“Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip-Hop Style”

Dapper Dan
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Who am I? Born in the Bronx 50 years ago, I’ve gone through many style evolutions and revolutions, but I’m still loud and more in your face than ever. Are we doing JLO again? No, it’s hip-hop itself that’s having a moment!

Beau McCall
Photo by Laurel Marcus

What with the recent opening of the Universal Hip-Hop Museum (in the Bronx, right next to Pizza Studio), a 15-minute Grammy tribute featuring old and new school rappers, much press coverage, and now an exhibition at Museum at FIT opening today through April 23, Hip-Hop style is getting it’s Andy Warhol predicted turn.

The exhibition featuring over 100 pivotal garments and accessories – many worn by celebrities — was curated by Elizabeth Way, associate curator of costume at MFIT, and Elena Romero, journalist and assistant chair of marketing communications at FIT and sponsored by Lee Jeans.

“It was important for The Museum at FIT to organize this exhibition because hip hop — the most influential music genre of our era — has profoundly impacted the fashion world. Furthermore, hip-hop fashion and music are cultural expressions of the African and Hispanic cultural diasporas, which MFIT seeks to amplify as part of our goal to expand the understanding of fashion.”

Dr. Valerie Steele
Photo by Laurel Marcus

Last night’s opening was lit, loud, and logistically challenging – first queuing up to enter a tent outside the museum and then once inside another line for a free jean jacket – thank you @Leejeans #LeeOriginals!

Photo by Laurel Marcus

It was an eclectic mix of the hip-hop world and regular celebs, including Dapper Dan, Misa Hylton, Christopher (CJ) Wallace, Ralph McDaniels, Fern Mallis, Marisol Deluna, Joele Frank, Elenora Kennedy, Lauren Levision, Karen Eckhoff, Brennan Lowery, April Walker, General Steele, Kid Freeze (Clemente Moreno), Ernie Paniccioli, Eric Eremita, Brue & Shara McHayle, and of course FIT’s own Dr. Valerie Steele.)

Left: Crystal Cipparuolo, Gucci Soho Store Director, Marilyn Kirschner

“Hip hop style has evolved significantly since 1973, when Clive Campbell, known as DJ Kool Herc, used turntables to create breakbeats and rapped over them, marking the birth of hip hop. Style is one of the most critical and far-reaching aspects of hip hop culture and extends far beyond baggy jeans, sports jerseys, and gold chains,” as the press release says.

Photo by Laurel Marcus

Looks featured within the exhibit were worn and made famous by artists such as Missy Elliott (although not her garbage bag lewks, unfortunately), LL Cool J, Cardi B, Chance the Rapper, Lil Nas X, Chuck D, Aaliyah, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,

Photo by Laurel Marcus

and includes designs by Dapper Dan, April Walker, Cross Colours, Karl Kani, Sean John, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Versace. This also marks the first time a music genre was the inspo and subject for an MFIT exhibition.

Dapper Dan outfits
Photo by Laurel Marcus

So how did attendees interpret this challenging dress code? You had some old-school types with oversize African-inspired colorful clothing and interesting wigs or head scarves. There were eye-popping gold chains and medallions, although none as cool as the Gucci x Dapper Don necklace on display.

From left: Tiff Baira, Isabella Serrani, Adrien Lesser, unknown, Antoine Gregory, Lizzie Asher, Asiah James, & Maleke Glee, Cassandria Printo
Photo by Laurel Marcus

There were shearling coats, Kangol hats, Adidas tracksuits, huge goldtone shrimp earrings, graffiti here and there, and the most coveted accessory – the Buick-sized boom box.

White girls doing hip-hop
Photo by Laurel Marcus

Some missed the mark, looking more like an aging “Happy Days” extra in a varsity jacket, jeans, and uncool sneakers (not gonna name names), and some white girls trynna pull off rapper chic — perhaps better cast as walk-ons for “Legally Blonde.”

Laurel Marcus
Photo by Robert Di Mauro

I decided against the more “street” silver leather metallic bomber jacket and pleather joggers in favor of a more refined hip-hop style. Since many hip-hoppers are designer label and logo devotees (Dapper Dan made a whole career of this), my recently (resale acquired) ginormous Gucci pearl studded belt had its debut,

Valerie Steele, Dapper Dan & Harriot Cole
Photo by Laurel Marcus

cinching in a plaid Norma Kamali jacket, giant vintage “pearl” earrings and a pair of too large (size 11!) tacky pearl encrusted Moschino boots recently “liberated” (as my dad used to say) from the discount haven Saks Off Fifth.

Dress worn by Megan Thee Stallion
Photo by Laurel Marcus

While hip-hop may not be my first choice for listening — the excessive, often misogynistic NSFW lyrics and deafening incessant beat can get “up in my grill” I have to say I’d probably choose it over whatever kind of sick devil-worshipping Satanic cult Sam Smith’s Grammys appearance (introduction by Madonna, brought to you by Pfizer) and disgusting music videos are promoting.

Jewelry and accessories
Photo by Laurel Marcus

I do not believe that the Balenciaga (BAALenciaga) scandal was a one-off – clearly, this is how corporate America plans to “move the goalposts.” Speaking of goalposts, can’t wait to see what kind of provocation (wardrobe-wise and otherwise) we’re in for during new mom RiRi’s halftime Super Bowl show. Is it too much to hope that it fits “under the umbrella ella ella” of relatively good taste?

Recent Comments:

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

  1. The pulsing center of hip-hop style in 1982-83? The Conde-Nast mailrooms, where the bike messengers carried the fresh new look through the back door into the center of the fashion world.

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