“Hip-hop is not something that you listen to, it is something that you live,” says FUBU founder Daymond John. This week’s In Vogue podcast examines how the music and culture that grew out of local New York “jams” went global. It also looks at how, in the words of host Hamish Bowles, “the uniform of that culture soon clothed people around the world…. on the streets, on television, in the movies, and soon, on the runways and in the pages of Vogue.”
The story begins in Harlem at Dapper Dan’s always open, always happening boutique. Dan’s approach to fashion was something akin to sampling; mixing the symbols of luxury with streetwear and swagger, to create something new that spoke to his audience. “What I was doing at the time was creating logo mania,” the tailor says. It wasn’t long before wearing a piece by Dapper Dan was a symbol that the wearer had “made it.”
As the music spread, so did rappers’ styles, and the fashion industry wanted in on the look, if not the culture. “We would go out and we would go and buy other designers. And a lot of those designers were taking our money saying we don’t like you. We don’t like hip-hop kids. We don’t like African-Americans,” says John. He responded by creating his own label, FUBU, an acronym for For Us By Us. Karl Kani, April Walker, Carl Johns, and Sean Combs similarly aimed to take ownership of the look, and preserve its authenticity and roots.
Brands like Rocawear, Sean John, Phat Farm, and Baby Phat stood upon the foundations laid by designers like Dapper Dan and Willi Smith. Now, those brands are inspiring a new generation of designers—Pyer Moss’s Kerby Jean-Raymond has collaborated with Cross Colors, for example. Similarly the styles of 1990s hip-hop stars continue to influence fashion. “The distressed denim we see now in every store can be traced back directly to Salt-N-Pepa,” says Bowles. “And you don’t get the athleisure wear we see today without the streetwear of the ’90s. Even Dapper Dan himself is back. Since 2017, the couturier has partnered with Gucci for a new collection based on looks he designed in the ’80s and ’90s.”