Evolution, empowerment, tribute, or a "dehumanized-commercialized-pseudo-bastardized-anlgoized version"

Hip-Hop and Hilfiger

These next few images and words look at the hip-hop phenomenon and how it created a multi-billion dollar urban wear market, attracted a massive amount of teen consumers, and perpetuated issues and ideas of "Black culture".

"Madison Avenue has taken notice of rap's entrepreneurial spirit. Tommy Hilfiger has positioned his apparel company as the clothier of the hip-hop set, and he now does a billion dollars a year in oversize shirts, loose jeans and so on." (Time Magazine, 1999)

"Cross Colours has made a name for itself in the $66 billion apparel industry and is poised to become the US' only blacked-owned fashion conglomerate. The hype started with affordable T-shirts and baseball caps, each accompanied by messages like "Stop D Violence" and "Educate 2 Elevate." Hip teenagers latched onto the stuff, which soon showed up on the backs of rappers and sitcom stars. In no time, the MTV generation had cozied up to the urban, ethnic look, which Cross Colours swiftly parlayed into women's fashions and tabletop items. Today, it seems, Cross Colours is stitching itself firmly into the fabric of pop--not just hip-hop--culture. " (Branch)

"Think baggy, think bold, think large. Helping the company to retain its street edge, the Karl Kani (Can-eye) collection--with its signature script logo--is the company's least mainstream group. Launched just a year ago, the pricey line is named for its designer, a 25-year-old Brooklyn native who found his first success in the ad pages of rap magazines, selling his street-tough dud via an 800-number. "We made a statement saying we came from the streets, and people responded," says Kani of his fame. Hot for fall: gargantuan jeans with metal belt loops; long leather vests and multi-striped hooded tops. Coming fall '94: Karl Kani for women. Prices: $32-$1,200. Major retailers; Merry-Go-Round, De Jaiz, Nordstrom." (Branch)

"As compared with other genres, dance music videos contain the most fashion-oriented imagery -- including references to and consumption activities involving clothing, jewelry, lingerie, hairstyles, and make-up. In contrast, classic rock and new wave videos were lower than all other genres in imagery concerning fashion. Although dance videos contained a great deal of fashion-related products, they were lowest in brand appearances. Rap videos contained the most frequent use of a blend of verbal and visual references to consumption. This latter effect suggests that rap lyrics may contain more references to consumption activities than do other genres. Classic rock was not especially distinctive." (Englis and Solomon).


"What defines black? Is black a color? Is being black a state of mind? In the fashion industry black means buying power and designers like Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen have been profiting from members of the African-American community for many years. Black culture has always influenced the designs of well-respected and highly recognized designers like Channel and Jean Paul Gaultier. Tommy Hilfiger began cutting his jeans baggier and Ralph Lauren started making his sweaters brighter. Retailers began categorizing this look as "urban sportswear" or even better "hip-hop clothing." Is that what urban is, oversized jeans and hooded sweatshirts? Is that what defines black, hip-hop clothing?" (Montanez)


Main Street, meet Mean Street. The badass attitude that springs from the pavement cracks sells everywhere these days. At first U.S. corporations flirted uneasily with the styles, music and attitudes of the inner city. But as black urban culture took root as the universal youth emblem, they overcame their squeamishness and went for a taste of what the streets call "flavor." They saw the young, white kid from Kansas cocking his head and splaying his fingers downward, middle fingers tucked back in imitation of a street gesture. You can't ignore that. (Levine)