“Being fresh is more important than money. The entire time I grew up, I only wanted money so I could be fresh.” The relationship between hip-hop and fashion is as close as it gets when it comes to two different ideals in popular culture. Hip-hop is the voice of both frustrated youth who dream of making it and escape the ghetto and a multibillion dollar industry influenced completely off of culture. The evolution of hip-hop has changed from a music stand point to an expression of contemporary urban lifestyle thorough clothing. The way people wore something was a way to be distinct and individual. Hip-hop began to surface as an articulation of an “otherness.”
Where It All Started
The importance and significance of how one dressed has be a mentality for forever. Wardobe was always a thing. The art of customization that hip-hop adopted came from gangs such as the Savage Skulls. The Savage Skulls were influenced by the movie Easy Rider. The leader of the gang Savage Skulls even stated so that “A lot won’t admit it” referring to their source of style inspiration. That in turn influenced crews to put to their name on their jackets or sweaters. After coming to a truce arranged by the gang the Ghetto Brothers, gangs turned into crews and fighting turned into breakdancing. Matters were settled on the dance floor and no longer through gang warfare.
Hip-Hop Music Was Born
Everyone that was part of the culture of hip-hop had no choice but to conform to a trend that was created by this music that was unheard of. Hip-hop was not an outlet and way expression that exemplified “no rules.” This was when hip-hop and fashion truly intertwined.
Whenever hip-hop history is brought up in any terms in a conversation almost everyone would know who Run-DMC was and their significance. Run-DMC was the spawn of the famous adidas tracksuit and shell toes. What they wore was so influential to the point where they decided to create a track called “My Adidas” which in turn leads them signing a $1 million dollar deal with the sportswear brand.
Run-DMC believed that their style was similar to what their fans wore because they wanted to let them know that they’re just like them.
Hip-hop and Mainstream Fashion Collide
Urban luxury started with Dapper Dan, the hip-hop tailor who began to use the fabric of high-end brands and making high-end tailored clothing affordable.
This is how everyone obtained the feeling of entitlement to status before brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren came around.
The collusion of hip-hop and mainstream fashion provided promotion for these brands when they weren’t even targeting the streets of New York. People in the hood were alreadying dressing and expressing themselves, but the music of hip-hop brought a light to what they were doing. This lead to their publicity and Yo! MTV Raps was one of the very first networks to feature hip-hop on live televsion.
Television shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and In Living Color began to feature brands made by the hip-hop culture such as Cross Colours. Artists like Biggie Smalls and Tupac bega to sport Karl Kani. Through the emergence of brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren led to the creation of brands such as Cross Colours, Karl Kani, Mecca, Fubu, Phat Farm, Rocawear, and Sean John. Marketing was taken to the next level where these brands began to surface in department stores and ads. This was taken global and now everyone everywhere has access to the culture of hip-hop allowing them to relate to the music that they were listening to. People started to realize the success of clothing brands and began to create their own brands which resulted in the oversaturation of brands across the world.
Fast Forward to Fashion Today
Now we fast forward today and see into the world of fashion from the doors opened by fashion designers like Sean Combs and Russell Simmons. It is no longer about creating something “for us, by us” anymore. Artists and hip-hop followers now chase a dream, a dream that they can buy into. Everyone wants something that they can’t attain. It represents success and the lifestyle the aspire to have. Urban brands are no longer relevant because it doesn’t represent the style they aspire to have. High-end brands such as Versace, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce & Gabbana. Artists such as A$AP Rocky and Migos featured these brand names in their songs “Fashion Killa” and “Versace” which promotes the overall importance of high-end fashion in hip-hop currently.
Fashion is having the ability is having the ability to do what no one else is doing and to be recoginized because of your individualistic style. Hip-hop emulates that ideal and has aided to the progression of fashion.