#DecipherIt – Fashion up Hiphoppas!!

Hey yo!! Long time no seeeeee!! Actually I am the one at fault here. Some affairs had to be dealt with. So, I am sorry!! Haa, it feels good. And so getting back to where I left. We have discussed the basic four elements and along with the debated fifth one ‘beatboxin’ too. But, hold your horses. There are more things that strengthened the vitality of hip hop. These are the street elements of hip hop through which a hiphoppa begins to evolve consciously from fashion to communication to wisdom talking to trade. And it sounds familiar to human evolution. Finally, it’s the sixth element of hip hop – Street Fashion/Hip Hop Fashion.

Back In The Day – Ahmad

Yalla yalla, don’t think that I’ll be cackling some fashion tips to ya’ll. I am no fashionista. But Street Fashion is a vital part of Hip Hop. So getting back to business, 1980s street fashion has always been remembered as one of the most important elements of old school hip hop, and is often enjoyed in hip hop songs such as Ahmad’s 1994 single Back in the Day. Listen to it if ya’ll haven’t.

This type of fashion isn’t somethin’ from the studios. It emerged from the streets. It deals with all trends and styles of hip hop culture. So one can also call it hip hop fashion or big fashion, only in this casethough.

By now we all know the Afro-Americo-Latin origins of hip hop. Hence, even the street fashion carries diversity. Gwendolyn O’Neal, the author of ‘African American Aesthetics of Dress’ once said,

“While an African-American aesthetic of dress is neither African nor American, it is shaped by unique ‘cultural’ experiences resulting from being of African descent and living in America”.

I bet, it’s true.

In the 70s and 80s…

So it all started in late 1970s when hip hop was still emerging, sportswear companies such as Le Coq Sportif, Adidas and a couple of other brands ruled the streets. It became the turning point. By 80s, fashion evolved drastically. Hip hop icons flaunted tracksuits, multi-coloured appliqué leather jackets, sheepskin coats, car coats, straight leg corduroy or denim jeans, hooded sweatshirts, athletic warm-up pants, mock turtlenecks, and sneakers and caps. Run-DMC probably wore it best, but The Fat Boys, Ultramagnetic MCs, Schoolly D, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, MC Eiht and many more flaunted it pretty.

MJ flaunting Jheri Curls

Men  sported popular hairstyles like the Jheri curls, a shiny curly afro look, often clowned for its greasy tendencies. The legendary Michael Jackson, flashily promoted this look on his album cover in 1982. Later by early 90s, men took pride in cutting down their afros into boxy shapes called as Hi-top fades. It symbolized the Golden Era of Hip Hop.It was common amongst young black people. Artists like Eric B. & Rakim, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Audio Two, Kid ‘N’ Play, Will Smith flaunted it more stylishly.

But these men never stopped here. There was more to it. They took strong liking for all hip hop blings, Kangol bucket hats, Puma shell-toe trainers with ‘phat’ laces, basketball shoes, and oversized spectacles by Cazal. WOW!! I mean, guys were never in no position to complain about a lady’s shopping list. They already have a longer list. Talking about blings, heavy gold jewellery became an enduring element of hip hop fashion. Women like Roxanne Shante decorated themselves with large gold door-knocker earrings. Men adorned themselves with chunky street-tuff gold chains and name-plate necklaces and monicker belts. Kurtis Blow really got them famous. Gold used to be a status symbol then. In fact, MC Schoolly D claimed that wearing gold is not something that was born and raised in America. It went back to Africa.


Queen Latifah in a afrocentric look

Street fashion was influenced by Africanism in late 1980s in every manner. Fezzes, kufis decorated with the Kemetic ankh, Kente cloth hats, Africa chains, dreadlocks, Rasta caps, brightly coloured garments, blousy pants, baggy pants and Black Nationalist colors of red, black, and green were promoted by artists such as Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Public Enemy, M.C. Hammer and X-Clan. One can say that, hip hop accepted and transformed traditional luxury symbols into modern-day cool commodities.

The reason why street fashion peaked up is due to these big shot musicholics. Music was the key. These celebrities were known as fashion icons, especially the rappers. No one could have made Bandanas into an iconic headwear accessory as legendary Rapper Tupac did. He was a timeless fashion icon. Snoop Dogg on the other side, was an inspiration due to his strong charisma blending with his outfits and individuality. Not only just the rappers, but also the brand Cross Colors (Clothing Without Prejudice), empowered, united and voiced the black community. It was the very first streetwear brand established in 1989. There were other brands like Nike, Kangol, Adidas, Reebok, Puma, Timberland, Fila, Champion, Tommy Hilfiger who were also associated with hip hop.

TLC in baggy pants with bra top

As time passed, fashion was all about baggy jeans, throwback jerseys, baseball caps, tattoos, low-worn cargo pants and those gangsta style khaki pants, white t-shirts and gold, diamond & platinum blings. Will Smith’s character from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air exactly portrayed the style and trends of 90’s. Female fashion grew as well. Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, TLC and all other ladies were dressed in Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, bamboo earrings, Fendi and Louis Vuitton handbags, name chains, midriff tops, baggy pants with bra tops and flannels, short skirts, tight jeans, high boots, straight hair weaves and braids, tattoos, false fingernails and the list goes on.

Later hip hop artists introduced their own clothing lines, for instance, Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Wear, 50 Cent’s G-Unit Clothing, Eminem’s Shady Limited, 2Pac’s Makaveli Branded and more. With more developments, it is what we see it today. Street fashion influenced the mainstream fashion industry. It got real BIG!! Yet most importantly, street fashion let the young souls express their philosophies and way of living. Like all in all the cultures, it certainly became the means of communication here too. It’s thanks to all our mothers and brothers and fathers and sisters for showing us yet another bling-bling colourful way to our consciousness.

Laters, fellas. See ya’ll next time.

🙂 Bye-bye 🙂

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