Last Updated on October 12, 2020
90s hip hop fashion trends represent one of the most iconic times for fashion. While during the 90s, many new trends appeared, hip hop fashion stands out as one of the most significant.
Hip hop fashion was created as a movement based on up and coming musicians of the era. There were many women in hip hop how framed the movement. These included Queen Latifah, Lil’ Kim, Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Eve, Aaliyah, the list goes on.
Through their musical works and personal style, they created a fashion aesthetic that made an impact throughout the decade. With fan followers, Hollywood films, and the fashion industry.
We have put together a guide on 90s hip hop and rap fashion, including information on outfits, brands, and the trends for womenswear inspired by the genre that characterized the decade.
History and Culture
Hip Hop Culture
Hip hop is said to have first formed in the Bronx, New York City in the early 70s. This was a time during which the United States was suffering the effects of an economic recession. Hip hop was created as a distraction during these tough times— by people enduring both financial and psychological difficulties. It is said to be a form of expression by marginalized social groups.
The culture based artistic movement was created by a mix of African Americans, Latin Americans, and Caribbean Americans. While the genre was first introduced in the 70s, it was further developed during the 90s. The influence of hip hop still predominates among youth communities, fashion trends, and musical styles today.
What is Hip Hop Style?
Hip hop fashion styles are based primarily on urban apparel and the self-expression of ‘slang’ and streetwear. It also incorporates thematic motifs such as social awareness, civil rights, political activism, justice, and social awareness. As hip hop began growing as a cultural movement, its impact on fashion quickly developed.
The style was originally only worn by a marginalized society. It then later began making a shift. Now, all social classes and ethnic groups value it. Brands that explore the hip-hop style include Adidas, Puma, and PRO-Keds. Higher end fashion brands such as Supreme, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have incorporated the hip-hop aesthetic into their designs.
80s Hip Hop Fashion
The hip hop movement continued to grow during the 80s, a time remembered as one of the most important for the development of the movement— both nostalgic and old-school hip-hop fashion were developed. Hip hop fashion received influence from other fashion movements that were consistently growing, such as the preppy aesthetic.
During its initial period, the majority of up and coming hip hop singers, both women and men, aspired to one day become part of elite society. This was done through their own interpretation of it. They purchased just from ‘Americana’ brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland, and Polo Ralph Lauren.
You May Like: Battle of the Decades: 90s vs 80s Music
Early 90s Hip Hop Fashion
During the late 80s, and early 90s, African American culture became the staple influence on hip-hop style. Big, blown up pants were made famous as a hip hop look unisex garment. As were heavy gold chain accessories, dreadlocks, and various hats such as the kofi.
The staple color palette was centered around red, black, and green—the colors linked to Black nationalism. Some of the most influential figures of the 90s hip hop fashion scene were names like Queen Latifah and Aaliyah, whom both promoted black nationalist ideas.
Popular womenswear fashion trends, reflecting 90s west coast fashion, included white tees, Air Jordan sneakers, Raiders bomber jackets, and baseball caps worn backwards.
During the early 90s, high end luxury brands began incorporating hip-hop culture into their designs.
Chanel displayed influences of the culture in all of the early 90s collections—including black leather jackets, heavy gold chains, and heavy silver chains featuring a padlock.
Mid 90s Hip Hop Fashion
The mid 90s where characterized by a shift within hip hop apparel; the subculture began taking inspiration from styles worn during the 30s and 40s, specifically by Mafia members and organized criminal groups. New trends included silk blouses, animal fur coats, alligator leather accessories, and baggy silhouettes.
Women represented a sense of empowering feminism within the hip hop community. These women were tough, with their wardrobe consisting of baggy clothing, and portraying a ‘badass’ attitude. Their aggressive way of dressing was meant to intimidate and consolidate their positions within a community led primarily by men.
Late 90s Hip Hop Fashion
Back in the mid 90s, and progressing through the late 90s, many brands began working with hip hop culture. Calvin Klein, Dona Karan New York, and Nautica were some of the few. Aaliyah was known to always be wearing Tommy Hilfiger.
Her outfits consisted of tube tops worn with matching pants. Her aesthetic appealed to young girls hoping to recreate her look.
