It’s February 2022 and I open a Google doc to write the introduction for this article only to be overwhelmed with nostalgia. Why? Because 90s hip hop fashion isn’t only about the fashion trends in the 90s but also about the music stars who graced the scene— even the ones we lost.
Apart from producers of these fashion items, we have these hip-hop music stars to thank for their spread.
Luxury fashion brands were quick enough to see an opportunity in this. Their partnership with top musicians then was more or less an unconscious attempt at putting these items in our faces.
And we gulped them hungrily since we loved these stars who taught us how to dress better according to the 90s standard.
We’ll reminisce on the 90s hip-hop fashion trends in this post. Get ready. You just may feel nostalgic like me. Because you’ll not only look back in time to the days when you were younger.
You’ll also see your favorite stars whom all you have left of them are nothing but their music and photos.
Let’s dive in.
A Sneak Peek in Hip-Hop Fashion
This music genre originated in the 1970s in New York as a cultural exchange between the black community, Latin Americans, and Caribbean Americans.
Ever since then, it’s expanded to include sub-genres and fashion styles, transcending beyond the 70s to even the 21st century.
The 90s hip-hop is one of the iconic moments in the fashion and music industry.
It saw the hip-hop genre rise to recognition as different solo artistes and music groups enlivened the stereo with rap verses and RnB songs.
Soon, this became a movement of young talented black music enthusiasts. Female artistes like Aaliyah, Eve, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim, etc., and male artistes like Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Jay Z, Tupac, Dr Dre, Puff Daddy, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, etc., became brands of their own.
With their music and personal style, they carved a fashion identity that lasted through the decade. Even now, more than two decades later, we still see some of these trends on the runway and streets.
They make up the typical streetwear outfits you know.
Although this style was initially adopted by a marginalized society, later on, it became mainstream as even whites rocked these fashion items.
Furthermore, top brands like Puma, Adidas, and the likes weren’t left out as they incorporated the hip hop aesthetic into their designs. Thus winning the hearts of both the stars and their fans.
To some, 90s hip hop fashion rings a bell of thuggery and gangsterism. To others, it’s an expression of the self within and a trip to a rhythmic lyrical era of the past.
Now, let’s go back in time to see the fashion items the music and fashion industry shoved down our faces just a few years before the 21st century began.
Fashion Trends that Graced the Hip Hop Industry in the 90s
If you check, you’ll see most of these trends are still en vogue. And that’s to prove that fashion is a game of recycling.
Nothing ever goes out of style. If they do, our able designers and style influencers will always repurpose them and bring them back renewed.
Below are some of the 90s hip hop fashion trends that’ll make you miss those days:
1. Baggy Clothes
When you take a walk down memory lane to the 1990s, what comes to your mind?
Mine is everything baggy.
And that’s because we saw a lot of baggy outfits in the 90s. From oversized jeans to baggy pants, and even T-shirts, oversized fits and long silhouettes ruled the 90s.
If you doubt, head to youtube and watch a music video produced back then. You’ll see for yourself.
This trend came as a result of poor kids wearing hand-me-downs gotten from older siblings. So, if you wore a baggy tee or pants then, you gave a bully the impression you had an elder sibling who got your back.
Oversized clothes became a wardrobe staple peculiar to the 90s. Fashion designers recognize this and still churn out baggy clothes reminiscent of those days.
For example, French fashion house, A.P.C, which Kanye West collaborated with in 2013 included an oversized white t-shirt in their capsule collection. They named it the “Hip-hop T-shirt”
When you see a bandana tied around the head, which 90s musician comes to your mind?
As Royal Bandana wrote, the late rapper wore his bandana on his head in three different ways:
- as an inverted headband
- with a knot protruding from the front on his head
- knotted to cover the whole of his hair.
Bandanas were the signature hair accessory of the 90s. They still are in vogue today, although more popular among women.
Denim never goes out of style. They’ve been in the picture for as long as you can remember. From jeans to (cropped) denim jackets and dungarees, denim has always been the signature street style outfit.
