The Influence of Hip Hop on 90s Fashion

Tupac Shakur painting
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Last Updated on April 13, 2023

With its root set in the 80s, Hip Hop slowly made its way to become one of the most influential genres of music in the decade that followed. As the genre grew so did the viewership of its stars such as LL Cool J, 2Pac, Biggie, Snoop Dogg and many more. This allowed for how they dressed to permeate the cultural sphere of society. It was the quintessential streetwear for the 90s.

The beginnings of hip-hop style can be remembered in an almost marked moment with Run DMC and their song ‘My Adidas’. A title befitting as they used to wear full Adidas tracks and Superstars without laces. This is perhaps the original trendy hip-hop sneaker, followed by Nike Airforce 1s and a host of others.

Over time as these rap stars did well, they undertook partnerships with many brands. This was something that really opened the way for brands to understand the culture and embody more of it. Some people close to the culture even started their own brands and this fed the circle over time, ensuring the style retained its place in fashion.

Bright colours and baggy clothes

The hip hop community was greatly influenced by their African origins and incorporated bright colours into their hip hop fashion. This was even present before the 90s but as the culture around the genre grew it became more prominent. Kids in high schools were seen wearing bright oversized t-shirts and throwback jerseys, with baggy jeans and cargo pants. This trend lasted a while, till the early 2000s even.

This style was similar for women, with artists such as Aaliyah making it common for women to wear a sports bra with an oversized flannel shirt. This look can be seen in many iconic photos of her.

Accessories that added to the looks

One of the most common things at that time was the reverse baseball cap. This was seen everywhere and as with the general streetstyle was more common to the younger generations. Aside from this one also came across people with sweatbands on their foreheads or wrists.

Bucket hats got left in the 80s more so, but chunky gold chains survived into the 90s and in fact, are still a common feature with rap stars. This was and is a way to signify the success of being a rap star. Over time some artists have shunned it for being flamboyant and also attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Footwear that carried the era

The sneakers were the mainstay, but other shoes also had their moment. Sneakers are still a huge part of the culture with people who have near vaults built in their homes for their collections. Brands such as Nike and Adidas have done extremely well and release many retro styles every day. These sell out almost instantly as soon as they show up online or at physical stores.

Having clean sneakers was and is a matter of pride, they were also to not be creased, making them look as ‘fresh’ as can be. This could be a hassle as a lot of the shoes were white. People spent time cleaning up their shoes with diligence, making sure they were spotless.

Another kind of shoe that merits a mention is the Timberland boot. Especially since many hip hop and rap songs refer to it. It was near ubiquitous for a while and might have been the only kind of shoe as common as sneakers.

The lasting impact

Even today the fashion that was born out of the 90s hip hop era is very visible. There are brands that were made by people specifically around that trend and they are still around. Brands such as FUBU, Karl Kani, Baby Phat, Sean Jean, Rocawear and more are all around to this day.

Micheal Jordan’s collaboration with Nike has also been the base for the sneaker lifestyle exploding. Jordans were expensive even when they were launched but people still lined up outside stores and the shoes would sell out. Even today that line from Nike does very well. This had to do with his larger-than-life persona, but also that many other athletes in the NBA wore Jordans as well.

This, over time, has led to a kind of marketing that is impossible to pull off with campaigns. If a brand or style is picked up by a group of individuals who are already well known, it will only propagate faster. Athletes are celebrities as well, even if that is not the core of what they mean to society. Kids seeing their favourite athletes wearing big puffer jackets and baggy jeans with crisp white sneakers and a gold chain only led to them emulating the style.

From a subculture to the mainstream

With such star power attached among the hip hop and sports community, the influence of hip hop on fashion did not take long to be seen all over the world. Major brands picked up on the styles and did their own iterations of street style, incorporating many of the elements. You could be in a different country and see people wearing baggy jeans with Timberland boots.

All this happened within roughly a decade, but despite the time that has passed we still see the influence in much of fashion today. The people who were young and wearing such clothes are today much older, and still rocking a lot of the styles from back then!

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