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What is Hip Hop Clothing?

Janis Adams
Janis Adams

Beginning in the late 1970s the hip hop culture emerged, bringing with it a distinct style of dress. This style of clothing was and continues to be a reflection of the social statement the music from which it hails represents. The popularity of hip hop clothing is seen to cross many cultural barriers while continuing to challenge what is considered the norm. Since its emergence, the popularity of this clothing has transcended the African-American urban movement from which it began and is now recognized for its global popularity, though it is still credited as being a style with entirely American origins.

In the early 1980s when hip hop clothing started to make a place for itself in the world of fashion, the choice wardrobe piece was a name-brand track suit. Favored in bright hues, the style dictated that they be worn in large sizes and not be form fitting. The accessories most commonly worn with this ensemble were large sunglasses called Cazals, along with heavy jewelry and chains. Adidas sneakers saw a climb in popularity at this time, as this was the choice sneaker, as well as the brands of Kangol and Pro-Keds.

Large sunglasses were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
Large sunglasses were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.

As the early 1990s appeared, hip hop clothing became a bit more mainstream than it had originally been. This style was becoming increasingly popular with the youth. Not only was the popularity of the style invading many high schools, but it was also seen on runaways of the high fashion world. It was also during the 1990s that big-name designers began to markedly include hip hop clothing in their lines. Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren, among many others, featured distinctly hip hop designs. At this time, the look became decidedly more dressy, including double-breasted suits and silk shirts as part of the hip hop style of the time.

Adidas sneakers were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
Adidas sneakers were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.

This decade also marked the break from clothing styles that were similarly worn by both men and women. Up until this point, hip hop clothing for both men and women was characterized by over-sized garments, big pants, and flannel shirts. As of the 1990s, men were seen in looks that hearkened back to Al Capone and other well-known gangsters. Women's clothes were now trending toward a more feminine and glamorous feel. Hip hop clothing truly had become a mainstay in fashion.

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Discussion Comments


I had no idea that Adidas shoes were considered hip hop clothing! I had a few pairs of Adidas when I was in middle school back in the late 1990s. I loved those shoes and wore them all the time! And I must say, I'm as far from a hip hop person as you can get.

I guess it just goes to show that different items can become different types of clothing based on who is wearing them and how they are worn. I hardly think my middle school outfit of jeans, a t-shirt, and Adidas would count as a hip hop outfit!


@JessicaLynn - While it may be a bit poser, we live in a free country and anyone can wear whatever kind of clothing that they want to. So I say if someone wants to wear hip hop clothing, even if they aren't "involved in the culture," go for it! It's not going to hurt anyone! (It may make the wearer look a bit ridiculous though, but that's a whole other topic.)

Anyway, I think if you want to wear hip hop clothing and look unique, there are a lot of possibilities. Instead of shopping at places that buy wholesale hip hop clothing, try smaller boutiques that are a bit choosier with what they sell. You can also shop online auction sites for one of a kind pieces.


I think that both men's hip hop clothing and womens hip hop clothing are pretty mainstream these days. I mean, you can even find it a Walmart and other places like that.

I actually think this it's a little weird that it is so mainstream though. I can understand wanting to wear hip hop clothing if you're involved in hip hop culture somehow. You know, as a dancer or a DJ or a rapper or something like that. But I feel like it's a little bit "poser" to dress up in hip hop clothing if you aren't part of the culture.


@animegal - There are some really great underground hip hop clothing lines you can buy online if you know where to look. I think that if you search for urban clothing you'll come across some great sites.

Some of my favorite places to buy hip hop clothes online are Underground Hip Hop and Sturban, which is based out of the UK. I find hip hop clothing in the UK is really stylish, especially if you are looking for something like London streetwear.

As far as specific brands go, I would check out Street Level Nine and King Apparel. They have a great variety of stuff as far as men's hip hop clothing goes, so I imagine they will have women's stuff too.


Can anyone recommend some really great hip hop clothing websites?

My friends and I have started going to a hip hop dance class and we're interested in buying some hip hop clothes for girls for our lessons and the performances we'll eventually be doing.

We've been watching a lot of music videos and we haven't really seen any of the more fashionable hip hop clothes in our city. I suppose it is because our city is a bit small, so I think we'll be stuck with shopping online. Plus, we're pretty sure that the selection online will be a bit cheaper than if we were to go into an actual store.


