Hip hop fashion is a style that originated from African-American, Latino, and Caribbean-American youth who were based on The 5 Boroughs, a city in New York. However, hip hop was later influenced by numerous other places, which contributed to what we know of hip hop fashion today. Naturally, hip hop fashion is a reflection of its culture.
From the 1980s, different brands have taken on the hip hop scene, including sports super brands, Adidas and Nike, Inc, which added to their popularity. Clothing items such as leather bomber jackets, Dr. Martens boots and sneakers were worn, becoming their ‘uniform’.
However, hip hop fashion does not stop at clothing alone; it is enhanced by different kinds of accessories such as large eyeglasses, oversized name tags made of gold hanging from chains, and multiple rings; with heavy jewelry suggesting wealth and prestige.
During the end of the 80s decade, hip hop fashion, jewelry, and hairstyle reflected traditional African culture. Africa chains, blousy pants, red, black and green clothing, and dreadlocks were donned by rappers such as MC Hammer. When the 90s rolled in, baseball caps, neon clothing and even wearing clothes backwards became the new trend.
Hip hop fashion for men and women became different; men continued wearing blousy pants or baggy jeans, sunglasses and heavy workboots, while women began to wear tighter jeans. However, women adapted the men’s style by wearing them, and adding a feminine touch, such as putting on lip gloss and make up.
Brands like Dickies, Chuck Taylors, and Raiders contributed to the popularization of pants, sneakers, and baseball caps, respectively. Even Chanel joined in, featuring models wearing the classic look of hip hop: black leather jackets and gold chains, or black dresses with silver chains.
A significant shift in the hip hop scene was the 90s celebration of the fashion styles of street thugs and gangsters, including prisoners. Oversized was still everyone’s style, whether for denim or cargo pants. Until today, the style of wearing pants so low, or “sagging” them without wearing belts, is still a common practice. This practice comes from prisons, where belts are not allowed for their potentially-lethal purposes (as reported by CNN), as well as from poor urban communities who could not afford new clothes, therefore passing them down from one family member, to younger, smaller members. Accompanying this are hand signs and territorial mentality, which were first adopted by African-American youth in Los Angeles, but which later spread.
Hip hop fashion continued to inspire more and more designers, and big names like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, DKNY created sportswear that showed this style, and glorified urban street wear. FUBU opened hip hop fashion to the mainstream, beginning an industry of its own. Moreover, hairstyles that were traditionally African-American resurged, such as Afros and cornrows, the latter created by wearing a Du-rag over the head all the time, keeping the hair from being displaced. Eventually, Du-rag became a hip hop fashion accessory on its own. By the mid to late 90s, instead of gold, platinum became the choice of metal for hip hop jewelry, which was often studded with diamonds.