Hip-hop fashion can be traced back in The Bronxareas in New York City where most low-income African-Americans reside. Later on, styles and distinctive elements have been influenced by the scenes in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia among other cities where the hip-hop culture originated. Significant changes in hip-hop styles and trends can be due to such sporadic elements. Today, hip-hop fashion is not only prevalent among African-American youth, as it became popularized worldwide by African-American trendsetters in the entertainment scene.
The roots of hiphop fashion are influenced by Africanism and Black Nationalism of the 80s when most hip-hop artists and rappers don themselves with attire, hairstyle and accessories that reflect traditional African themes. Blousy pants, Kemetic ankh designs on kufis, Kente cloth hats, and red, black, and green clothing reminiscent of the flag of Ethiopia were staples until the early 90s.
The mid-90s paved way to gangsta rap which eventually altered the hip-hop fashion to something that would most identify with the current trends. Baseball caps and starter jackets became the emblem of the new era in hip-hop culture and as if to stick with the gangsta attitude, incidents of theft of expensive starter jackets were reported in the media during that time. The gangsta hip-hop fashion is said to be influenced by the styles of West Coast street thugs and prison inmates. It can be recognized in the fashion sense of Chicano gangsters who are frequently seen wearing baggy and dark denim jeans worn low and sagging without a belt, sporting bandannas on the head while having their bodies painted with black ink tattoos. Other cultural analysts would say that the sagging, baggy jeans style is brought about by the realities in urban poor communities wherein clothes have to be passed down from the eldest member of the family to the youngest sibling to cut on clothing budget.
Hip-hop fashion also plays a major role when it comes to the dichotomy between the urban poor African-American and the ghetto fabulous elites of the high street. Gangsta fashion is still the name of the game but for those who can afford double-breasted suits, bowler hats, silks and alligator-skin shoes, the classic gangster fashion of The Godfather fame is more prevalent than the previously mentioned threadbare attire.
Since the media is more hyped up on the ghetto fabulous fashion, most African-American youth across the States are driven to sport the same expensive attire. Those who could not afford were conveniently catered by counterfeiters capitalizing on the hip-hop fashion craze. Fashion garments piracy worsened when hip-hop became pop during the late 90s.
From being a fashion statement that says a lot about idealism and beliefs, it is now apparent how hip-hop fashion has made a 360 degrees shift to becoming a fashion trend that emphasizes materialism and consumerism among todays youth.