Ladies Love Cool James… But Does Mainstream America?

A look into new urban clothing trends, and what makes a brand endure beyond the hype.

In hip hop, very few people get the “legend” tag. KRS-One got it when he did “criminal minded” as Boogie Down Productions. Kool G Rap got it gradually as his career matured over time. Wu Tang got it almost overnight. But James Todd Smith aka LL Cool J took a different route with a furry Kangol hat and a tiger (and Rick Rubin, but that’s another story for another day)

The key here was true style. It was infectious. Kangol saw unprecedented success with their brand, and soon everyone in the streets was wearing a Kangol piece. Remember the “one pant leg rolled up” fad? I was doing it, my friends, my mom too (I’m not lying).

LL Cool J’s clothing line launched in May 2008, carried by 450 Sears stores and plans for wider distribution by that holiday season. Price points range from $22-$50. He held in-store contests for fans to get a chance to go to the studio and be on the set of his music video.¬† Everything seemed to be going right.

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Shirt from LL Cool J's clothing line at Sears

Fold-over collar. Rhinestone-embellished argyle pattern at chest. “Keep Your Dreams Alive” screen-print. Buttoned sleeves. Plaid pattern at cuff lining.

Maybe I’m alone in this sentiment, but who wants to wear a plaid shirt with an uninspired graphic and a clich√© statement as “keep your dreams alive”? I love the statement, but the only place I could see someone wearing this is in the club as a last resort to get past the pesky dress code they enforce. And now in the club, with all the booty shakin’ and such going on, I’m gonna wear a shirt that tells others to keep their dream alive?! I shouldn’t even be at the club if I’m tryin’to make that happen, knowin’ how folks get crazy these days, shootin’ up the place.

Oh. And rhinestones are NOT fashionable at all. I was guilty of it back in 2003, wearing baby blue FUBU jerseys with a matching rhinestone bandana. I looked like an extra in a B2K video (remember them? Ha!)

On the flip side of things, Andre 3000 of Outkast came to the scene with a whole different perspective. Despite Outkast’s music being dope from day one, I wondered why Andre 3000 was the only black guy who dressed so strange (in the later years) and was still so widely accepted in the black community. I think it somehow all fit with his personality, but I really want you guys to tell me what you think in the comments on that subject.

Andre’s Benjamin Bixby line is being sold exclusively in Barney’s with designs inspired by the 1930’s and old football uniforms. Designs such as

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Store display of Andre 3000's Benjamin Bixby line. Digging the green vest
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Benjamin Bixby Sweater, only at Barney's

Takes a lot of creativity and confidence to wear in the first place, but it’s the prices ($250 for shirts, $600 for sweaters) that have consumers shying away.

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What do YOU think has made urban apparel lines Sean John and Rocawear last this long? LL Cool J’s line is a lot more affordable (and less fashionable). Andre’s is extremely sophisticated but exorbitant in price. What’s a brand nowadays you can both wear and feel confident in, without breaking the bank?

4 thoughts on “Ladies Love Cool James… But Does Mainstream America?”

  1. I'm not familiar with A.3000's line, but if it is as eccentric as HE is and dresses – can many other people even pull it off?

  2. it will definitely take a certain type of confidence to pull that off, i can attest to that.

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