Popular fashion and the Hip-Hop/Rap community have always been tightly intertwined, and just as rappers come and go, so too do styles and trends. A quick survey of the current scene reveals an obsession with high end designer wear: Prominent rappers can often be seen in everything from Off-White and Fear of God to Raf Simons, Maison Margiela, and Rick Owens. However, due to the ever-shifting nature of fashion and trends, this hasn’t always been the case. One of the most iconic and identifiable eras of dress and style occurred during the early 2000’s.
The trend? Oversized NBA and NFL jerseys, loose fitting pants, headbands, and hats barely resting on heads. The look could be seen on everyone in rap culture.
Well, almost everyone.
One of the most prominent members of the rap community to fight this trend was none other than Kanye West. At the time, West had not yet established himself as a global fashion figure. Back in 2004, West has just released his first album titled “The College Dropout” and in keeping consistent with the title of his debut album, West pioneered the preppy look. While other rappers wore XXL NBA jerseys, West often sported well-fitting Ralph Lauren Polos and sweaters.
In the context of Entwistle, it’s clear that West had no issue utilizing clothes for the sake of his own individual expression. There was clearly a tension between the personal style choices West made and the larger culture he was surrounded by.
However, Entwistle emphasizes a compromise between these two opposing forces. Can we say that West was conscious of “the milieu in which [he] belonged”?
I believe we can. Although West ushered in his own style, he still maintained a number of characteristics and style choices that were indicative of the era. In fact, West followed and conformed with the most important aspect of rapper fashion: Ostentatiousness.
Regardless of trends, one thing has always remained important for musicians in the genre: standing out and being noticed.
Although West wore polos, these weren’t your dad’s standard white polos. They were often colored bright shades of pink or green and combined with other flashy colored pants and argyle sweaters. He wore different clothes, but the gaudy style of dress remained.
In this sense, although West utilized clothing to demonstrate individuality, he remained aware of the demands of the social world he operated in.
– Alex Don