Hip-hop culture has clearly influenced all types of fashion from the magazines, advertisers, retail and all the way to the runways! Over the decades it has continued to evolve with greater broadening intensity. The streets, of course, have always influenced the mainstream and high fashion is no exception. As we all know music influences art, the night scene, the media and all cultures from the urban city streets to suburbia. Hence since hip-hop is still the top selling music genre there is no doubt that it is still the forerunner of fashion as evidenced even in the country music crossovers. Let us examine further the evolution of hip-hop fashion and its global phenomenon.
The Apparel of Realness
In the early to mid 70’s the birth of hip-hop was influenced by the west Indian Jamaican and Caribbean sounds as well as the stage elements of funk music, the blackploitation movies and R&B. Hip-hop artists were able to merge these elements along with the poverty, violence and the desire to dance from the disco era. From the roots of the South Bronx, the budding new music form was combined with street gang life, breakdancing, graffiti, dj’ing and the culture of the streets.
Since most dj’s of the time weren’t producers or beatmakers at the time, they borrowed the hottest sounds available and either merely chose the breakbeat portions of their favorite songs or remixed these sounds to create something new but familiar. But it was clear from day one that the hip-hop pioneers such as DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa and the Zulu Nation as well as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five understood showmanship and wanted to stand out as artists with their fashion sense.
Even to this day, the largest clothing brands borrow elements from street fashion and the earliest hip-hop fashion designers like Dapper Dan borrowed elements from the luxury designer brands to create something new, different and appealing to the streets.
Streetwear is Born
Hip-hop is more than just a music genre to sell records or be exploited by commercialism, it is for the diehards a way of life! Hip-hop artists from the early nineties tired of their styles being stolen by clothing brands unfamiliar with the street culture and they began to create many of their own brands to profit from their creations. Hip-hop aficionados like Russel Simmons, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang, Fat Joe, Death Row, No Limit and many others would go on to create their own hip-hop clothing brands to benefit from their fame and followings. They would create unique and stylish t-shirts, caps, jackets, tracksuits and almost anything they could throw a logo on.
Using music videos as commercials
Many of the rappers smartened up and realized that every video and magazine photo shoot was an opportunity for them to advertise and promote their brands which eventually led to music channels like MTV to begin blurring out these logos as to not allow them to profit off free promotion without having to buy commercial time.
As music videos are no longer as popular as they once were, hip-hop artists have evolved with the times to continue to capitalize off of their fashion influence through streaming platforms as well as social media outlets. They can now amass millions of followers and share their fashion photos without having to pay any middleman. Not only this but many other products and fashion brands can take advantage of these influencers to help promote their items making it a win-win for both parties.
The Evolution of Hip-Hop Fashion
Today we see a lot of high-end designers still using hip-hop music on their runways as well as borrowing artists and their styles to make their products more hyped. Artists like Tyler the Great, Cardi B, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West and others have built multi-million and billion dollar brands with hip-hop clothes due to their massive followings and influence on global culture. The high-end designers have to adapt to the times since they typically cannot just hire models who can have the same sort of immediate recognition and impact.
As these artists continue to become more business savvy and are able to build other high profile relationships with professional athletes, commercial industries and influencers, they are able to reach into even more households and outlets. Add on the continued evolution of technology, the internet and easy to leverage platforms like shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Magento, Squarespace and others, the sky is the limit like The Notorious B.I.G. said and until another music genre takes over, hip-hop will continue to set the trends in style and fashion!