Long before today's sneakerheads were lining up to cop a pair of Kanye's limited edition Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 (in select stores Saturday), many young people would measure how “hip” or not someone was simply based on the way they rocked the fat laces on their Adidas Superstar shell toes.
When filmmaker Sacha Jenkins (author of Piecebook: The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers) decided to make Fresh Dressed, a documentary that explores the intersection of hip-hop music, identity politics and fashion, he included anecdotes like these to drive home the depths at which the artists — and the sounds they pioneered — informed the “fresh” aesthetics and identity of their fans from the onset of the genre.
“Being fresh is more important than having money. The entire time I grew up … I only wanted money so I could be fresh!” Kanye, the rapper-turned-fashion designer, shares in the film.
Here are more eye-opening facts we learned about the polarizing musical style’s influence on fashion trends and self-expression all over the globe:
1. “Your clothes are your wings “ — Nas
If your goal was to use self-expression and artistry to transform your life, it made sense to want to look “fly.” In the film, Nas shares how the styles of the late ‘70s and early '80s hip-hop “street guys” took streetwear — and luxury — clothing brands “to the next level” through inspiring each artist and fan’s personal narrative.
This helps to explain why so many clothing brands are name-checked in hip-hop songs (from Christian Louboutin in “For the Money” by Fabolous feat. Nicki Minaj, to Versace in “Versace” by Drake, to Gucci by 2 Chainz in “Feds Watching,” and more). Gucci is the most mentioned hip-hop brand in history, according to picclick.com.
2. In Living Color and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air brought hip-hop fashion to the mainstream
While Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren certainly profited from the aspirational looks rocked by hip-hop fans, new designers who weren’t favored by “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” were also emerging who leveraged exposure on national television and in films to reach the masses.
Cross Colours, started by Carl Jones — a black fashion executive in California — was inspired by young hip-hop fans in New York City wearing baggy clothes on the subway. Soon after Cross Colours became a part of popular music, film and tv celebrities’ wardrobes, hip-hop inspired streetwear culture was spotted in the white middle class suburbs and beyond.
3. Hip-hop fashion is how many international fans relate to the music
“I’ve seen the influence of hip-hop fashion all over the world,” Pusha T says in the film. For many fans in Japan and around the globe, the “old school” look is attractive for its connection to the birth of hip-hop. “They don’t just listen to it, they embody it,” says Pusha T.
Learn more hip-hop fashion facts in the Fresh Dressed documentary below!