You should always give credit, where credit is due.

Without black people, what would this world even look like?  Don’t answer that.  Without Hip Hop, what would music sound like?  Don’t answer that.  Without the culture that only Hip Hop breeds, where would one acquire the threads and swag to pair for an absolute fashion declaration?

Hip Hop is not only a musical genre, but a culture and source of self-expression. Hip hop culture has served as a heavy influence on the everyday person as well as it’s partnering industries including the fashion and marketing industries. Each industry relies on the blueprint that the hip-hop culture has set in order to remain relevant in today’s society. This has been seen in the latest designer clothing and the marketing tactics that are used with each brand out today. The fashion industry is worth about $3 trillion and hip-hop culture has direct influence on those dollars.  With ads like Kanye Wests “Wolves” music video also for his Balmain collaboration, and designer Calvin Klein featured rapper Young Thug in his ads wearing pieces from the women’s collection. Whenever an artist rocks any type of trend or designer clothing, it automatically becomes an ad because of the influence the hip hop culture has Due to the fact that music and fashion coincide, hip hop culture has paved the way for self expression through both. This is seen throughout the many eras of hip hop culture. Artists ranging from Run DMC, LL Kool J, Salt N Pepa to Rihanna, Travis Scott have all used the fashion and music combo to stand out, convey messages to the public, and/or simply going back to self expression. It’s safe to say that hip hop culture is truly a way of life and ultimately has reign over all things it touches.

The pioneers of hip hop started the trend of wearing high-end designer pieces as fashion statements. Run D.M.C rose to being fashion icons in hip-hop culture as they innovatively paired gold ‘dookie rope’ chains, three-stripe Adidas tracksuits and black fedora hats. They created the guidelines for what a ‘cool guy’ of their time looked like, becoming the first endorsement deal in rap. Their style would not only create influence among other hot hip hop artists of that time, but millions of fans & spectators across the world would gravitate to the fashion craze.  Selling out stores of merchandise seen on music video’s and Award Show’s; and everyone is buying, black or white; young or old, rich or poor.  Brands like Tommy Hilfiger blew all the way up after Snoop Dogg appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live back in 1994 wearing a Tommy Hilfiger shirt.  The small act that highlighted street fashion and shot Tommy Hilfiger sales through the roof, so much that Bloomingdale’s was completely wiped out of TH gear the morning after. Hip hop fans generated a healthy amount of dollars to the brand throughout the 1990s.

Marc Jacobs received hella notoriety after using models with bantu knots and dreadlocks (hairstyle) in his fashion shows & for numerous ads. This example really gets me tight because it crossed the line of hip hop culture and became complete appropriation of a culture – an act dating back thousands of years (we know this). Fun fact: Vedic scriptures indicate that Indian sikhs and yogis may have been wearing dreadlocks since 1800 BCE and it was the Rastafarians of Jamaica who popularized the hairstyle in Western culture, but that’s for another discussion. Another fashion trend-setter of hip hop history was Lil’ Kim. She never disappointed when stepping foot on any social scene from a trip to the grocery store to red carpet events & her shows. Lil’ Kim set trends with her loud fashion statements – her colorful mink coats with matching colored hair, unique outfit pieces and designer clothing. Who can forget her at the 1999 VMA’s in that purple jumpsuit ensemble with her pasty left boob out.  Lil’ Kim is definitely a fashion icon in the way that she was ahead of her time, like she mentioned in her song “Queen B*tch”,  “I used to wear Moschino, but every bitch got it Now I rock colorful minks because my pockets stay knotted.”


