, known locally around New York at that time as the "Shiny Suit Man" brought elements such as loud, flashy PVC avaiator inspired suits and platinum jewelry to the forefront of hip-hop in an effort to add a new vivid dimension of color and flash to the videos produced as a marketing tool. Combs, who started his own Sean John clothing line, and clothing manufacturers such as Karl Kani and FUBU brought hip-hop fashion to the mainstream, resulting in a multi-million dollar hip-hop fashion industry. There was a resurgence of traditional African-American hairstyles such as cornrows and Afros, as well as the Caesar low-cut. Caesars and cornrows are maintained by wearing a doo-rag over the head during periods of sleeping and home activity to prevent the hair from being displaced or tossled. Doo-rags soon became popular hip-hop fashion items in their own right.
The "hip-pop" era also saw the split between male and female hip-hop fashion, which had previously been more or less similar. Women in hip hop had emulated the male tough-guy fashions such as baggy jeans, "Loc" sunglasses, tough looks and heavy workboots; many, such as Da Brat, accomplished this with little more than some lip gloss and a bit of make-up to make the industrial work pants and work boots feminine. The female performers who completely turned the tide such as Lil Kim and Foxy Brown popularized glamourous, high-fashion feminine hip-hop styles, such as Kimora Lee Simmons fashion line of Baby Phat. While Lauryn Hill and Eve popularized more conservative styles that still mainained both a distinctly feminine and distinctly hip-hop feel.
After platinum replaced gold as the most popular precious metal in hip-hop fashion, it became commonplace for artists and fans alike to wear platinum (or silver) jewelry, often with significant amounts of diamonds embedded in them. Platinum jewelry later became a prominent source of bragging rights for hip-hop performers and audiences, and B.G. recorded a 1999 hit song that summarized the phenomenon with a popular catchphrase: "Bling Bling". Platinum fronts also became popular; Cash Money Records executive/rapper Brian "Baby" Williams infamously has an entire mouthful of permanent platinum teeth.
Modern hip-hop fashion
After the influx of the hip-pop influence, hip-hop fashion became less based in actual street wear and more in an idealization of such. Hip-hop clothing is often produced by popular and successful designers, who charge significant amounts for their products.
Today, hip-hop fashion is worn by a significant percentage of young people around the world. Many hip-hop artists and executives have started their own fashion labels and clothing lines, including Russell Simmons (Phat Farm), Damon Dash and Jay-Z (Roc-a-Wear), and OutKast (OutKast Clothing). Other prominent hip-hop fashion companies have included, in addition to the aforementioned Karl Kani and FUBU, Willie Esco, Ecko, and Mecca USA.