Sarah Thornton argues that we should focus on the sense of music, fashion, and language to understand a particular subculture whose members desire to distinguish themselves from the mainstream (Baxter& Marina 2008, p.95)
This article explores one of the subcultural issues: Hip-Hop fashion throughout its cultural development.
Hip hop has been defined as a music genre, including rap music, DJ, breakdancing and entertainment videos and a form of artistic expression such as fashion graffiti and slang. (Henry, West & Jackson, 2010, p.241)
It emerged in New York City in the mid-1970s and progressed successfully through the black community as a medium for expression. Hip-hop offers a clear channel of communication that can carry strong musical and stylistic messages. For example, wearing sagging pants is an act of symbolic resistant reaction toward authority in New Orleans. In other words, black pants worn lower to expose under-garments are a stylistic expression of the African-American youth subculture. (Baxter& Marina 2008, p.101)
Thus, Hip-hop fashion is another method which implies that hip-hop has broadened its boundaries. While the hip-hop fandom was absorbing oneself in the music, the fashion boom ensued.
According to hip-hop’s transforming from a small urban subculture to a mainstream genre, hip-hop fashion became popular in the 1990s. Young generation across America wore baggy pants, oversized rugby and polo shirts, and expensive sneakers. By 2003, hip-hop fashion brands cashed and the urban clothing business clearly has grown as it has moved from the streets to the mainstream. (Greenberg 2007)
Today inner city hip-hoppers wear Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica and Ralph Lauren, using the dress of upper-class ethnic groups; young people between the ages of twelve and twenty, whether they are black, white, Latino, or Asian, all tend to dress in the same hip-hop-influenced styles.
Hip-hop activist William Upski Wimasatt said, “we were talking about changing the world. Now we’re doing it-through community organising, electorial politics, business, media, art and philanthropy. Hip-hop gave us the tools, and now we’re trying to build the house.” (Waters 2007, p.55)
Baxter, VK & Marina, P 2008, ‘Cultural meaning and hip-hop fashion in the African-American male youth subculture of New Orleans’, Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 93-113
Greenberg, J 2007, Hip-Hop’s Fashion Evolution, WWD, vol.193, no.72, pp. 11
Henry, W, West, N & Jackson, A 2010, ‘Hip-Hop’s influence on the Identity Development of Black Female College Students: A Literature Review’, Journal of College Student Development, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 237-251
Mitchell, T 2003, ‘Australian hip hop as a subculture’, Youth Studies Australia, vol. 22, no.2, pp. 40-47
Waters, R 2007, Hip-Hop: A Short History, Mason Crest, Broomall, Pennsylvania