Scroll down for the second editorial in Hip Hop 50, our column celebrating half a century of the cultural movement that changed society.
Hip Hop has attaversed several phases, which have gone hand in hand with fashion.
From the late 1970s and early 1980s, rappers celebrated Afrofuturistic looks with flamboyant tracksuits; then, over the years, we witnessed the rise of street life-inspired looks, with flamboyant outfits dressed in double-breasted jackets and shiny fabric: somewhere between Gangsters and Pimp.
Over the past two decades, rappers have sported skateboard and basketball looks; in short, there is no denying that Hip Hop has decoded and defined American style over the past 50 years, influencing contemporary costume.
Here in detail are all the stages of Hip Hop fashion and its natural evolution to the present day.
As we saw in the previous editorial, you can find it here: Hip Hop: 50 years of the Movement that changed Society.
Hip Hop was born in 1973 in NY, at a time when disco culture was dominant. In neighborhoods such as the Bronx, where Caribbean and African-American immigrants lived, young people emulated people from wealthy neighborhoods by wearing their best clothes, which they showed off at block parties, the so-called Block Parties.
The style of early Hip Hop artists is heavily influenced both by disco music-where they draw tracksuits, jackets, and pants in metallic colors like strobes; and by their African origins, which they celebrate by wearing tribal-patterned, brightly colored pieces.
Afrofuturistic style has characterized rappers, DJs, mc’s, b-boys and wrtiers such as Afrika Bambaataa, Salt’n Papas and Grandmaster Flash.
With the rise of the Hip Hop cultural movement, style became a matter of identity: it helped differentiate itself from all those who did not listen to the genre, and it followed, religiously, its street lifestyle.
The rappers of the early 1980s no longer want to blend in with those who follow discomusic; so away go silver fabrics from the argonauts of the future: an inspirational model linked to wealth is introduced, even though Hip Hop artists, as well as those who populate the ghetto, are still far from wealthy.
A new model to follow creeps in: the wealth of affluent NY neighborhoods.
Thus, characters like Dapper Dan – an Harlem tailor whose winning idea is to faithfully replicate pieces from the collections of YSL, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi-become famous.
Dan mixes luxury labels with streetwear: his clothes are so eye-catching that they attract almost every Hip Hop artisit of the time, from LL Cool J to Big Daddy Kane, becoming New York’s most in-demand designer.
If they couldn’t afford to splurge on expensive looks, inner-city kids would buy a Louis Vuitton monogram jacket at the store on East 125th Street in Harlem.
The feeling of redemption among those who follow Hip Hop is so powerful, any means is valid. Tracksuits, bomber jackets, jewelry, and sneakers spread, becoming instantly synonymous with cool.
The regaining of urban space, of one’s voice in the world, comes primarily through fashion.
The first Hip Hop music groups such as Run-DMC are born: their looks flaunt a certain wealth, they introduce the adidas Superstar worn without laces, as a tribute to the convict brothers who failed to redeem themselves from street delinquency.
The Bling Biling Culture is Born and Hip Hop style became a statement.
At this point, Hip Hop is a full-fledged music industry with recognizable figures and artists selling millions of copies.
Rappers are the new rich of the neighborhood and they want everyone to know it: their look must flaunt unprecedented luxury, never seen or experienced before.
Heavy gold chains, luxury brands, and Cadillacs are symbols of a necessary social affirmation, flaunted in a maximalist way to shout to the world, “we made it”: the likes of Notorious BIG, Eminem, Jay Z, Snoop Dog, and Tupac wear jerseys of their favorite NBA teams, paired with heavy gold necklaces, studded with Swarovski.
In addition, a certain Gansters-style aesthetic creeps into the ranks of some rap subgenres: Gangster Rap is born in Los Angeles. Artists such as Eazy-E, one of the genre’s progenitors, assert a status of luxury, power, and malfeasance such as drug dealing and prostitution. Gang Rap style is expressed attrvarso double-breasted pinstriped suits, fedoras, machine guns, and jewelry.
In the 1980s, inner-city Boys feigned wealth by wearing luxury brand makeovers. Today, the wealth is real, and it has been acquired by any means, legal and illegal.
Enter the Hip Hop scene, artists such as Kanye West, Missy Elliott, Kelly, Busta Rhymes who with their Y2K style will influence contemporary trends and fashion. Collaborations between established brands and rappers begin, such as the one between Kanye West and adidas.
Fashion recognizes Hip Hop as a phenomenon to draw from to create future collections: the once niche scene ends up straight into the mainstream market. Rappers sell more records than pop artists and collaborate with multinationals, perhaps, once the subject of dissing.