And gangsta rap artistes like Tupac and Eazy-E of N.W.A, further owned the style by pairing their jeans with oversized denim jackets for a coordinated look.
These denim overalls were also a thing in the 90s. Prior to this time, it was an outfit associated with farmers. But when music stars and celebrities rocked them, dungarees became an urban style staple.
5. Bucket hat
LL Cool J popularized his trend during the 80s and it stuck, gaining more grounds in the 90s.
Bucket hats have endured till this day. Even the stylish Nigerian musicians you know and random fashion enthusiasts still rock them like never before.
These were the usual streetwear co-ords back then. And brands like Fubu, Adidas, Puma, Nike, etc., were the regular names that followed this trend.
Artiste like Diddy added class to the tracksuit with Sean John, his fashion company. We also saw some made with ornate details and flamboyant fabrics like velour and silk.
Since tracksuits are easy to wear, they gave off a message that so long as you wore a matching jacket and pants, you had no need to dress up again.
However, these days, people seldom wear the jacket and pants of their tracksuits at the same time. Some prefer to pair the pants with a white tee.
7. Plaid Flannel Shirt
Wanna wear one item that has multiple colors? Go for the flannel shirt
Whether plaid or checkered this shirt was the regular option if you needed a break from t-shirts.
Some even wore it to layer their tees as they complemented each other.
Flannel shirts are still in the fashion scene. They are multifunctional as you can rock them to layer your outfit and keep you warm when the weather is cold.
8. Baseball Jersey
I remember seeing this jersey in almost every hip-hop music video and movie produced in the 90s.
You can still find them in the market. But they aren’t as trendy as they were back then when you were much younger (or weren’t even born).
9. Crop Top
This reminds me of Janet Jackson and her love for crop tops mostly paired with low-rise baggy pants.
It was the regular combo then as even late Left Eye (Lisa Lopes); Aaliyah, the princess of RnB and the likes, rocked this outfit.
It seems this was the signature footwear of Notorious B.I.G. Though it was made with construction workers in mind, these shoes became the fave among hip-hop enthusiasts.
Apart from Biggie Smalls, other hip hop and R&B artistes such as Nas, Aaliyah, Tupac, and others of the 90s wore this footwear.
Gangsta rap artistes like Tupac, Biggie, and Das EFX wore camo. It added this feeling of fierce masculinity to street style. And that’s the essence of military-inspired fashion.
As My Black Clothing wrote:
“Camo has been a mainstay of streetwear for as long as anyone can remember, and the same is true of hip-hop. In the early years, rap group Public Enemy complemented vocalist Chuck D’s politically-charged raps about the struggles of life as a black person in America with military uniforms in a grayscale woodland camo pattern, signifying their status as soldiers of America’s urban warzones.”
12. Puffer jackets
Puffer jackets became a fad during the 1990s. Lovers of this jacket adorned themselves in it during the winter.
They’ve been reinvented to include new silhouettes, prints, and patterns to suit the cold season.
13. Cargo Pants
If you watched the Video Music Awards of the 90s, then you’d be familiar with Cargo pants. This spacious wardrobe staple is common among both sexes as stars like the Spice Girls, TLC, Aaliyah, etc/, wore them often.
14. Air Jordans
This was another footwear popular in the 90s— all thanks to Michael Jordan’s collaboration with Nike.
When the sneakers became a rave, Nike was quick enough to leverage it and release the Air Jordan line.
It wasn’t just something for basketballers. It was a fad among hip hop lovers too.
15. Gold Blings
Celebrities like Tupac, B.I.G, and others wore these blings like a signature accessory.
They were mostly gold with outrageous prices and fanciful pendants.
The 90s also had some popular streetwear brands like Fubu, Wu-Wear, Cazal, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren Polo, etc., rule the scene. And women’s makeup was subtle yet accessories extravagant.
For hairstyles, cornrows were very common then as both black men and women racked it.
But there’s a funny thing about the 90s hip hop fashion trends: Nigerians called them funny names and thought they were the actual names.
Wanna know some of the funny names Nigerians called 90s fashion? Go ahead and read our post about it. You just may be guilty of one.