Niche it!
BobbyGs Info
Hip hop fashion

Music Sound

Hip hop fashion

Back | Home | Up | Next

Hip hop fashion is, according to KRS One, one of the nine "extended" elements of hip hop culture. It refers to a distinctive style of dress originating simultaneously with both the African-American and Latino youth living in the two main coastal cities of the United States. New York City on the East Coast and Los Angeles on the West Coast each contributed various elements to its overall style seen worldwide today. Hip hop fashion goes hand-in-hand with the expressions and attitudes of hip hop culture in general.


Early hip hop fashion

UTFO highlights the Kangol as the sole fashion accessory on this album cover UTFO highlights the Kangol as the sole fashion accessory on this album cover

Since the 1970s, hip hop fashion has changed significantly over the years, and today is a prominent part of popular fashion as a whole across the world and for all ethnicities. During the 1980s, such clothing items as large glasses (Cazals), Kangol hats, multi-finger rings, and sneakers (usually Adidas-brand shelltoes and often with "phat" or oversized shoelaces) were prominently worn by the big-name hip hop stars of the day, including Run-DMC and LL Cool J. Performers such as Kurtis Blow and Big Daddy Kane also helped popularize the wearing of gold necklaces and other such jewelry. Popular haircuts ranged from the early-1980s Jheri curl to the late-1980s hi-top fade. Also during the late 1980s, fashions and hairstyles symbolizing the Black Pride movement, including Africa chains, dreadlocks, and red-black-and-green clothing became popular as well, promoted by artists such as Queen Latifah KRS One, and Public Enemy.

1980s hip hop fashion is remembered as one of the most important elements of old school hip hop, and it is often celebrated in nostalgic hip hop songs such as Ahmad's 1994 single "Back in the Day", and Missy Elliott's 2002 single "Back in the Day". The main trend was toward African-influenced clothing styles, in accordance with the Afrocentric stylings of much hip hop music of the time (from bands such as X-Clan). Also prevalent was the "high top fade" hairstyle popularized by Will Smith (The Fresh Prince) and Christopher "Kid" Reid of Kid 'n Play, among others.

Hip hop fashion from the late 1980s to the 2000s

As hip hop music and culture grew and developed, its fashion began to change as well. Pop rappers such as The Fresh Prince, Kid 'n Play, and Left Eye of TLC popularized the wearing of bright, often neon-colored, clothing and the wearing of regular items such as baseball caps and even condoms in unusual ways. A number of fads existed during this period as well, including Kris Kross' method of wearing their clothes backwards.

Gangsta rap became one of the most prevalent styles of hip hop, and by the mid-1990s, hip hop fashion had taken on significant influence from the dress styles of street thugs and prison inmates. Much of today's hip hop fashions, most specifically the wearing of baggy pants and black ink tattoos, are commonly attributed with being initially inspired by the street fashions of the cholos (Chicano gangsters) on the West Coast. This style of fashion along with its associated hand signs and territorial or "homeboy" mentality was then adopted by the African-American youth initially in Los Angeles which then quickly transferred to the hip hop community at large. An example of this is the wearing of baggy clothes, often without the use of a belt for the pants, which originated from prison where belts are among the first things confiscated while new inmates are being given their uniforms. Hooded sweaters ("hoodies"), military hats, field jackets and fatigues, Hi-Tek brand para-military boots and Timberland boots were especially popular in New York City, while the West Coast culture additionally contributed with the wearing of flannel overshirts and classic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars to hip hop fashion. Gold teeth were popularized by Southern hip hop artists such as Master P, many of whom often wore a full mouth of gold fronts or permanent dental fixtures with precious metals and precious gems which were used as a fashion statement and status symbol that can't be snatched from around a neck or out of a pocket. Nike Air Force One and Fila shoes are also popular components of hip hop fashion

In the mid-1990s, mafioso influences, especially and primarily inspired by the 1983 remake version of Scarface, became popular in hip hop, and classic gangster fashions such as Fedora hats, and alligator-skin shoes ("gators") became fashionable, most prominently popularized by The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Although in some areas in the mid-west these styles have been a constant staple of the fashion scene. Detroit is an area where this element of style has seemed to endure regardless of outside influences that may flow with or against it.

