The influence the music industry—and more specifically, musicians—have over the fashion industry is indisputable, and has grown exponentially over the years. Hip Hop has always been a culture that is intertwined with music (and has always been ahead of the curve) but today our favorite rappers are moving from solely street wear to more high fashion adventures.
Almost 10 years ago Kanye West made his first appearance on Def Jam poetry announcing that he was going to be the best dressed rapper in the game. He has certainly made his mark and is arguably responsible for trends both within the hip hop community and popular trends among those not familiar with its cultural origin. The Yeezus merchandise completely transcended culture. The last time we’ve seen people walking around with tour shirts so regularly so long after the show was Guns and Roses shirts from a 1989 tour that they did not actually attend. Almost a year after the tour’s end and Yeezus merchandise is still a fashion staple in many people’s closets, paired with Kanye’s Red Octobers or other Yeezy releases for the lucky ones who have them.
Kanye extends his fashion involvement further through the multitude of Maison Martin Margiela masks he wore for the first half of his shows every night on his infamous Yeezus tour. Mr. West and his wife Kim Kardashian were also just featured as the stars of the Spring/Summer 2015 campaign for Bailman. Though Ye’s influence is increasingly prevalent in our society’s fashion choices, the same has been true—though maybe on a smaller scale—in the past with other musicians and aspects of the music industry.
One could argue that you can tell what kind of music someone enjoys by what they wear. Obviously this is not all-inclusive, but there are certain indicators that relate to the culture of a music genre that can be accurate at most times. Hip hop is one of the most relevant and available examples for its relation to fashion—especially street fashion, and its expansion to high-fashion as of late. Just recently—with mush distaste to many—there were rumors of high fashion designers like Chanel making “urban tie caps” which caused an uproar among communities because it was looked at as a mockery of commonly black fashion accessories among a higher class. Timberlands, which were popularized by rappers within Wu Tang Clan and Gang Starr are also being re-popularized these days throughout the waves of hip hop lovers, but has surpassed that as a fashion staple in many closets outside of those invested in that particular music scene.
Part of the reason for these trends is definitely the transition from musicians just being musicians, and their semi-new role as complete pop culture icons. Tupac and Biggie have become more social figures than musicians, and it has become acceptable for people to tote the rappers on their shirts without knowing more than one or two singles. These rappers have become billboards on shirts supporting East Coast or West Coast pride; Most of the teenagers wearing shirts with the rappers on them today were not even alive during the craze, furthermore proving the fact that fashion is incorporated in music possibly just because people want to be included in a pop culture phase.
Sneaker culture is something that can also be associated with music, which goes further than just lyrics within music about Timberlands or Jordans or a million other brands—which are endless. Rappers like Kanye West, Pusha T, and Kendrick Lamar all have sneaker deals with Adidas and Reebok respectively. This shows the major influence that musicians and the music industry have over culture and just how badly people want to be dressed like their favorite rappers.
If we dissected all of fashion’s different connections to hip hop, I would be here for months and probably still wouldn’t cover everything. Just listing the people surrounding Kanye involved in the fashion industry is exhausting: Ibn Jasper, West’s barber of 20 years, designs for Diamond Supply Co. Kanye’s design partner in company DONDA, Virgil Abloh, has his own line OFF-WHITE. Beyond that, A$AP Rocky has modeled for Calvin Klein, Pharrell has his recent collaborations with Adidas along with merchandise from his own company i am OTHER…you get where I’m going with this. Fashion and hip hop, in many senses, are completely intertwined and each one is a vital part of the other. This collaboration has been good for both music and fashion, and is making each one stay in tune with today’s culture, even driving it at times.