Are we experiencing a Hip Hop Style Evolution? This is something I am constantly asking myself. Who exactly are we speaking to when I post the style clippings? Is it the man who pulls out his iPads on the way to work, is it the guy wearing chinos shopping for swag on the Portobello Road? Is it that guy with the True Religion raw denim jeans and all Gucci everything? Or that guy with the Nike Blazers and Trapstar T-Shirt? or possibly the guy who works in the city and wears Tom Ford.
In the 80’s and 90’s, Hip Hop styling and ideology was reflected through the defiant baggy jeans, oversized Jerseys and in the early 90’s diamonds and precious metals became the norm for rappers. The look was part hood gangster/ street hustler placing extra emphasis on living the America dream often ostentatious in appearance the visual idea was a display of nonchalant underlining newfound wealth (see paid in full). The Flashy loud and abrasive money displaying in the style of the neighbourhood dope man going in on expensive furs, and wearing them in their hoods whether it be Compton, Harlem and The Bronx.
As taste generally becomes refined overtime with extra money in abundance overt and obvious displays of wealth became passé. If you wanted to show you were truly successful, you needed to have the rarest, one-of-a-kind pieces: hand made Louis Vuitton Presidential briefcase, jeans from a little factory in Japan that only produce 365 pairs a year. A new style and look diverged that both inspired and was influenced by downtown street wear. Still, there are plenty that aren’t rocking Ralph Lauren with Maison Martin Margiella.
As hip hop spread across Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s influential voice of the underclass and political message inspired many worldwide. As many Artists toured internationally selling out arenas, doing interviews and filling stadiums. With internationally popularity, and cultural mélange. Hip Hop artists gained a new found respect, acclaim and recognition. On a level of creativity similar to that of rock bands and being influenced undeniably by the strong overflow of mainstream pop culture. A lot of inner city youths hungered to live the life of Rock Stars, collaborating with indie bands, borrowing ideas from one another, sampling and mixing etc. Influenced by the streets, everyday life and politically aware. With the advent of affordable home computers, the internet and America’s prominent branding, the exchange of ideas became a two way flow.
The two camps seem to be easily divided into the artists with cross-over or mass appeal: the Ushers, Kid Cudis, and Kanyes whose music is on does well on the Billboard charts, and has cross over appeal. Artists who are open to collaborate with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga embrace a flexible view of fashion that can range from Japanese-inspired street style to tailored gentleman in Oswald Boateng,.. The other side sector is occupied by the more hood artists: Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy, Wacka Flocka, easily identified as those with bodies marked up like the subway in Harlem. All related in terms of ink identification, unlike Kanye they have not crossed over to the big city style aesthetic which offers more options and varieties of style. The looks of mainstream artists are more difficult to duplicate than the uniform of wife beater and jeans, expensive loan jewellery, throwback jersey, New Era fitted and airforce ones, many have said that this style is old and became played out in 1998. In order to source a particular item that an artist has endorsed or to duplicate the style of mainstream artist if living outside of a major international city, it would be difficult to do so successfully as certain high fashion brands, or the limited edition styles are in limited supply and are often more expensive than the white t and baggy jeans swag. Most artists represent where they are from, how they are living and where they have been impacts their personal style.
The reason may also have something to do with physical size. “Hip Hop fashion is physically made for Hip Hop guys,” hence the reason why Fubu, Karl Khanini, Rocawear, Sean John, G Unit Clothing and Vokal were successful amongst this target demographic as a gap in the market was identified, most old school Hip Hop artists do not wear a skinny jeans. Their physique is usually too big in terms of height or weight, just like for many athletes their thighs are too big, or their legs are too long. Kanye can get away with it, he can work international fashion well. Rick Ross in a skinny tie and jeans? That’s not happening. The fashion side is leaning to that, but the reality is the functionality and fit of the clothing. The size proportion in which these designer clothes and accessories are available in means that it is inevitable that some artists cannot wear designer clothes, they own the Gucci belt, the hat, and Louis Vuitton Evidences sunglasses, but they can’t fit into the clothes. They rap about it but they can’t really wear it.
Currently a more editorial look that is slimmer, inspired by art, creativity, craftsmanship and attention to detail. These range from one off pieces exclusive from limited edition collections inspired often by iconic lifestyle, metropolitan culture, expressions of individuality and the city living. But that body type doesn’t necessarily fit a larger size and rarely is available in a 40 inch waist. While Kanye, Lupe and Pharrell may be able to do that, I don’t think that look can go through all of Hip Hop, because everybody can’t wear that type of that thing. For artists such as Notorious Big, Fat Joe and LL Cool J these styles were simply not applicable, when attempted the results would be ill fitting and uncomfortable.
Cool Kids in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles might be dressing one way, the interpretation can change entirely in Atlanta, Miami, Houston or even Barbados, chances are you’re not going to see people dressed in high fashion as they simply do not have access to it. Fashion outside of major cities has always been slower to evolve meaning that the sagged, more relaxed look is incorporated into the code of dress and a therefore forms an accepted part of native culture.
In conclusion the hip hop aesthetic has come to embody a wide range of styles that represent the hip hop movement, as their are a wide range of looks that coincide with masculinity, creativity and cultural identity. Collectively there seems to be a range of ideas that represent hip hop cultures transitions in relation to original older looks, as well as the slimmer more fashion forward look that seems to represent a more international, edge incorporating elements of hip hop fashion old and new. representing what the movement should be citing influences through code of dress.