From the early days of hip-hop music, I can’t remember a time when the music industry did not have some effect on urban fashion. From groups like NWA, who’s trademark was black denim jeans and white T-shirts along with baseball caps, up to more current groups like Young Money, out of New Orleans, Louisiana, we constantly see the effects of celebrity styling and music videos as strong foundations of our popular culture; including our attire. In this article, we will look at how the music industry, particularly the hip-hop music industry, influences every aspect of urban fashion.
The need to look like a star.
For as long as there have been moving pictures, we have idolized and sought to emulate our favorite celebrities. We wanted to be able to look like them, dance like them and most importantly, live like them. These people that we see in the limelight, smiling for the cameras, always seemed to be happy and living a charmed life, so we seek to grab a hold to any semblance of that possible. Some have gone to drastic measures, having plastic surgery to make them resemble their favorite celebrity, but most of us will settle for just having the “superstar look.” A large portion of the average urban clothing wearers wardrobe will resemble what they’ve seen their favorite celebrity wearing in concert or on television. With the many outlets in terms of celebrity news stations and music videos, we’re pretty much constantly in tuned to what’s hot.
The MTV generation.
From the time that MTV became a household word, millions of us have grown up under the influence of the music video. We use the music video as a portal to what popular music considers to be hot at the time. This means that through the music video, these celebrities are able to relate to us the hottest new trends in fashion and lifestyle. Fashion designers often use the music video as a way to showcase their latest styles and trends, having the star of the music video show up in their clothing designs, their glasses or their sneakers adds a certain amount of street credentials to the designers wares. Realizing the power of the music video, more and more brands are starting to pay artists to promote their products.
Coming to the reality that they are looked upon as trendsetters when it comes to fashion, more and more celebrities are beginning to establish their own fashion houses and brand names. Early on, meaning not many years ago, most artists in the hip-hop arena would use their performances to brag about expensive brand names that they were wearing. The only problem here was that, in most cases, they were not getting paid to promote these brands, there were simply bragging on how much they could afford to buy at not getting anything in return for the promotion. Then along came smarter more industrious performers, who saw tons of money being left on the table by promoting and extolling the virtues of various brand names in their videos and performances. It was at this point, that subsidized and sponsored video production started to come to life; brands began to pay handsome amounts to be included in the videos of more popular performers.
Of course, the next step in the evolution of the music video as a branding and marketing tool was for the performers themselves (who were the primary focus of viewers and fans) to begin to establish and promote their own brands. This would assure them of having more power and higher earnings from the sales of products that they promoted. Some performers have found a very high level of success in promoting their own brands of clothing and accessories, which they proudly wear and all of their music videos and appearances, now promoting and writing on the virtues of their own brand, while raking in tons of money from licensing everything from clothing to sneakers to interior design pieces.
It has become the norm for in the hip-hop music phenomenon to be a trendsetting movement in urban fashion and lifestyle. It is expected that this trend will continue to grow and expand as we go forward; with hip-hop artists setting the tone for various style points in our lives.