Hip-hop fashion is instantly recognisable, yet it’s getting harder and harder to pin down. We can pick out a particular rapper or a time period, but that never gives us the full picture of how fashion was back then. The distinction between what is and is not considered hip-hop has become hazy as the genre has become more widespread.

What is Hip-Hop Fashion?

Hip-hop is more than just a style of music, dance, or clothing. The beginning of Hip- hop can be traced back to the 1970s when the style was a reflection of streetwear that the youth already owned. Pieces like bomber jackets, tracksuits, and sneakers with huge shoelaces. The trend of baggy clothing was probably brought on by the poor fit of the hand-me-downs. It was a mash-up of readily available clothing, dressing it up, and discovering fresh ways to wear it with pride.

Even though hip-hop fashion has become more widespread over the past 50 years, it mostly stays the same. When hip-hop performers became more well-known in the 21st century, a new age of high fashion and hip-hop began. Hip-hop is a state of mind, therefore in some ways, this has blurred the lines between what was once thought of as traditional hip-hop fashion and current popular style. Hip-hop fashion gave you the freedom to wear and behave as you please, thanks to its bold attitude. 

“There are no restrictions in terms of silhouettes or colour palettes. It is all about speaking your truth, breaking stereotypes, and clothes help enhance just that,” explains Sancheeta Aarekar, fashion stylist. Hip-hop fashion gained popularity as performers in the late 20th and early 21st centuries gained greater broad recognition but in reality, it was only a spotlight on how young urbanites already dressed.

Hip-Hop fashion through the years

80s

During the 80s, Run-DMC maintained their sense of style. They performed in streetwear and disregarded all conventions in both music and attire. And as a result, fans identified with their outfits, which included shell-toe sneakers, black bowl hats, and denim jackets.

90s

Hip-hop style in the 1990s was influenced by different trends from the decade before. Hip-hop quickly entered the public thanks to the media, particularly MTV. Artists embraced hip-hop fashion, while MC Hammer participated wearing his infamous harem (also known as “hammer”) pants.

2000s

Artists from the 1980s and 1990s wore loose-fitting attire that got even wider, including oversized white T-shirts, baggy jeans, and large belts. “Oversized fits had become a wardrobe staple,” adds Sancheeta. Denim on denim and vintage jerseys also paid homage to the iconic B-Boy look of the previous two decades.

2010s

Kanye and Jay-Z created the “real swag” aesthetic in the last ten years, which is now popular among celebrities like A$AP Rocky and Pharrell. Outfits like designer jeans and Polo shirts with tailored suits are examples of real swag. In the late 2010s, A$AP Rocky collaborated with Calvin Klein and Dior. Haute couture widened its influence on hip-hop as hip-hop found its way into high fashion.

¬†Activewear and high fashion combined are trending today, especially with brand and artist collaborations. Rappers’ success has made their fashion choices accessible to everyone, and anyone can find items to customise outfits to fit any style in the world.