The rise of hip-pop in the late-1990s, primarily the work of Sean "Diddy" Combs, known locally around New York at that time as the "Shiny Suit Man" brought elements such as loud, flashy PVC aviator inspired suits and platinum jewelry to the forefront of hip hop in an effort to add a new vivid dimension of color and flash to the videos produced as a marketing tool. Combs, who started his own Sean John clothing line, and clothing manufacturers such as Karl Kani and FUBU brought hip hop fashion to the mainstream, resulting in a multi-million dollar hip hop fashion industry. There was a resurgence of traditional African-American hairstyles such as cornrows and Afros, as well as the Caesar low-cut. Caesars and cornrows are maintained by wearing a do-rag over the head during periods of sleeping and home activity to prevent the hair from being displaced or tossled. Do-rags soon became popular hip hop fashion items in their own right.

Mc of the Senegalese rap crew Darra J in Germany, 2005. Mc of the Senegalese rap crew Darra J in Germany, 2005.

The "hip-pop" era also saw the split between male and female hip hop fashion, which had previously been more or less similar. Women in hip hop had emulated the male tough-guy fashions such as baggy jeans, "Loc" sunglasses, tough looks and heavy workboots; many, such as Da Brat, accomplished this with little more than some lip gloss and a bit of make-up to make the industrial work pants and work boots feminine. The female performers who completely turned the tide such as Lil Kim and Foxy Brown popularized glamourous, high-fashion feminine hip hop styles, such as Kimora Lee Simmons fashion line of Baby Phat. While Lauryn Hill and Eve popularized more conservative styles that still maintained both a distinctly feminine and distinctly hip hop feel.

After platinum replaced gold as the most popular precious metal in hip hop fashion, it became commonplace for artists and fans alike to wear platinum (or silver) jewelry, often with significant amounts of diamonds embedded in them. Platinum jewelry later became a prominent source of bragging rights for hip hop performers and audiences, and B.G. recorded a 1999 hit song that summarized the phenomenon with a popular catchphrase: "Bling Bling". Platinum fronts also became popular; Cash Money Records executive/rapper Brian "Baby" Williams infamously has an entire mouthful of permanent platinum teeth. Others have fashioned grills, removable metal jewelled teeth coverings.

Modern hip hop fashion

After the influx of the hip-pop influence, hip hop fashion became less based in actual street wear and more in an idealization of such. Hip hop clothing is often produced by popular and successful designers, who charge significant amounts for their products.

The main elements of modern male hip hop fashion are baggy jeans slung low around the waist, gold or platinum chains, boots or a fresh pair of kicks (sneakers), and a bandana or doo rag tied around the head (often with a baseball cap on top).

Today, hip hop fashion is worn by a significant percentage of young people around the world. Many hip hop artists and executives have started their own fashion labels and clothing lines, including Russell Simmons (Phat Farm), Damon Dash and Jay-Z (Rocawear), Eminem (Shady Ltd) and OutKast (OutKast Clothing). Other prominent hip hop fashion companies (e.g. DownUrban) have included, in addition to the aforementioned Karl Kani and FUBU, Willie Esco, Ecko, Vokal, G-unit, and Mecca USA. There are now a significant number of retailers that are dedicated to the sale of hip-hop inspired fashions.

Hip hop fashion is often satirised by celebrities such as Ali G and Goldie Lookin' Chain.


  • (1999) Light, Alan, ed. The VIBE History of Hip-Hop. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Hip hop/Rap
Beatboxing - DJing (Turntablism) - Fashion -History (Roots - Old school - Golden age - Modern) - Production - Rapping
African - American (East - West - South)
Abstract - Alternative - Chopped & Screwed - Christian - Country-rap - Crunk - Electro - Freestyle music - Gangsta - G-funk - Ghettotech - Golden age - Hardcore - Hip hop soul - Hip house - Horrorcore - Hyphy - Instrumental - Jazz rap - Latin rap - Mafioso - Miami bass - Mobb - Neo soul - Nerdcore - New jack swing - Old school - Political hip hop - Pop rap - Rapcore - Ragga - Reggaeton - Snap music - Urban Pasifika

Home | Up | History of hip hop music | History of hip hop music | List of genres of hip hop | Beatboxing | Disc jockey | Hip hop dance | Hip hop fashion | American hip hop | Hip hop production | Rapping | Hip hop rivalries | Electro hop | Garage

Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

Sign up for PayPal and start accepting credit card payments instantly