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How hip-hop influences street style and the sneaker world

September 20, 2021 9:00 PM
How hip-hop influences street style and the sneaker world

Whether you're walking around in Kanye's Yeezys, Travis Scott's Dunks or Pharrell Williams' NMDs, all three models have something in common: the influence of hip-hop. Over the years, hip-hop has become a major music movement and dominates much of the current music landscape. The reach of this music genre also translates into today's streetwear and sneaker world.

How it all started

The 70s were characterised by disco music. The funky beats and danceable melodies were contagious and people gathered en masse in the discos to dance. Disco drew its roots from the funk and soul genres and in its own way influenced the next music trend, namely hip-hop.

In New York at the beginning of the 1980s, African-American and Caribbean immigrants came together in the neighbourhoods and street parties were organised. The music took centre stage and disco gained a new brother.

Bronx block parties 1984
Block parties in Bronx 1984 l Foto van Mr Henry Chalfant

In cities like The Bronx, these block parties became a well-known concept and hip-hop soon acquired a more defined meaning. DJs Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore were seen as pioneers in the hip-hop scene and played the first hip-hop beats on their turntables.

The hip-hop of that time cannot be compared to that of today. Many songs did not have vocals or rap verses and consisted mainly of breakbeats. These beats were picked up by 'MCs'. An MC (Master of Ceremonies) was the one who mixed the records together during the DJ's session and hyped up the crowd with his raps.

The B-boys and B-girls

At the block parties in The Bronx and later in more parts of America, the b-boys and b-girls all wore the same brands and outfits. The b-boys and b-girls were the dancers who danced over the beat at the street parties.

An adidas tracksuit and a Kangol bucket hat was typical for the b-boys and girls. Underneath, an adidas Superstar or Puma suede was worn and a common style was created. Wearing a chain over your tracksuit distinguished you from your neighbour.

The b-boys 1980 l Photo by Ricky Flores

The style of MCs and rappers became leading and hip-hop was no longer just about the beats, but also about the style of the person around them. For the real MCs, there was Dapper Dan.

Dapper Dan is a tailor from Harlem who, in the 80s, made tracksuits for brands like Gucci, Fendi and Louis Vuitton. He used the fabrics of these brands in tracksuits and bomber jackets. The combination of sporty outfits and high-end brands made Dapper Dan's tracksuits popular outfits for rappers like Eric B. and Rakim.

Dapper Dan (links) with rapper LL Cool J l Photo by Dapper Dan of Harlem

Run D.M.C.

Rap group Run D.M.C. was a big rap group in 1980. The members wore adidas tracksuits with the Superstars underneath in many of their concerts. After the song 'My adidas' (1986), the first collaboration between a hip-hop group and a sports brand came about. Run D.M.C. signed with adidas and brought street style closer to the hip-hop world than ever before.

Hiphopgroep Run D.M.C. in 1986
The hip-hop group Run D.M.C. in 1986 l Photo by Ebet Roberts

After Run D.M.C., things moved fast. Artists such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West were big artists in the '00s and brought a new fashion movement. Pharrell came up with his own brand 'Billionaire Boys Club' and brought streetwear to the red carpet. BAPE shirts were combined with sneakers and big chains.

Kanye West also showed that hip-hop artists can do more than just rap. His expressive style evolved over the years and together with Nike he released several sneakers including the Nike Air Yeezy 2 'Red October'.

The time of collabs

The last years are marked by the many collabs in the sneaker world. Brands like Nike, adidas and Puma are constantly collaborating with hip-hop artists and releasing one collab after another.

Kanye West has been working with adidas on the Yeezy brand since 2015. A brand that has gained great significance in the sneaker community.

Travis Scott has also released several models with Nike, all of which were a great success. Tyler, the Creator has his own street style brand Golf Wang since 2011 and Eminem collaborated on a Jordan 4 'Encore' (of which there are only 50 copies).

Kanye West samenwerking Yeezy adidas
Kanye West in 2015 start of Yeezy l Photo by Getty Images / Jonathan Leibson

From b-boys to Travis Scott dunks, hip-hop and street style go way back. Check out the release calendar to see which hip hop artists we will see collab on our favourite sneakers in the future. Also follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and drops.