Hip Hop and Pop Culture
Since the emergence of Hip Hop from the Bronx during the 70s, the genre has changed not only the music industry but pop culture as well. Over the decades Hip Hop has influenced and shaped almost every part of everyday life, from technology to lifestyles. But perhaps no other aspect has been affected as much as fashion.
While the music itself has continued to change and evolve, there has always been one constant fact. Hip-Hop artists have always been perceived as cool and stylish. However, asking what makes Hip-Hop artists cool and stylish isn’t as simple as it sounds. There are, after all, many reasons why Hip-Hop fashion has been embraced by consumers from around the world.
They Have Status Symbols, We Want Them
One of the most obvious reasons why Hip-Hop fashion has been admired is that it complements the emotions and attitude that go along with the music, which includes having or wanting status symbols. Whether that’s beneficial or harmful for fans, wearing gold or platinum or diamonds, sporting a designer suit or driving a souped car have been constantly seen or heard in the world of Hip Hop. For some it may be controversial. As Chuck D has stated, “I work at McDonald’s, but in order for me to feel good about myself I got to get a gold chain or I got to get a fly car in order to impress a sister or whatever,” which has plenty of truth.
Besides the obvious, having expensive things makes a person feel better about himself or herself, the idea that Hip-Hop artists have wealthy and prestige items makes the average fan strive for those sort of things as well. Which can be seen with almost any other celebrity. Who hasn’t watched an episode of Cribs and thought how awesome it would be to live in that house or own one of those cars in the driveway? Who hasn’t watched an awards show or music video and wished that they could meet other famous people and wear that particular outfit?
For some reason, almost of us at some point in our lives, are drawn to status symbols. And we’re even more drawn to the people that own expensive clothes, the big house and can go on vacation whenever they want. Maybe it’s because we’re jealous. Or maybe it’s because that’s the life we want to have.
Transforming Trends Into Something Original
Hip-Hop artists have also taken previously known styles and trends and blended it with their own flare. Run DMC made Chuck Taylors and track suits iconic. Snoop made typical white clothing from designers like Tommy Hilfiger a must-have piece of clothing. Kanye West was just one of many artists who helped make designer brands like Louis Vuitton popular amongst the Hip-Hop community. Lil Wayne took skater fashion to a whole new level by wearing shirts from brands like OBEY or DC, and eventually creating his own brand, Trukfit.
For women, they wanted over-sized gold door-knocker earrings because Salt-N-Pepa made them sexy. And, speaking of sex appeal, who would have that thought wearing over-sized clothing would have been considered sexy? But when acts like Aaliyah, TLC, and Da’ Brat wore baggy clothing over a sports bra, that became not only popular, but also desirable for men.
Whatever the trend during the course of Hip Hop’s existence, artists have made a previously known style their own. Whether it was Kangol bucket hats to throwback jerseys to bling, Hip-Hop artists took that clothing or accessory and owned it. Which made it that much more appealing for the masses.
Making Social Statements
Of course not all artists are concerned with decadence. Public Enemy, Immortal Technique and Common are just a few artists that have opted not to rock expensive jewelry. By deciding not to wear luxurious items, these acts are making a statement against materialism. Back in the 1980s, Queen Latifah and KRS-One were just two of the many musicians that wore clothing featuring the colors of red, black, and green. These colors displayed the pride that these artists felt in their roots. Even wearing gold was making a statement for some artists because it represented their heritage, since gold chains were “basically for warriors.”
Fans could definitely relate to an artist that shared the same pride in their race and history. Also, Hip-Hop artists, like any other artist, could simply wear a t-shirt that makes a statement. It could be anything from showing support towards a political candidate or something as simple as a peace sign. Because celebrities are in the spotlight, that message can be seen by hundreds or thousands of people. If a fan has the same sort of social or political mentality, that shirt with a message has suddenly become a hot commodity.
Giving People A Chance To Be Rebellious
Finally, you could also take into consideration that Hip Hop allowed some fans a chance to tick off their parents. Just like the music itself, the style of Hip-Hop artists have given younger people “a sense of rebellion, freedom, manhood, courage,” according to KRS-One when he was discussing Hip Hop’s white audience.
It’s one thing to listen to Hip-Hop artists, it’s a completely different subject when you begin to dress like your favorite musicians. Because parents don’t understand Hip-Hop music, along with the accompanying fashion, it becomes much more appealing to angst-ridden teenagers who would do anything to be rebellious.
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