From time to time we like to take a look back to see how much the world has changed, and how it has changed us. It’s eye opening, it’s informative, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
So strap yourselves in kids, because Famous Folks is setting the Way-Back Machine (our Hot Tub Time Machine is in the shop) to a decade that was ‘all that and a bag of chips!’ Next stop: the 1990’s!
The 1990’s were an era of cloned sheep, fighting in the Gulf and collapsing Soviet empires. We mourned the death of a Princess, celebrated the birth of the World Wide Web, and began our long love affair with mobile phones. The 90’s are now seen as a time of upheaval, when the only rule seemed to be: break the rules.
This was particularly true in the world of fashion. Several fashion movements began in the 90’s, such as grunge, 70’s revival, and rave culture. For our purposes however, we’re going to focus on one movement in particular, one that exploded into the mainstream in the 1990’s, having slowly grown from the late 1970’s culture and music scene: Hip hop.
This explosion was sparked by people like Karl Kani, a self-taught fashion designer from Brooklyn, New York, who merged his passions for hip hop music and fashion into unique urban street wear outfits that inspired many designers who followed him. As if in response to the dark, muted colours of the grunge look on the west coast, the 90’s saw hip hop performers such as The Fresh Prince, Kid ’n Play, and Left-Eye Lopez of TLC sporting bright, neon-coloured clothing and baseball caps. The styles were often riotously colourful, with oversized baseball and bomber jackets becoming go-to fashion items for young people in urban areas.
As the decade progressed, more brands started catching on to the fact that hip hop was more than just another musical style, it was a lifestyle, with an evolving, and incredibly dynamic fashion sense all its own. Clothing brands such as FUBU, Adidas, Ecko Unlimited, Mecca USA, Lugz, Rocawear, Boss Jeans by IG Design, and of course Nike (who DIDN’T own a pair of Air Jordans?) arose to capitalize on the market for urban street wear. The buzzword during this time was ‘bling-bling’ (later shortened to bling), created by hip hop artist Lil Wayne. It referred to the opulent, even gaudy jewelry and accessories worn by rappers and hip hop artists of the day.
It’s easy now to look back at the hip hop fashion of the 90’s and dismiss it as a time of excess, but that is missing a fundamental point. (Let’s not even talk about the 80’s.) Fashion in general, and hip hop fashion in particular, is about personal expression. Many rappers and hip hop artists came from low income, sometimes violent backgrounds, and in many ways the colourful clothing and garish lifestyle was a response to that.
More importantly, there is courage in expressing oneself, through music, art or fashion. The trailblazers of the hip hop fashion movement have created styles that are still with us over a decade and a half later. The same cannot be said for Tamagotchi, bleached hair, Furby or (thankfully) the Macarena.
Since the 90’s we’ve seen the rise of hip hop artists such as the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, a Tribe Called Quest and Eminem just to name a few. To say that these artists have had and will continue to have an influence on fashion is an understatement. The cultural impact of hip hop shows no sign of fading away, and that’s fine by us.
Tell us about your fashion memories of the 90s!