How ‘Rapper Clothing’ Took Over High Fashion
In the last few years, streetwear has gone from a trend to a fundamental part of fashion. It sources its inspiration from a lot of different places but streetwear and hip hop have been paired for a long time. What Kanye West or A$AP Rocky are wearing is as almost as important as their music. The evolution of rap has been a phenomenon since its emergence in the 1970s. The journey of hip hop’s wardrobe going from ‘rapper clothing’ to serious designer wear has been just as phenomenal.
The Early Days
The trend of high fashion pairing with hip hop started with 2Pac. Although there were artists before him repping designer gear he was the first rapper to really bridge the gap. He was getting Versace custom clothes free at the height of his fame and seen as commonly in designer gear as bandanas and tees.
Even after his death, the blueprint he created for high-end fashion and hip hop influenced all those after him. Rappers could be seen dressed in Armani and Versace suits in music videos throughout the 90s.
The impact of Tupac and others wearing designer gear fell off in the late 90s but the foundations had been set for it to come back.
Rappers as Designers
The launch of Wu Wear in ’95 along with the P. Diddy produced ‘Sean John Clothing’ and Jay-Z’s ‘Rocawear’ in 1999. It wasn’t a cooperation between fashion names and rappers and proved hip hop could do it on its own. These were the main figures in both making hip hop clothing and excelling in it. This was the pattern for the early 2000s when ice, do rags and jerseys were in vogue.
Pharrell on his own ended up being on the other side of fashion. He successfully got streetwear brand names like BAPE into hip hop when he collaborated with its founder Nigo to create Billionaire Boys Club. While Bape and Supreme were quickly gaining attention, it would be a few years before Streetwear became a big part of hip hop.
When Kanye West was brought to the limelight in a Ralph Lauren polo and Louis Vuitton backpack, rapper clothing began expanding to include designer gear again. Yeezy himself said it best ‘Ralph Lauren was boring before I wore him’. It was pretty natural that Kanye would join the ranks of hip hop’s designers.
With Kanye came increased visibility for fashion in rap beyond dressing like Nelly. The growing market of streetwear and its links to hip hop became much stronger. The creativity coming out of streetwear quickly became a part of hip hop.
Nothing without the market
Recently, rappers signing collaboration deals with major fashion brands all over the world has become normal. This wouldn’t be happening if the brands couldn’t make money off it. The influence of hip hop artists on the clothing their fans wore was pretty well established a long time ago but only recently did high fashion companies realise they could use that influence for their lines.
A$AP Rocky’s collaboration with Off-White lead to a huge spike in sales which raised Off-White far higher than they had been before the collaboration. Around the same time, Rocky became the face of Dior and it became clear that rapper clothing and high fashion clothing were closer than ever before.
Kayne West is the best example around right now. His deal with Adidas for the production of Yeezys and the launch of his clothing label showed again that the same people willing to drop serious money on sneakers would do it for clothing too. The demand for Yeezy’s has been on the increase since the past years, with the fashion world going head over heels for the Ye’s designs. Seeing Cher in a pair of Yeezys and an Off-White hoodie shows just how far the reach is.
Lil Yachty becoming the creative director of Nautica. Virgil Abloh rising up from Kanye West protegé to design icon. Supreme collaborating with Louis Vuitton, a company that had once sued them for using their logo. Within the last couple of years, everything coming out of high fashion is taking its cues from streetwear and, even further, from the hip hop artists who were instrumental in making it.