How Hip-Hop took over High Fashion

Words by Karan Teli

Whether you admit it or not, rappers are the current trend setters. What brands Travis Scott, Playboi Carti or A$AP Rocky are wearing is almost as relevant as their music. I said almost. Fashion in Hip-Hop has come a long way from baggy NBA jerseys and Air Force Ones to custom made Givenchy and Balmain jackets designed for rappers to wear to the Met Gala.

It started with 2Pac. Gianni Versace described 2Pac as ‘the most beautiful man in the world’ and said its an ‘honour’ for 2Pac to wear Versace. So much so, that Versace used to make custom clothes and send them to 2Pac for free. 2Pac was the first rapper to dive into the high end fashion world. Rappers before him only wore brands like Nike, Reebok and Adidas. His influence is undeniable and he was the first to admit it in Hit Em Up where he boastfully told P. Diddy and Biggie Smalls ‘Now its all about Versace, you copied my style.’ 2Pac was so influential for high-end fashion and Hip-Hop that in 1996 he actually walked the runway in a Versace fashion show.

Before he could even make a stamp on high-end fashion like we know he would have, 2Pac was murdered. But the blueprint he created for high-end fashion and Hip-Hop was followed by all those after him. Rappers wore the latest Armani and Versace suits in their music videos. This was until 1999 when P. Diddy created ‘Sean John Clothing’ and Jay-Z created ‘Rocawear.’ This wasn’t a collaboration between fashion brands and rappers. This was 2 of the predominant figures in Hip-Hop creating their very own clothing line and being successful with it.

This was the trend throughout the early 2000s. Rocawear was particularity huge. Baggy clothes and big chains were still in style. Pharrell was on the other side of fashion, bringing streetwear brands like BAPE into Hip-Hop, but that’s a post for another day. But then in 2004 when his debut album dropped, Kanye West came into the spotlight. With his Ralph Lauren polo and his Louis Vuitton backpack. So one of the biggest rappers at the time dressed nothing like anybody else, wore brands that nobody else even looked at and made music that had a whole new sound.

Since then Hip-Hop has never looked back. Baggy clothes is virtually non-existent in Hip-Hop culture. High-End fashion was in. Other rappers followed the trend Kanye created, and then the fans of the genre followed. We have now reached a point where high-end fashion brands are name dropped by just about every artist, bragging about the latest Raf Simons and Rick Owens. High-end fashion designers began to see the influence Hip-Hop was having in culture and quickly saw the artists that were having the largest impact, and before we knew it, all our favourite rappers were having their own custom made clothes or collaborations with high-end fashion designers. Not to mention now at every fashion show there is always a relevant artist in Hip-Hop sitting front row. 

A$AP Rocky came into the game braggadociously talking about the high-end clothes he wore and then less than 2 years later in 2013, released his own shoe with Adidas and fashion designer Jeremy Scott. Every piece of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch The Throne tour merchandise was custom made Givenchy by Ricardo Tisci and every piece of Kanye’s Yeezus Tour was custom made Maison Margiela. 

High-end fashion is just about everywhere in Hip-Hop now. Whether its Jay-Z having an entire arena of rap fans screaming ‘I DON’T POP MOLLY I ROCK TOM FORD’, Young Thug naming his song Givenchy, Kanye West having us all asking our friends ‘WHAT’S THAT JACKET, MARGIELA?’  or the many collaborations between high-end fashion and Hip-Hop, it really is everywhere. Pharrell collaborated with Monclear, A$AP Rocky recently collaborated with Guess Jeans, Kanye West collaborated with A.P.C in 2013. All these collections sold out within minutes. The popularity of high-end fashion in Hip-Hop culture is at an all-time high and it just continues to grow.

In 2016 alone we had; Kanye West’s Yeezy Season; which had people queuing up for hours to spend over $2000 on ADIDAS, which didn’t even had 3 stripes. Rappers have changed fashion so much that the most popular Adidas shoe in recent history (Yeezy Boosts) don’t even have 3 stripes on the side. And we love them. We’ve had Beyonce’s full album-length video for Lemonade where she is wearing Roberto Cavalli, Yeezy, Gucci and Givenchy. And it wasn’t her that went on social media to brag about the designer clothes she wore. It was the designers themselves who went on social media, to let everybody know that Beyonce was wearing their clothes. Iconic. We’ve had people like Kendrick Lamar, Fetty Wap, Young Thug and Frank Ocean star in Calvin Klein adverts alongside supermodels like Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid. Legendary. We’ve had Travis Scott and Vic Mensa model for Alexander Wang. And now, Kanye West is the poster boy in the new ‘MUSIC MEETS FASHION’ Balmain campaign, for the second year in a row. Hip-Hop really has taken over the world of high-end fashion. And it won’t be giving it up anytime soon.


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