Displaying the evolution of hip-hop style


Photo by Chloe Fuller

Jules Kelly, Staff Writer

From puffer jackets to Jenni Bui nails to Kygo hats, the “Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip Hop Style” exhibit showcased the innovative and ever-changing style that was created right here in New York City. Located at The Museum at FIT in Chelsea, this limited-time and free installation includes over 100 pieces of clothing and accessories dating back to 1973 and emphasizes hip-hop’s influence in mainstream media. 

“Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous” features two rooms, one focusing on the early conception of hip-hop in the Bronx, the other focusing on newer fashion ensembles and accessories. On display were classic streetwear looks that utilized an urban flare of custom graffiti designs, designer jeans and shirts that served as an ode to the films of Spike Lee and Black liberation, accompanied with shoes like Nike Jordans and Timberland boots. The exhibit displayed casual yet fashionable looks designed and worn by Black hip-hop artists like Beyoncé’s House of Deréon jeans, Cardi B’s Reebok collaboration, Rihanna’s Puma look and Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu Wear brand. 

The museum cited the hip-hop community as pioneers of making something as simple as jeans a notable clothing item, with artists such as Run-DMC and Grandmaster Flash name-dropping famous jean brands in their songs. It also shows hip-hop’s influence on fashion by demonstrating the change from the baggy clothing worn by artists like TLC in 1989 to the tight, low-rise Apple Bottom jeans Flo Rida sang about in 2008.

Hip-hop style has become intertwined with high-end fashion brands over the years, and the museum features famous pieces made by Gucci, Tommy Hillfiger and Polo. Alongside these more formal looks, the exhibit gives recognition to Black clothing designers of high-end streetwear like Dapper Dan and Karl Kanvi, with a vest he designed that was worn by Tupac Shakur in the ’90s. More modern designs are also exhibited, including ones from the late Virgil Abloh, arguably the most famous streetwear designer of the past decade, such as his iconic OFF-WHITE “Hoodie” and his Louis Vuitton collaboration. 

One section of the museum displayed custom pieces worn by famous hip-hop musicians of the past few years. Cardi B’s 2019 Grammy’s shell look (a vintage ’95-’96 Mugler piece), Flo Milli’s denim ensemble by Misa Hylton for Paper Magazine and Megan Thee Stallion’s Moschino gold gown worn to the 2022 Met Gala were included. Several of Hylton’s pieces were showcased throughout the museum, and in conversation with Paper Magazine spoke about her collaboration with Flo Milli: “The relentless attempts to diminish the Black woman led me to create a fashion story that celebrates the power that lives inside of the Black Woman through the lens of hip-hop, my favorite lens.”

Hip-hop style has constantly redefined fashion norms, which is highlighted in this exhibit by the display of male designers’ looks that were worn by women and vice versa. Doja Cat’s brightly colored avant-garde Thom Browne dress worn at the 2021 MTV music Awards and Alessandro Trincone’s kimono and kosode trousers worn famously by Young Thug on the cover of his critically acclaimed mixtape “JEFFERY” were there as well, showcasing androgynous and unique looks within the genre. 

As you look around the installation, you can see how many styles remain relevant in fashion today and why the hip-hop wave was so influential. This exhibit runs through April 23 every Wednesday to Sunday.