From Parachute Pants To Skinny Jeans: The Evolution Of Hip Hop Fashion



Since it's inception way back in the 80s, Hip Hop has shared a symbiotic relationship with the fashion world. What started as a way to showcasing local trends and fashion staples has bloomed into a powerhouse influence of haberdashery over the years.

Originally fashion in hip hop was merely a way to show fans that you had money and you were dope boy fresh, or to turn the world on to the your local sneaker of choice. But as rap grew in popularity, more and more civilians began to take notice of the styling of their fav rapper. I'm Nate the Great from Flight 214 and this is a brief history of fashion and the rap game. Make sure you hit the like button and then subscript for updates on all new content. Complex magazine published a piece on titled A History of Style Trends Started By Rappers. We'll post a link in the description box, but in this article they highlight several fashion trends popularized by hip hop icons over the years.

Though there were rappers with their own sense of style before 1985, trends like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's wrestling singlet paired with fur coat and safari hat never quit caught on in the streets, understandably so I might add.

But when Slick Rick the Ruler and Doug E. Fresh dropped "La Di Da Di in 85," Rick runs down his entire outfit and grooming regimen in one verse. Notably siting "the Bally shoes he wears with fly green socks". And When he appeared on the cover of his debut album The Great Adventures of Slick Rick rocking the bright red versions, other rappers like Rakim followed suite and so did fans snatching them up and launching the Swiss company's footwear into the hip hop lexicon. In the mid 80s needless to say streetwear didn't exist, so what did guys in the hood do? They got creative. Legend has it, there were these diy iron-on Cooper Black letters that could be purchased from arts and craft stores. When young b-boys and girls wanted to rep their crew or personalize their gear, they did it themselves using these. Biz Markie is immortalized the type face with his off-kilter "BIZ" hat and the font is still being used by Tyler the Creator and Wolf Gang.

Some may not know but Adidas was arguably the 1st official sneaker of Hip hop so to speak. We have Run D.M.C. to thank for this, they were such stans of the brand it was pretty much all they wore. Culminating in a 1986 song titled "My Adidas". By this time the Greman brand spotted the obvious market value, and signed the group to an endorsement deal. A then first in hip hop history.

Sugar Hill Gang's Big Bank Hank actually has the honor of being the first rapper to wear a bucket hat in a rap video the very first rap music video I might add. Run D.M.C. switched up to Kangol bucket hats from time to time, but the fuzzy Kangol bucket hat was sononmus with LL Cool J for some time in the late 80s. Though he sometimes switched it up ti the canvas version the Kangol hat has LL to thank for introducing them to the masses of hip hop fans.

Speaking of hats, the late 80s also saw the introduction of a new style of rap, roaring out of the west coast like a tsunami. Gangsta rap, And leading the charge was NWA.NWA blazed a trail in several different lanes including fashion, forcing the world to take note of the black Compton snapbacks and raider gear. The late 80s introduced us to to west coast look, all be it a taste. In 1989, Tommy Hilfiger was making whooping $100 million in annual sales. During a random encounter at Kennedy Airport, Tommy Hilfiger noticed a group of hip-hop heads walking through the airport wearing his brand. His brother Andy, who was a former rocker, recognized Grand Puba and his crew and introduced them.

It wasn't really until Snoop was spotted in a Hilfiger rugby on SNL in 1994 that the brand truly sized a spot in hip hop stratosphere. All of a sudden hip hop went prep, Hilfiger endorsed artist such as Aaliyah and Usher for commercials and magazine ads. But the brand fell from hip hop grace when Tommy admired what was well true in saying he had never envisioned his brand for the hip hop community or something to that effect, when how could he? Remember he was only made aware that hip hop guys were into his stuff by his brother in the 80s. But non the less Hilfiger went from cop to drop for those in the lifestyle.

If any brand owes a debt of gratitude to hip hop influencing its Clark. In 1993, the Clarks business was on the verge of bankruptcy believe it or not. So far gone that they were considering selling to an investor, but they held out for one reason, The Wu tang Clan. Thanks to Enter the 36 Chambers, the hip-hop supergroup's endorsement of Wallabees saved the company, and oh yea lots of corporate restructuring and smart business decisions. With this Clarks wound up moving from being a manufacturing-based company to being driven more by consumer marketing.

No one knows who the 1st guy to say, you know I'm going to wear a pair of warehouse work boots, but to be fresh though. But we do know it caught on, and more specifically Timberland boots have been a part of east coast street style ever since.

Their was even a time where just about any surplus army gear was fashionably desirable, and no group embodied this like the Boot Camp Click. The whole crew made a case for rocking camo with Timberlands—and not just the wheat's either, they were strong proponents of stomping around in the less-appreciated-yet-still-classic "Beef and Broccoli" boots. Timberland still runs strong in the streetwear community, producing new drops each year and raining supreme in their industry.

DMX was the archetype of the angry, roughneck rapper of the late '90s. That's why his simple wardrobe of tank tops, baggy jeans, and boots were such a prevalent outfit at the time—the stuff was affordable and made you look tough.

By the late 90s fitted hats had taken over for snapbacks and doo rags, a simple silk man head wrap sold at any local beauty supply store came into popularity. Actually wearing the 2 together was more a case of function because at this time 360 waves were in style. What are 360 waves you may ask? Pretty self explanatory, guys would apply various wave grease coupled with coupons hours of brushing of the hair, in order to acheave a look in which the hair was completely wavy all the way around the head hence the term 360 waves.

Anyway, why do all this work only to loose it at night? This is where the doo rag was used to hold the waves in place while the party sleeps. Which brings us back to how it is functional with fitted hats, catastrophic would it have been to spend this many man hours perfecting your wave pattern only to have you hat ruffle them up, so you just wear a wave cap. Many a rapper adopted the trend from time to time, but no one road harder for the doo rag and fitted cap like Roc a Fella's Memphis Bleek. To this day I do not know what Memp looks like with out a wave cap and fitted.

While on fitteds, Bleeks Boss and lablemate Jay Z was at one point known for his New York Yankee fitted, for years we watched Jigga put in work and cement a hip hop legacy for one the MLB's most hated teams.

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