The age of people not wearing trousers low has nothing to with the recession – rappers have just got cooler
Debenhams announced last week that the era of kids wearing their trousers around their bottoms had come to an end. They claimed that the fight for work in the saturated job market had resulted in many ‘youths’ quite literally pulling their trousers up. Loosely falling (no pun intended) into this ‘youths’ category, I find this at best presumptuous and at worst incorrect. Since when did the act of work have such as a handle over the world of fashion? The last time I checked global trends were set by the rich and famous – in this case rappers, and these rappers have moved on.
Hip-hop’s fashion has evolved over the years. Starting with brightly coloured neon tracksuits, Kangol hats and the sporting Jheri curls in the Eighties, trends turned more ‘urban’ from the 90s onwards with clothing becoming much darker, baggier and centered around more visible signs of wealth. Saggy jeans were undoubtedly a staple in hip-hop from around the early Nineties and have had a huge influence on popular culture ever since. Whether it was being ridiculed by the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G or endorsed from international popstars such as Justin Timberlake, saggy trousers were a key trend during the Noughties. However, to some extent, quite like Cohen’s satirical fictional character, the trend seems to have retired- or at least subdued.
It is common knowledge that the trend originated from prisoners whose trousers would naturally drop as belts were prohibited to prevent individuals from hanging themselves. Kept strong during the Nineties by rappers such as 2pac, Biggie Smalls and the Wu-Tang Clan, the trend was sustained by the likes of Ja Rule, Eminem and 50 Cent throughout the early Noughties. But quite like gangster rap and soulful R&B, the attempt to look ‘ghetto fabulous’ to a large degree has fallen out of favour, in place of a more ‘bougie’ take on fashion.
We don’t need to look hard to see that rappers have come far more in line with high-end fashion. Harlem born rapper A$AP Rocky has no intention of being a stereotype – he states in his song ‘Peso’, ”Raf Simons, Rick Owens, usually what I’m dressed in / Blowin’ blunts, rollin’ doobies up, smokin’ sections.” Having been the coverstar for fashion magazines such as Dazed and Confused and the French Jalouse, and also named the second best rapper under 25 by Complex, the 23-year-old Comme des Garçons wearing rapper is very influential in popular culture – or at least he definitely plans to be.
If you’re looking for a slightly more well known trendsetter then may I present to you a certain Kanye West, the self-proclaimed ‘Louis Vuitton Don’. The rapper-turned-designer had his first fashion show in Paris earlier this year with attendees including US Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Like A$AP, West is a fan of the pricier avant-garde labels – along with Jay-Z, he wore Givenchy extensively during his Watch the Throne tour.
Although hip-hop is as showy as it was in the Nineties – Kanye infamously raps in his song ‘Cold’, ‘Tell Peta my mink is draggin’ on the floor’ – some of its flashy post-2Pac materialism has been swapped for items with more luxurious fabrics, such as leathers and furs. Hip-hop culture has become more diverse, and although there are still elements from the past – many rappers still wear their trousers low in a symbol of transgression – the status quo has clearly changed with these artists now being invited to hang out with high society.
Moving on from rappers who own the much-coveted high-end swag, even hip-hop artists such as Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator from Odd Future have side-stepped ‘saggy trousers’. Printed vintage short sleeve shirts, skinny jeans, panel caps and Vans skate shoes are the uniform for these artists with their visions branching from a different form of hipsterism. As they possess no desire to resemble LL Cool J wannabes, it’s not surprising that it’s these artists that make it on to various cool lists, rather than the likes of hip-pop artist Flo Rida.
Finally, the idea that people dress the same both in and out of work is simply ludicrous. Even if you’re a freelancer, you dress differently to brave the fiercely cold and scary outdoors. To say the recession has caused individuals to change their fashion sense is an insult to young people’s intelligence. (As if that’s why they’re not employing us)
Like all genres, hip-hop is an art form and a way of life. People take inspiration from it, some undoubtedly more than others. Emulating this cultural gang’s dress sense used to mean your neck may ache and you might have trouble running for a bus. The powers that be have changed the iconography but have by no means made it more accessible. But at least now you can wear you trousers in a comfortable position, because if you’re going to buy designer, you’re going to at least make sure it fits.Tagged in: 50 Cent, eminem, fashion, hip hop, rap, unemployment, Wu-Tang, youth
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter