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What do you think of when you hear the term “hip hop?”

Some think of sex, drugs, violence and money. And when it comes to clothing some picture baggy sweat pants, thick platinum or gold jewelry, oversized shirts, and flat brim hats. But hip hop is much more than all of this. It’s a culture of its own.

What emerged from South Bronx black and Latino youth has changed over time from street culture to mass appeal. Today hip hop is often characterized by rap music, DJing, breaking dancing, and graffiti art. It has a global influence on many and much of this is due to its prominence in fashion.

The birth of “hip hop”

Hip hop evolved during the 1970s and in 1978 Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins unintentionally coined the term. He mimicked the rhythm of marching soldiers singing “hip hop hip hop” jokingly to a friend who had just joined the Army. Later he used the phrase in a performance and disco musicians caught on, helping the term to spread like wildfire.

What does hip hop really mean?

While many think of hip hop as a genre of music, hip hop is much more than that. It is an attitude and a culture. It is a voice of people and something you live rather than do. It’s a passion and a love. It is a message you tell the world.

Hip hop fashion

This type of fashion certainly tells a much deeper story about hip hop than what many make it out to be. It is a reflection of inner style, personality, identity and what you represent as an individual. Shirts, pants, shoes, jewelry or hats – they are real elements of a culture and expression of oneself.  

This distinct line of fashion began at the birthplace of the culture itself. African American youth from big cities like New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. Each city contributed individually to the style of this fashion and, like all fashion types, hip hop fashion has changed significantly over the years.

It was the in 1980s when hip hop really made its appearance. Bomber jackets, sneakers with oversized shoelaces, and multiple rings were worn. And don’t forget about woolen beanie hats and bandannas. Rapper icon MC Hammer had a big influence on hip hop fashion during this time. Eventually brands and designers followed this new trend and created new and unique clothing designs.

In the 90’s many hip hop artists began their own fashion labels and clothing lines. Popular hip hop artists like Nelly who owns the pioneering women’s fashion line Apple Bottoms and Eminem who debuted his Shady Limited clothing line are notable examples. 

In the 2000s fashion trends constantly changed and celebrities heavily influenced these trends. Popular brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton represented success in the ghettos and a way to a better life. And today hip hop hats have become one of the most recognizable accessories. The different types have become synonymous with the culture and fashion. Like other clothing, hats make statements due to their colors, material, stitching and pattern. Tropical, flat brim palm tree hats, wave beanies and snapback hats have become highly popular today thanks to hip hop fashion and are increasingly trendy.

Since the introduction of different brands, hip hop fashion has become more accessible and is highly popular not only in the U.S. but around the world. While it has changed over the years, one thing remains: showing your identity through clothing. It’s not about expensive clothing; it’s about attitude.


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