The Evolution of Hip Hop Clothing

By: Martin

Hip Hop has been one of the fastest growing and most influential cultures in the last years. Hip Hop originated in the 1970’s in South Bronx, New York and since then hip hop clothing has changed in a dramatic way. What once seemed as a subculture is now part of popular culture and popular clothing.

Hip Hop emerged in the 1970s during the prime of disco and soul music. During this era jumpsuits were popular and this could clearly be seen in disco and soul music. Episodes of “Soul Train” and James Brown greatly exemplified the use of the jumpsuits. Hip Hop borrowed the idea of flashy jumpsuits and adjusted it to track suits. From that moment track suits became a popular trend that would stay for a while. The track suit went on to be the predominant fashion in hip hop in the 80s.

James Brown jumpsuit

Run DMC wearing the original Adidas track suit

The 80s also introduced other sports brands into the fashion of hip hop such as Kangols often worn by rappers and djs. The success of the Kangol was largely due to LL Cool J as he was one of the first ones to be seen with it. The Kangol hat is now seen in everyday fashion. Other Sports brands like Adidas became essentials for hip hop. Adidas success in hip hop made them create their own line of him inspired products.

LL Cool J was known for wearing his Kangol hat

Basketball also became very influential to hip hop fashion in the 80s. Hightop sneakers became very popular as well as basketball jerseys. Since then sneakers have been highly associated with hip hop. Because of basketball influences Nike and Jordan became a huge success in the hip hop fashion market. Due the oversize of the jersey, baggy clothes also started appearing usually consisting of a baggy shirt with baggy sagging shorts. Baggy clothes became a statement. The late 80s also introduced hip hop to heavy jewelry. The jewelry was a big statement for many of these rappers as many of them grew up poor and the jewelry was a way to show off their new wealth. Expensive leather jackets also became popular. The 80s also introduced hip hop to products that has always related to the working place.

Members of the Wu-tang Clan wearing Timberlands and Carhartt Jeans

Eric B and Rakim

Big Daddy Kane

Slick Rick

Hip Hop has been always about making a statement. That’s why, without a doubt the Black Nationalism movement became a part of Hip Hop. The Black Nationalist colors appeared with many rappers, as well as African jewelry and clothing.

Queen Latifah and X-Clan wearing African influenced clothing

Gangs are often associated with poor urban areas which are the same place most rappers came from. The early 90s the concept of dressing like a gangster became very popular and consisted of plaid shirts, baseball caps, and Dickies. The style of clothing was changing but it continued to be baggy. Another iconic item was introduced during the era, the starter jacket.

N.W.A  wearing baseball caps

Snoop Dogg and his starter jacket and Dickies

The gangster image did change in the mid 90s. It actually became glorified.  The late 90s gangster era was greatly influenced by the film “Scarface”. This was the start pf the double breasted suit and the don suit. The traditional gangster rapper look was being change to a cleaner more classical gangster (Mafioso).

Biggie Smalls


The modern fashion in hip hop has had many variances but it is clearly part of popular fashion. Hip Hop Artist now wear what’s popular and people look up to them to see what’s hip. Major designer brands like Gucci, Louie Vouitton, Dolce and Gabbana, and Armani are seen as top of the notch brands and today they are closely related to hip hop fashion. Hip hop artist try to portray a living a better life and they do this by wearing high class brands. Women before used to be seen trying to mimic the old styles of men of baggy clothes and try to look tough like them. Now a day’s women have also lead the way in style and have also used high end brands to look sexy and high class.

Kanye West wearing and using luggage from Louis Vuitton

Soulja Boy wearing Gucci footwear

Hip Hop has always recycled fashion and gave them new meanings to them. They have adopted many styles associated with where many of the artists lived and gave them a more urban feeling. Hip Hop has evolved into one of the most influential genres in music. It has revolutionized music so much that you can see hip hop influences in all of types of music. The fashion industry has capitalized on the growth of hip hop and even adopted styles from it. The revolution hip hop has caused it to be very influential in clothing. What started out as a subculture in the Bronx, New York has turned into one of the main authorities in Popular Culture.

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