Fashion and music are at a constant intersection with one another. Generations of the likes of 50 Cent, Trick Daddy and even Drake have shifted the boundaries between the identity of hip-hop and the individual persona. Shifting boundaries in industries is easier said than done. What generations of people of colour, hip-hop stars and the majority of those in the limelight have accomplished is beyond awards and trophy cabinets. Influencing societal change through music in regards to masculinity and fashion is a hell of a reward.
Masculine VS Feminine fashion
Men's fashion has been the continuous shadow of women's fashion for centuries. The stereotypes of men and fashion are smart, intelligent and practical rather than that of women which are considered decorative, impractical and pretty. The suit for example is often plain and simple coloured to present an idea of sophistication and order (because men run the world duh.) But in all seriousness, men's fashion is often repressed by men themselves. Impractical characteristics of style and male identity are reluctant to change and as a result of this men's fashion is often toxic. Those who dress out of the norm are judged and pushed out of societies welcoming arms and this is fundamentally why men's attitudes need to change towards fashion and identities.
Fashion & music
Fashion and music are almost perfect partners in crime. They create change, provide historical moments and honour identities and without one there will be no other. Hip-hop fashion has a long drawn out history of appropriation, misunderstanding and its current appreciation. But despite all it has been through there is still a long road ahead. Hip-hop's perfect coordination with fashion comes at a price. Artists placed in the lime-light are constantly judged not only for what they wear but how it presents them. Whether it's Harry Styles on Vogue or Snoop being Snoop there’s always a sense of identity issues when it comes to musical talent.
But despite this, changes and “shocking moments” have been created by artists themselves (thank the lord for good stylists.) The early influence of the likes of Dapper Dan shaped fashion as we know it today. In spite of fashion's efforts to change men's views on fashion and ideas around masculinity not much has changed since the days of the three-piece suits, loafers and middle-class dominance. It's a continuous cycle of what men wear, what men should wear and when they should wear it instead of questioning why and what men really want to wear. A simple notion of ‘is fashion and genderless topic?’ and 'will it follow in the footsteps of Gucci’s seasonless change and ditch tradition completely?’
So what has recently changed?
Yes, we now see brands such as ASOS Collusion holding a new market of ‘unisex’ fashion and challenging gender. The fashions of hip-hop artists seem to be a thing of daily breaking news. Take A$AP Rocky's love for Louis or Kanye West's Yeezy bubble as the perfect example of modern men making the most of fashion. They’re dominating runways, making a path for future generations and leaving an imprint of what men need from fashion. It's no longer a question of can men and particularly rappers make a fashionable impact but when will we be seeing more? What will be changing? Who will it be next?
Rappers and hip-hop artists aren’t peaking through the doors of the fashion world but swinging them open abruptly and unsurprisingly. The impact of this is huge! So far it has created opportunities for men and importantly men of colour in the music industry to express and open themselves to endless possibilities. The fashion industry has never had inviting arms for POC and especially rap artists wanting to enter into the world of creating. Kanye West realised early that the industry was one to “judge a book by its cover.” (Kanye 2004,) and that it would be a struggle for him to be taken seriously and that's exactly what happened. He and many rap artists have tried to change the dynamics of fashion's elusive and exclusive sphere and despite the challenges, Kanye, Pharrell Williams and the likes of Run DMC have changed the forecast for the foreseeable future.
Fashion is without a doubt our second skin and especially an outer layer of our personality/identity. Expressionism isn’t deemed a manly action, but fashion undeniably has changed this. With men wearing impractical suits, heavy armour and dull expressive clothing for centuries, men of the 21st century are capturing their identity slowly but surely through their fashion. First impressions are key and this is why our garments play a huge part in our self and social identity. Certain fabrics, patterns and styles are associated with individual races, genders and social groups throughout the world. The process of wearing and choosing clothing ultimately generates our identities. But for men, clothing can be seen as a tool of historical oppression when it comes to expression and creativity (not much different to women.) It was once a limitation on identity and fitting in now it's a utensil of creativity, equality and difference. Men's fashion still has its toxic sides when it comes to what is deemed as a feminine dress (aka skirts, dresses…) but men's fashion is almost as limitless as womens.
Judgement will always be close when it comes to clothing and the garment world but changes are slowly and surely being made. We’re seeing mountains being moved by hip-hop artists once deemed “too street” “too hood” or “too black” to be taken seriously. We’re experiencing men being expressive when it comes to clothing choices; they're pushing the norms and wearing what they want to wear, rather than what society tells them to. Sure there will always be a sense of “what is made we must wear '' but let's get creative, wear what we make, wear what is too out of the ordinary or too feminine for a man to wear. Because who really writes the rules anyway?