The 90s: 6 Hip-Hop Fashion Trends That Inspired Us
Who doesn’t love the 90s? The era of baggy jeans. kangols, and velour suits. Where hip-hop influenced every aspect of fashion from the runway to the street corner. It was a decade where iconic artists such as Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, and 2Pac not only established themselves as forces in music but in fashion as well. The rawness and uniqueness of artists during this time led to a beautiful marriage between the two industries, a movement that is often imitated but not quite duplicated since.
The nostalgia of the 90s continues to inspire the fashion scene today. Evidence of this is present in designs by the late great Virgil Abloh’s reimaging of the Air Jordan 5s, a popular basketball sneaker that was first released in 1990. Mr. Abloh added his signature twist to recreate the classic sneaker as a part of his culture-shifting Off-White collection. We also see it through the prolific designer Kim Jones, the current artistic director for the legendary Dior fashion, who designed his own Air Max 95 shoe for Nike. The 90s encouraged bold creativity and the hip-hop fashion of the time led the way for many respected creatives to continue to pull from their fond memories of this period some 30 years later.
As hip-hop music grew into a formidable force during the decade, its influence began to cross over and transform different subcultures. The genre left its mark on the Skate, Punk, and Gang scene throughout many inner cities including Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. The majority of the popular fashion trends were street-inspired due to the control these artists had on the culture. Baggy tees, denim jeans, and basketball sneakers represented the everyday lives of former drug dealers, project living, and poverty-stricken rappers who made a way out of no way into hip-hop stardom.
Expressing themselves through fashion was a direct reflection of the communities that shaped them. What was looked down upon as being “poor” clothes by the privileged society was now being considered fashionable due to hip-hop’s massive grip on the world. Not only did this new fashion trend take over the music industry but Hollywood as well. Go back and revisit movies like Boyz N The Hood and Set It Off, as well as groundbreaking tv shows such as In Living Color and Martin, and you’ll realize just how much hip-hop essence and style brought these timeless classics to life.
Without hip-hop fashion in the 90s, where would this billion-dollar industry be today?
Let’s take a look at the 6 hip-hop fashion trends that forever left a lasting impression on us and the culture behind them.
90’s Hip-Hop Fashion Trends
Back in 1984, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, partnered with arguably the most prolific sportswear company of all time, Nike, for his Airness signature shoe Air Jordan. However, it wasn’t until the 90s that the basketball sneaker became synonymous with streetwear and helped birth the beginning of sneaker culture. The mass popularity of #23’s iconic shoes eventually led to a full-fledged Air Jordan line.
With everyone from Spike Lee to Will Smith rocking Jays there’s no denying the impact Jordans have had on our culture with no sign of the hype dying out anytime soon.
Denim on Denim
As far back as we can remember Denim jeans have always been a trend in hip-hop. But truth be told that wasn’t always the case. What was once considered nothing more than workwear in the 70s and 80s eventually made its way onto the fashion runway in the 90s. Renowned high-end brands of the period Versace and Calvin Klein helped introduce denim into the mainstream.
However, hip-hop royalty Aaliyah and Tupac Shakur’s status further elevated highly coveted streetwear brands like Karl Kani and Walker Wear making denim an essential part of many iconic artists’ everyday wardrobe. Laced head to toe in denim jackets, jeans, and bucket hats the denim craze is still a go-to trend in hip-hop today.
Just ask the Migos.
Sports Jerseys, Jackets, & Caps
What better way for hip-hop artists to represent where they’re from than to rock their hometown’s sports team apparel. Whether hailing from the East Coast or reigning in the West, rap supergroups like Wu-Tang Clan and N.W.A. repped their cities not only on the mic but on stages across the globe. Renowned American sportswear brands Mitchell & Ness, Starter, and New Era fitted rappers in their signature jerseys, shiny satin jackets, and crisp snapbacks making it possibly the most dominating trend at the time.
Fast forward three decades and you can catch young legends Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna in a New Era cap or a throwback jersey as they pay homage to 90s street fashion.
Color Me Camo
Camo is arguably the most gripping pattern in hip-hop culture. To the artists and their fans who add elements of camouflage to their wardrobe, the different variations of this motif represent struggle, resilience, and victory especially as it relates to the daily lives of Black people from Africa to Cuba to America. Camo ultimately symbolizes the true essence of hip-hop. Conscious rappers KRS-ONE and Chuck D draped themselves in military uniforms as they went on a mission to spread knowledge to the masses while rappers Master P and the No Limit Soldiers utilized the gear to let the world know that the South’s invasion of hip-hop couldn’t be stopped.
There’s no denying camo continues to leave its mark on the fashion scene from the streets of Oakland to the runways in Milan.
One thing about folks who are born and raised in the inner city is we can turn everyday necessities into trendsetting fashion. Take the puffer jacket, better known as the puff coat. These essential cold-weather jackets were designed to handle brutal winters in places like Brooklyn and Chicago. However, leave it up to hip-hop to take this very practical item to the next level.
As East Coast and Midwest rappers gained mainstream popularity so did outerwear brands The North Face, Triple Goose Canada, and Eddie Bauer. Even today fabled streetwear company Supreme and the illustrious fashion house Gucci have collaborated with the aforementioned The North Face to reimagine the winter jacket by adding an on-trend twist, further cementing the puff coat as a timeless piece in hip hop culture.
If you are looking for a true definition of a hip-hop fashion brand look no further than the mythical streetwear empire FUBU, a.k.a. “For Us, By Us.” Founded in 1992 by Daymond John, J. Alexander Martin, Keith Perrin, and Carlton Brown, FUBU started in their hometown of Queens, New York and eventually grew into a worldwide phenomenon after partnering with the manufacturing conglomerate Samsung in 1996. For over a decade FUBU not only had its hand on the pulse of the culture but helped to dictate it as well. From rap superstar LL Cool J to bigger-than-life boy band N’Sync, FUBU was the epitome of the hip in hip-hop style.
At its peak, the streetwear company was worth $350 million. Not bad for a brand that started in co-founder Daymond John’s Mom’s living room.
What was once considered an inner-city fad eventually became the authority on what’s hot or not in our culture. The contributions of the genre have left their mark and the innovative stylings of the 90s still influence our fashion choices today as we continue to remix pieces from the era and relive the nostalgia of our youth.
Simply put, the 90s are never out of style.
Let us know in the comments below what trends you’re still rocking to this day!
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