Hip hop has gone through a lot in the past thirty plus years it has existed. From it’s beginnings as an artistic sub culture that started in the inner city of New York in the ’70s, to cementing itself as all-American a genre as jazz, hip hop has transcended borders, colors, religions, and generations. No longer is it the sound of rebellious youth. It is youth that has embraced the music, the culture and language it has brought to the forefront for the masses. Its impact has given us priceless events in popular culture. As it evolved, so did its style.

The notion of hip hop as a solely musical invention is an invalid one. Dance and visual art have influenced the hip hop genre as much as the rhymes and beats applied to it. As music inserts itself onto the population’s ears, so do many other aspects of it. Music and dance, since even before recorded history, have always been married in the most obvious ways. Of course music and dance go together. You can have a fun time with one of them, but your night won’t be a blowout unless both of them are at work. The hip hop revolution began with break dancing which has since heralded many other forms of dancing attributed to the sound. That physical part of it- the dance- was essential in creating an almost euphoric sense that is so very exclusive to hip hop.

After the ’80s gave way to more rhythmic dancing, a far more approachable, less acrobatic dance form incarnated. The hip hop style of dance lends itself to the structure of the clothes worn. Loose fitted at certain angles, yet tight in others, hip hop exploited the curves of women in a way that was defiant and unique. As the ’80s came to a close, nowhere was that shown more certain than on the bodies of the women who were immersed in that culture. The silhouette of the late ’80s/early ’90s was very curvaceous and tight at the bottom, boxy at the top. Also, there was a resurgence of the stretch pant, which to be honest had never really gone anywhere to begin with. It was the hip in hip hop that offered up the most. As the gyrations swayed from side to side, a man’s hands were usually met by spandex. What I love most is that sexy silhouette that grazed so softly yet strongly on the feminine frame. It’s a second skin that allows movement and grace. The geometry of the look is simple: the triangle. It should also be noted that high-waisted shorts and tight t-shirts were also in use. Sort of the flip side of that triangular equation. The urban landscape complimented the architecture of the look. In all it’s bold glory, there was the ease of moving around wildly to beats that still had an optimistic flare to them, before the advent of gangsta rap when we lost all the tight-fitted clothing for women in favor of exaggeratedly baggy clothing and the midriff-baring belly shirts.

The visual aspect of hip hop comes in the form of graffiti. Graffiti by definition is an image or a declaration scribbled onto a public space and examples date back to ancient Rome and Greece. However, the sheer boldness and exuberance of graffiti associated within the hip hop culture is second to none. The way the colors form and patterns become exploited is essential to the look of this very specific section of the hip hop meme. Eventually, graffiti was not seen as a public and urban nuisance, but as an important art form that should be recognized as such. Graffiti artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and (although not entirely hip hop but definitely similar in style) Keith Harring, became a part of an important, tangible art movement.

The colorfulness of the music and art also made its way into the clothing. Not only was it the patterns, but the mixing of them and the sheer audacity of it. The patterns and multi-colored aspect was meant to be seen, noticed and (most importantly) recognized. The crazy, intricate prints became the translation of the chaotic hip hop itself. They were the personification of pulsing beats and heavy bass. It was a way to dress that was deliberately loud and noisy because, like hip hop, it was an expression. The practically vulgar prints called out to be seen just like hip hop rumbled from boom boxes calling out to be heard.

There were also spins on the old classics- something that is, in many ways, essential of hip hop music as a whole. The appropriation of the past is relevant to the look and feel of the fabric. In these looks, yellow plaids mix with other colors and regular nautical stripes get interrupted by a lone star- encompassing what the ever-evolving music genre is all about.

The accessories are- you guessed it!- attention grabbing. The bigger, the bolder, the noisier the better. It is all about standing out and making yourself the center of the universe or the city. It allows you to become loud without actually having to talk. You enter a room before your actually foot does. The jangling of your person gives you a life-of-the-party confident image and, in the late summer as we prepare for labor day, it becomes more and more apparent we need to wake up from the heat. Whether sweating or freezing in the artificial air, the early ’90s hip hop look will keep you fresh.

Until next time, don’t be a stranger but do be stranger. . .

Clothes Purchased at The Village Discount Outlet
Models: Sonya Holmes and Lynn Marie Kummer
Hair and Makeup by Laura Bean

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