I liked 80s hip hop clothing much more than the hip hop style of today. It used to be about colorful jackets and t-shirts and baseball hats worn backward or to the side. Pants were still normal and fit well. Just look at Will Smith in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. There are still re-runs on TV.

Hip Hop clothing in the 80s was about being comfortable, stylish and getting noticed. I think it was fun. I don't find the hip hop clothing of today much fun. It's pretty different than how it started out. Some things like the hats and heavy jewelry remain, but it's gone from being 'hip' literally to a 'gangster' style. The colors are also very neutral, very boring. I prefer the 80s hip hop style to this any day.

What do you think?


@perdido, @ddljohn-- Yea, oversized, baggy and low-rise jeans have become the fashion symbol of hip hop culture.

I thought that hip hop culture and clothing was specific to the West but I realized that it's spread much farther than that when I visited Japan. Japanese teenagers are so into hip hop culture and clothing. It's a huge trend there. They not only listen to and dance to hip hop, but they've also adopted the dress style as well.

When I was in Tokyo, I saw not just boys, but also girls wearing really large pants and shirts and big metal necklaces and rings that many hip hop artists in the US wear. Not to mention sneakers and the short hairstyles too. Urban hip hop clothing is more like global teenager clothing now.


When I think of hip hop clothing, the first thing I think of is over-sized jeans that are so far down on the hips that a part of the boxers is always seen and the person wearing them has to keep pulling them up to prevent it from falling to the ground.

I remember this trend started among boys in my high school and it was very common when I was in college. It's called hip hop clothing but most people who wore them didn't really do hip hop music or dancing. It was more of a fashion trend, along with certain way of talking, walking and moving that made you "cool."

I guess by this time, we were well beyond the phase when girls also had very specific "hip hop clothing." The girls in my college who hung out with boys who wore hip hop clothing looked very beautiful and girly. They didn't have over-sized clothes or large jewelry and accessories. So I think that hip hop wear now is more for guys than girls.


I know that baggy jeans are considered a type of hip hop clothing. Are low-rise jeans also hip hop?

I just wonder, because both types are worn low. It seems like they would be related.

I heard that the low rise trend was started by a fashion forward singer who got tired of struggling to button her jeans. She cut off the entire waistband and just zipped them up. It caught on and spread like wildfire.

I believe this singer was considered part of the hip hop industry. However, I have seen the jeans worn by many people with different styles of dress.


@shell4life – I also buy a lot of cheap hip hop clothing. I have to accessorize, and most of these stores carry hip hop jewelry and nail polish, as well.

I love big, chunky necklaces and long, dangly earrings. The shinier they are, the better.

As far as my nails go, I never paint them pink or red. I buy colors to match my wardrobe. I love purple, blue, green, and anything outstanding. I also love to do designs with my polish.

If you are going to make hip hop your style, I say go all the way. Don't just stop at the clothing. Accessories are essential to the overall look.


It amazes me how inexpensive some hip hop clothing is. I know of three hip hop clothing stores in my town that sell lots of it for under $20.

I have always loved vibrant, glamorous clothing, and I was so glad when this came in style at an affordable price. The clothes are not ordinary, and you won't blend into the crowd when you wear them.

I don't feel right spending lots of money on clothes, so stores like these are my favorite. I haven't had problems with the quality of the material. Clothing I've bought at these places has lasted just as long as expensive garments.


I bought some silk capris in the 90s that could be considered hip hop. While wearing them out one day, a woman in obvious hip hop clothing approached me and said she loved them, and she asked where I got them.

They were olive green and shiny. They were so soft that wearing them felt like wearing a slip.

Like cargo capris, they had pockets and drawstrings at the hems. Even the pockets were silky, though. These were super feminine.

I felt a tad conspicuous in them, though. I had to remember to wear underwear made to prevent pantylines from showing through, or the outline would be very apparent.

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    • Large sunglasses were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
      By: Kaponia Aliaksei
      Large sunglasses were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
    • Adidas sneakers were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
      Adidas sneakers were commonly worn with hip hop clothing in the 1980s.
    • Hip hop clothing commonly consists of over-sized garments.
      By: Nikita Buida
      Hip hop clothing commonly consists of over-sized garments.