Hip hop artists have also had their share of fun dabbling in the fashion industry from the business side as well, with figures like Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj who have all managed to create clothing brands that at one point dominated the industry. Diddy’s clothing line “Sean John” was one of the most prominent lines from 2000-2005. Everyone at every cookout, block party or any social scene had on some Sean John ensemble. Since it’s launch in 1998, Sean John has reached revenues of now $525 million annually. The clothing line also took on February 2001’s Fall Fashion week and was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Men’s Designer of the Year award. Beyonce’s ready-to-wear clothing “House of Dereon” line was popular within the urban community during the mid to late 2000s. And the later decline of “House of Dereon” didn’t hold Queen B back, as her activewear line, “Ivy Park” was the top-selling brand during the week of it’s launch (April 14th, 2016) on Nordstrom’s website and still continues to break it’s own records in sales. As for Nicki Minaj, she launched a self-titled line ‘“Nicki Minaj Collection” in Fall 2013 for affordable prices at Kmart stores. She strategically designed the line to reflect her quirky style so that her fans would feel connected to her at an affordable Kmart price. The list of hip hop fashion icons is endless, having all left everlasting imprints on the fashion industry somehow.


Today’s artists have adopted the concept of innovation and trendsetting from the founders of hip hop. As the saying goes “history repeats itself” and this holds true to fashion. Looks have been recycled just as much as new ones have been created. Rihanna is without a doubt a heavy influencer and icon, she is the queen of taking old trends and enhancing them. Her aura is felt through her lyrics and fashion statements. Big fashion houses have certainly learned how to maximize from the exposure popular artists bring to their brands, collaborating with the artists on seasoned collections.  Rihanna’s Puma x FENTY collaboration has been exceeding in footwear and apparel, Puma’s CEO even acknowledged Rihanna’s collaboration as being one of the reasons for the company’s recent success. Travis Scott is also a significant artist and fashion influencer. It is safe to say that his style of music and clothes are one-of-a-kind; recently seen at Paris Fashion Week setting trends in a Louis Vuitton’s ‘Walk This Way Sandal’ paired with black socks, and a uniquely tied Louis Vuitton x Supreme handkerchief around his neck. Trends like these are sure to come to fruition in a couple of months for mainstream audiences and fans to spend their bucks on.

Let’s not forget and the one and only Kanye West. Over the past few years, Kanye has taken the fashion scene by storm in correlation with his music career. Everyone knows that Mr. West is no stranger to self-expression; he continuously outdoes himself with creative looks. Known for taking simple ideas and making them complex, Kanye made the comfortable everyday look high-fashion. All of his Yeezy Season lines took staple pieces such as bomber jackets, nude tones, dad hats and sunglasses and added a touch of quality. I ain’t never seen someone rock an oversized sweatshirt, dad hat and ripped jeans like Kanye…how you get so chic?  Kanye’s collaboration with Adidas has been the best thing that’s happened for the company since Run D.M.C.. His Yeezy footwear line has aided in the 24.2 percent rise in revenue from the year prior to the collaboration. Hip hop culture has influenced all of today’s trends like the return of embroidery, oversized Champion gear, graffiti artwork and vintage pieces.  And even if you’re not starting your own line, you still have these artists out here with their own particular style that has crowds in awe and trying their best to mimic. 


As the culture continues to evolve, artists constantly establish trends whether it may be new clothes, new ways of partying and most importantly new music to party to. Hip hop culture affects the people that are a part of it; pop culture, and the entertainment & fashion industries as a whole. The more emerging artists such as Young Thug, Lil Yachty and Rae Sremmurd have taken an even more expressive and unorthodox approach in terms of their fashion. Artists continuously break barriers and are currently redefining the culture. This is seen through multi-colored hair on men, men wearing dresses and men accessory type: chokers. Despite the small amounts of backlash, artists have been given more room to be expressive and free. A$AP Rocky, Jaden Smith, and Young Thug are all known for being catalysts of this artistic change. At the same time, there are artists such as Fabolous, Dave East and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie who maintain the hood swag of hip hop through clothing and music style. Whether a hip hop artist takes the non-conventional route or the traditional path in fashion/music, each style will have a major influence on the direction in which the fashion industry goes – well, more if they are HOT. This influence is also seen on the entertainment, advertising industries, and pop culture overall. Fashion is hip hop culture. Whether commercial/ad, music-video or runway, if you look closely, the impressions that hip hop has made will be evident somewhere.  



Contributed by Jada Hines