Hip-Hop and Fashion: Reference Cultures par Excellence

Hip-Hop and fashion are closer now than ever before. A$AP Rocky is treated like a big fashion icon, Kanye West is selling tons of clothes and sneakers, “Gucci Gang” has been a catchy song since 2017 and Virgil Abloh, who has become well-known as a creative consultant for rappers, is now the new chief designer for Louis Vuitton’s men’s line. Hip-Hop forms fashion and fashion forms Hip-Hop – like a river a riverbed and vice versa. But how could it go so far that Hip-Hop, which became overly popular in 90s fashion through pants that are too wide (and low), has become fashionably relevant all of a sudden?

The birth of Hip-Hop was in the discos in New York. On alleged disco tracks, the part of the song after the beat drop was prolonged through special DJ techniques, so that you could dance for a longer period of time. Nowadays, it’s not just disco instrumentals that are being rapped in music studios, but more beats from all different music directions. So, Kendrick Lamar’s “To pimp a Butterfly” is an ode to an African-American culture and conveniently uses Jazz or Soul rhythms. Fashion masters the so-called referencing just as well. Gosha Rubchinskiy for example often references the Russian raver scene of the 90s. The theme is thus not the African-American culture, but the post-communist youth culture. Through referencing the vision is brought to life.

Since there is little to earn in a world full of streaming services, it’s very important to remain relevant in terms of media. Music is only a partial component of Hip-Hop. Just like online presence is. Since you present yourself as a type of art figure on the World Wide Web, the appearance is also an art figure there. Whoever is fashionable at the same time is, in a broader sense, referencing the fashion to convey how hip he or she and their art actually is. That Kayne West and A$AP Rocky were both sighted wearing the exact same Alyx bag, shows how up-to-date the rap scene is when it comes to fashion. On the other hand, Hip-Hop is accepted and included in fashion through its own aesthetic. So, for example, the cult brand Helmut Lang collaborated with rapper Travis Scott, as did the long-standing tradition house Versace with 2Chainz.

What does this mean for us fashion enthusiasts? Do we, in order to be hip, have to walk around like some rap star? No, because that would mean that we missed the point. In our fashion, we can turn to unknown elements and embed them in our style. Reference them. Like Hip-Hop does with fashion and fashion does with Hip-Hop. That’s the only way to show different sides of ourselves.