Let us get it out here first: there is no exact way to describe “urban fashion.” For some, the term means hip-hop-inspired fashion. It is just what is hot for others in the city and the clubs. Many individuals consider urban style to be whatever young people wear. There is real history, though, of what is now called urban fashion.
- Where did ‘Urban Fashion’ start?
Women preferred to wear shorter skirts and peep-toe shoes in the ‘Jazz Age’ of the 1920s, suitable for dancing the Charleston and other showy moves in dance halls. World War I had just finished, and while jazz music took off, the stricter styles of the 1800s started loosening up for males and females. Men’s suit designed relaxed and became more decorative informality. Footwear for men got fancier, and among urban dwellers, new standards of style were set.
In the 1940s, with zoot suits, urban styling for men reached its height, an epitome of style for many groups because they took so long to tailor and were costly to produce. Said to be made by a Chicago trumpeter, these wide-legged suits were popular with men, including Malcolm X, who followed music at the time.
- Hip-Hop Begins
However, after the United States entered World War II, urban music-related fashion slowed down a bit but was revived in the 1970s, especially after hip-hop art forms originated in the South Bronx in New York City. In the ’70s, popular fashions embraced bathing suits, big hair, hippie-chic style. And plenty of polyesters. But their technique was front and center as hip-hop artists started having a following.
Sports brands like Nike and Reebok continue to be featured in urban fashion; sneakers continue to be a style staple for men and women alike and are popular with trendy hip-hop artists. With their appearances in music videos and on TV shows, other rising celebrities introduced East Coast urban fashion to the country’s rest. Will Smith rapped as The Fresh Prince until he became better known as an actor, and his baseball caps and preference for bright colors influenced many fashion trends.
Groups such as Salt-n-Pepa, which used jeans, leather, and sports jackets in their designs, influenced female movements. Later on, with their baggy skirts, cropped t’s and bra tops, edgy hairstyles, and outspoken lyrics, TLC inspired female fashions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, women’s styles included bodysuits, baggy jeans, overalls, baby T-shirts, and Doc Martens-all female artists’ favorites, including TLC, Da Brat, Yo-Yo, and Queen Latifah.
Urban fashion became known to a broader audience in the ’80s and 90s, while rap music became popular, and music videos were launched on television by MTV.
Urban fashion became much less established in the 2000s than in the past. Hip-hop, rap, and R&B artists are no longer the only influences on subculture trends, and many members of online forums writing about urban fashion and culture suggest that urban style is influenced by a feeling and can take on many different appearances. We wear and when we wear it has relaxed and evolved over the last 100 years, and our sources of inspiration have grown to include much more than just good music.