Hip-hop has been transformational for culture in New York, it is a genre of music defined by its rhythmic beat, rap lyrics and breaks (long percussive periods). However, it isn’t all about the music, hip-hop has had huge influences on everything from fashion to politics.
This genre first emerged in New York in the 1970s in the Bronx as communities of young people and New York DJs collaborated and experimented with different techniques and improvised lyrics. By the 80s, hip-hop had expanded and reached the top 40 of the US Billboard charts, and many different artists from around the world began to contribute their ideas.
The golden era of hip-hop was the 1990s when hip-hop artists like Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G, Snoop Dog and A Tribe Called Quest began to enjoy mainstream success. Artists such as these also became trendsetters in the world of fashion, streetwear style evolved throughout the decade and hip-hop continues to influence still.
We look at how streetwear changed throughout the 1990’s due to Hip-hop in New York and who the biggest influencers were at the time:
Hip-hop fashion is very recognizable, think of baggy jean styles, hoodies, para-military boots and field jackets. Other popular choices were flannel overshirts and Chuck Taylors and Timberlands.
For pants, the stacked denim style first became popular. These jeans, which remain popular today, are cut extra-long so that they bunch up below the knee while remaining fitted on the thighs.
Male hip-hop stars that influenced streetwear
A Tribe Called Quest stars Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammed, Jarobi White, and Phife Dawg were known for their bold style choices during this era. Light washed Levi jeans, bucket hats and oversized designer t-shirts were all part of their fashion repertoire. The Queens based rappers were seen out on the streets of New York regularly and fans began to replicate some of their most stylish looks.
Kayne West was another hip-hop style that made waves in 1990s casual fashion. West was a huge fan of bucket hats and white relaxed fit t-shirts; he also could be seen in denim on denim coordinated outfits.
The late Tupac was another notable streetwear icon. While bandanas were already very popular at the time, the rapper tied them around his head in a unique way that many other rappers and hip-hop stars then went on to replicate.
Female hip-hop stars that influenced streetwear
Female streetwear at this time represented a sense of feminism and personal empowerment.
Towards the end of the 90s some major fashion brands really began to embrace hip-hop street style. Artist Aaliyah had a particularly influential look that inspired her fans to change their own style. She often sported Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts and was a huge fan of cylinder tops paired with coordinating pants.
Queen Latifah was one of the biggest hip hop MCs of the 1990s, her album Black Reign was certified as gold. The icon often incorporated African prints into her bold and colorful outfits but one of her most memorable looks has to be the red leather pant suit she wore at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1995.
Similarly, Missy Elliot, was not afraid to stand out. Her oversized gold hoops and overly gelled hair first the action of fashion-forward fans. She then went on to collaborate with Adidas and her tracksuits brought forward the Sports Luxe style to the female market.
As hip-hop really began to take off as a music genre in 1990s New York, more of the culture and fashion that surrounds it was introduced to mainstream audiences. Streetwear became not only about comfort but also about self-expression and freedom to experiment and break previous fashion rules. Many elements of this era’s fashion, including oversized fits and relaxed denim are still enjoyed today.