The 90s was the era when hip hop gained the most popularity, both in music and fashion. By the 90s, it was very clear that hip hop wasn’t just a music genre but also a fashion trend. Throughout the 90s, some people were still curious about the newly emerging hip-hop fashion, while others had already adopted the fashion trends.
During the late 80s and early 90s, hip-hop fashion was influenced mainly by the hip-hop artists, such as Universal Zulu Nation, De La Soul, Afrika Bambaata, and Brand Nubians. During the 90s, hip-hop fashion was more about educating and empowering the traditional African culture.
Most rappers wore colors that represented African traditions, such as red, green, and black. Moreover, leather bomber jackets, fitted jeans, blousy pants, fitted snapbacks, African medallion, deadlocks, and afros became a major part of hip hop fashion. However, the initial educational purpose of this hip hop fashion trend ended soon as the labels found drugs and money to be more profitable in hip hop music and fashion.
Hip Hop Fashion in the Late 80s and Early 90s
During the late 1980s, Black Nationalism was at its peak as the rap culture was increasingly spreading the word. The hip-hop fashion and hairstyles during the late 80s were more about African traditions and culture.
Dance-oriented rappers such as MC Hammer popularized blousy pants. While others would wear Fezzes (also known as tarboosh – a cylindrical peakless cap) and Kufis (a short, brimless rounded cap worn by North and East African men). These caps were often decorated with Kemetic ankh – an ancient Egyptian symbol of eternal life. At the same time, artists like Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, X-Clan, and KRS-One were promoting the hip-hop fashion trends of Kente cloth hats, dreadlocks, and wearing Black Nationalist colors like green, black, and red.
The hip hop fashion in the early 90s was mostly evolved from the trend of the 80s, as the hip-hop community was still much inspired and influenced by the African culture. However, American culture had also made its way into hip hop fashion by now.
The early 90s hip hop fashion consisted of large pants, bright colors, and headwear. A major example of the early 90s’ hip hop fashion mixed with classic style is Will Smith’s dressing in his debut series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The character was always wearing bright colors and baggy clothes such as throwback jerseys and baseball caps.
The TLC and late R&B artists such as Aaliyah are regarded as the ones who popularized the 90s’ hip hop fashion among women. Women’s hip hop fashion consisted of sports bras, baggy pants, crop tops, and big flannel. These trends were to show the unique concept of their femininity and to clear the fact that it wasn’t necessary to wear tight clothing to show feminine beauty.
Hip Hop Fashion in the Mid and Late 90s
By the mid of 1990s, hip-hop fashion had changed a lot. During the 1930s and 1940s, hip-hop fashion became more inspired by gangster fashion.
After the 1983 remake of Scarface (an American crime drama), Mafioso fashion influenced hip-hop fashion a lot more than expected. Several rappers were seen wearing gangster-inspired clothes, such as double-breasted suits, bowler hats, alligator skin shoes, and silk shirts.
By the mid of 1990s, this gangster-inspired hip-hop fashion had transcended into the R&B world. Both men and women appreciated this hip-hop fashion trend, as the gangster and bad-boy-like style was quite appealing.
Along with other traditional African hairstyles such as afros and deadlocks, Do-rags also became quite famous. By the end of the 1990s, gold was replaced by platinum as a go-to hip-hop accessory material.
Famous Brands and Their Involvement in 90s’ Hip Hop Fashion
During the 1990s, hip hop fashion had developed a lot, and many famous brands and designers were inspired by it. Major fashion names, including Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and DKNY, started creating sportswear that was extremely inspired by hip-hop and urban street styles.
FUBU was the first brand to bring hip hop fashion without any mixing of any other style to the mainstream and started its own enterprise.
Some of the Best Hip Hop Outfits in The 90s
90s hip-hop fashion was an important era in the world of fashion. Following are some of the most famous hip-hop outfits from the 90s.
1. The Snapback Hats
Snapback hats were one of the most famous accessories in the 90s’ hip hop fashion. Their unique design was the reason why they became so famous. It was different from standard hats, as the brim was slightly covered, while the hat itself sat a little higher on the head. The name “Snapback” comes from the ability to adjust it from the snaps at its back. Snapbacks were mostly worn by NBA players, and they were the reason these hats got so popular.
2. Timberland Boots
There is no way that one who loves hip-hop fashion doesn’t know about the famous timberland boots. New York City, its famous artists from the 90s, and the timberland boots go hand in hand. NY artists, including Jay Z, Biggie, Nas, and many more, rocked these shoes during the 90s and made these work shoes a fashion trend. Even today, many people wear these shoes as a fashion statement.
3. The Gold Rope Chain
Gold rope chains were a symbol of 90s hip hop fashion. Initially, only drug dealers or filthy rich people who could afford the outrageous prices wore these chains. But as soon as hip hop music industry became famous and profitable, hip-hop artists started wearing these chains. This was when the gold rope chains were considered a sign of success regardless of the occupation.
4. Oversized T-shirts
From the early 90s till the 2000s, oversized t-shirts and silhouettes were what defined hip hop fashion. One of the reasons behind the popularity of this fashion was most of the poor kids in New York, Chicago, or LA usually wore hand-me-downs from the older siblings, and the fits were usually oversized. Moreover, oversized shirts represented power and shield, which gave it another reason to be famous.
5. The Tommy Hilfiger Outfits
Tommy Hilfiger launched its first hip-hop men’s collection during the 90s, soon after which women’s collection was also launched. Their signature red, blue, and white striped jackets and women’s wear were the go-to brands for hip-hop artists and fans.
6. Denim Wear
Denim jeans are undoubtedly a staple nowadays; however, it was first introduced in punk-rock fashion. Later, it was also a major part of the flower power movement.
During the 90s, brands like Versace, Moschino, Guess Jeans, and Calvin Klein led their denim fashion trends into hip-hop fashion. Moreover, unlike the 80s, denim had now become a fashion trend instead of workwear.
Hip-hop music was one thing that was popular during the 90s; soon after that, hip-hop fashion became mainstream among hip-hop and R&B artists. Hip-hop fashion is still popular among many rappers and fans, and we hope that it will stay like this for a very long time. Hip-hop wasn’t just an innovation in music but also a major fashion trend that lasted longer than expected.