Tube tops became a staple piece within new hip hop womenswear fashion trends. Tommy Hilfiger was smart when it came to marketing; in campaigns and advertisements, they featured African American models and spokespeople. This linked the hip-hop community with the brand, forming a lasting bond that is still present even today.
Additions to womenswear trends included stomping boots, thick black sunglasses, and baggy working pants. During the late 90s, silver jewelry became more popular within hip hop culture in comparison with gold jewelry. The ‘bling’ often included diamonds. Hip hop fashion was based on the idea of showing off your assets; both physical and economical.
Urban Fashion Designers
Tommy Hilfiger was a leading designer of hip-hop fashion who focused on creating styles within the ‘preppy’ subcategory. His self-titled clothing brand was officially established in 1985, and rose to fame partially because of the hip-hop movement.
American fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi was highly influenced by hip-hop trends of the decade. His collections during the late 80s and early 90s were said to be inspired from the culture. He saw the elevator operator at his building wearing a thick gold chain, and decided to release collections featuring the hip-hop aesthetic.
Isaac was one of the most significant fashion designers of the 90s.
American creative director Karl Kani was also considered one of the most influential designers of the decade. He worked closely with 90s r&b fashion. His brand, Karl Kani, was known as a ‘hip hop fashion brand’.
An American born of Latin American parents, Karl grew up in Brooklyn, New York and grew up around the beginnings of the hip-hop movement. He is credited for recognizing an area within the market of fellow hip hop lovers.
He then developed his designs according to consumer demand. He was very successful with his brand, and is still continues working as a designer today.
Modern Hip Hop
Modern hip-hop trends are very different from those seen during the 90s. The concept has shifted due to the appearance of various contemporary, high end streetwear brands. These include brands like Louis Vuitton, Rick Owens, and Yeezy.
Womenswear hip hop trends today include casual sportswear, minimalistic sweatsuits, oversized hoodies, loose overalls, baggy pants, dark denim, crop tops, the bomber jacket, and multiple piercings. American rapper Cardi B and Spanish singer Rosalía are known as of the biggest influencers of hip-hop womenswear in modern fashion trends.
They both represent a sense of throwback 90s ghetto fashion, while wearing hip hop designer clothing. Their personal styles are inspired by trends of the 90s, and create a revival of the biggest trends of the decade.
Types of Clothing
The types of clothing that define hip hop style are usually loose, oversized, and most importantly—comfortable. Garments like basketball jerseys, both modern and vintage, were a staple of the style. Various t-shirts, and tanks, usually unicolored and featuring graphic designs were commonly seen worn by musicians.
Pants were low waisted and baggy. Baggy overalls were a huge trend of the decade among hip hop singers. Female rappers were known to represent sex appeal through the clothes they wore, and they did so by wearing highly comfortable garments.
90s Hip Hop Brands
While there were many brands that made-up hip-hop fashion during the 90s. Some of the most iconic were British hat company Kangol and Timberland lace up boots.
Designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren Polo were made very popular and worked with the concept of logomania.
FUBU, meaning ‘For Us, By Us’ was an American clothing company that was founded by young African American Daymond John and a group of friends. The concept of the brand was to represent hip hop culture by the people who participate directly within the culture itself.
Nike was an iconic brand of the 90s, with the drop of the Air Jordan’s, perhaps the greatest and sought-after shoes in contemporary fashion.
Hip Hop Fashion Styles and Trends
Within the hip-hop subculture, there are several variations to hip hop as a fashion style.
Part of the attraction towards hip hop were the variations.
Preppy Hip Hop Style
The preppy hip hop fashion style first emerged during the 80s, during the initial stages of the subculture. Preppy attire included the use of button up collared shirts, capri cut pants, and alluded towards an American socialite attitude.
All tops, even button up polos, could be cropped. Lauryn Hill was known for combining elements of classic hip hop style with Americana style elements of the preppy style.
Her style was described as both classy and hip hop-esque.
Elite Hip Hop Style
During the 90s, the most influential people in fashion were musicians and singers. Female rap singers became icons of style.
They were the ones setting trends. They were also the ones working closely with designers on new collections, and the biggest promoters of many brands. The elite hip hop style was heavily influenced by the party scene of celebrities, away from public eye.
Throughout this time, many gathered wearing the latest designs by the most famous brands. This style of dressing was the most eccentric, with no limits in terms of creativity. The elite hip hop style was also seen consistently at red carpet events.
Lil’ Kim is the female rapper with the biggest reputation when it comes to creative fashion choices. Vintage photos by paparazzi always entail her unique fashion style.
Urban Hip Hop Style
The urban wear hip hop style of the 90s was characterized by combining sporty elements with the hip-hop aesthetic. Famous brands who worked with this concept included Reebok, Nike, Adidas, and many others.
These brands focused solely on the hip-hop market segment, and targeted a specific audience who loved the combination of streetwear with hip hop. The result was a style titled urban hip hop style; still very famous today. It is praised for being comfortable without compromising style.
The best hip hop trends of the 90s included sleeves skin tight camisoles, acid wash dungarees, close up multicolor prints, bucket hats, matching tracksuits, military print, puffer jackets, old school varsity jackets, among multiple others. They are easy to find and shop for today, as many elements are still considered trendy.
Summer Hip Hop Outfits
Summer hip hop outfits are centered around the idea of showing off skin. A pair of low-rise baggy jeans a form fitting tube top or crop top, and a funky pair of plastic framed sunglasses would be the ideal summer hip hop outfit. The look could be finished off with a pair of Nike Jordan’s for a vintage 90s touch.
Spring Hip Hop Outfits
Spring is a bit fresher than summer, and a classic pair of dungaree style overalls are the ideal garment to bring back the 90s. Paired with a camisole beneath, a colorful bucket hat, and a pair of Timberland waterproof 90s style boots. This is the ideal nostalgic spring hip hop outfit.
Fall Hip Hop Outfits
The weather gets significantly colder during the fall, meaning more fall appropriate garments are necessary. The ideal fall hip hop outfit would include a plain black tee, baggy oversized joggers, black boots with undone laces, and a sweatshirt on top. A heavy silver chain necklace would be the perfect way to accessorize this otherwise simple look.
Winter Hip Hop Outfits
Hip hop winter outfits are very characteristic, and they can be easily replicated. Lil’ Kim was the icon of winter hip hop fashion, and her looks managed to truly represent the meaning behind the concept of the style.
While many thought her style was costume-esque, it was her own personal interpretation of what hip hop meant. Black shorts or an above the knee black skirt, thigh high boots, and a red fur coat are the ideal garments to create a winter hip hop outfit that will impress, and take you straight back to the 90s.
Hip hop accessories were centered around ‘bling’—informally considered iconic hip hop gear. While gold jewelry has always been the most timeless choice, silver became the most popular way to accessorize outfits. The more bling, the better. Accessories were often exaggerated, oversized, heavy chains embedded with diamonds.
Diamond earrings were highly common among high class women. During the 90s, hip hop was a style defined by extravagance. The idea of ‘from rags to riches’ fueled the concept of bling within the female hip hop community.
While African American women ruled the hip-hop scene during the 90s, many opted for changing their hair by straightening it with a flat iron.
During the 90s compared to the 80s, you can see that flat, smooth, and shiny hair was all the rave.
It was the most popular style worn by artists of hip-hop culture. Cuts were made to be around shoulder length. A popular hair accessory became bandanas, which would be tied around the head. They featured the classic bandana styles Western print.
Makeup trends from the 90s hip hop scene can be described as subtle. A typical routine included the application of a matte base, finishing powder and bronzer for contouring.
It also included thin eyeliner worn with a round edge rather than a cat eye, and nude color lipsticks with wine colored lip liners. Many artists and musicians amped up makeup tutorials by applying matte, unicolor eyeshadows that matched their outfits.
For the women of hip hop, the theme has become a way of promoting sex through apparel. The majority of backlash and criticism that the hip-hop scene receives is its objectification of women through song lyrics.
However, the leading figures of female hip hop during the 90s were considered empowering, feminists, and women who were not afraid to display their rough side to the world. That is what the hip-hop attitude is about. A lifestyle that seeks to empower.
Who are your favourite artists and styles of 90s hip hop? Let us know in the comments below!