Rappers Kanye West and Lil Wayne made headlines around the world in 2011, when they appeared on stage in women’s clothing. In separate appearances, the rappers pushed the boundaries of Hip-Hop fashion with their choice of gear.
For Lil Wayne, it was a pair of jeggings. The hardcore rapper lost no credibility when he wore a pair of leopard print jeggings made for women by Tripp NYC. Kanye chose a woman’s shirt designed by French fashion house Celine during an appearance at Coachella.
Jaden Smith makes a statement regarding genderless fashion on his Instagram page
It is not a big deal now to see artists like Wiz Khalifa, Lil B, or Jaden Smith donning an article of clothing that was meant for a woman. In fact, the rappers are part of a genderless clothing trend that started in the mid-2000’s. That is when designers like Rad Hourani started marketing unisex lines in Europe.
More recently, fashion houses like Gucci, Prada, Marc Jacobs and others that have long been staples of Hip-Hop fashion, are among fashion-forward designers producing and marketing genderless clothing.
The concept of “cross-dressing” is certainly not new to fashion, music or even Hip-Hop culture. Since the 1930s, women have been photographed wearing men’s suits to make fashion statements. Since then, fashion icons like Little Richard, David Bowie, Grace Jones and, of course, the hair bands of the 80s helped blur fashion lines.
Hip-Hop culture has been a part of the trends too. In the 1990’s, female rappers like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Boss, Lady of Rage, Left Eye, and others deliberately cultivated a more masculine image. The ladies wore loose clothing in an attempt to downplay their sexuality to show their equality with their male counterparts visually.
Hip-Hop artists like Cee Lo Green, A$AP Rocky, Snow The Product and of course, Young Thug, have pushed the envelope with their choices of clothing. Who could forget when Cee Lo wore a wedding dress. Alternatively, Thugger’s post featuring him wearing a leopard printed dress made for a child as a top, went viral, thanks to his 1.5 million followers and fans continued to speculate on his sexuality.
Just this week, Young Thug’s gender-bending fashion was featured as the cover story for a feature in Dazed Magazine. In the spread, the rapper wears a dress without shame.
If emerging fashion trends are any indication, everyone may soon be wearing some genderless clothing. According to a report produced by The NPD Group, androgynous clothing presents a “business opportunity for retailers who create a comfort zone for people who do not want to subscribe to one category.”
According to NPD’s report, the high fashion world has embraced the genderless trend in fashion with open arms. Also, it appears the rappers have taken notice.
Harry Elam Jr. is Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities, and a Bass University Fellow in Undergraduate Education at Stanford University. Elam is also the author of “Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Global Performance and Popular Culture.”
His Hip-Hop roots run deep as well since he is the older brother of legendary rapper Guru of Gangstarr.
|Keith Elam Jr., of Stanford. He is also Guru of Gangstarr’s brother.
“The ever-changing trends, many of which appropriate white upper-class status symbols that have been coded as whiteness and privilege, such as luxury car insignias and European fashion designers, are the equivalent of the musical practice of sampling,” Elam noted.
“Hip-Hop fashion routinely gets constructed as a manifestation of the creativity and originality of urban black men who then influence legions of nonblack and audiences of all ages,” Elam explained. “This oversimplification is faulty in many respects. Most importantly it does not acknowledge the significant number of women and nonblacks work as cultural producers in Hip-Hop; it also constructs black Hip-Hop audiences as poor and insignificant consumers.”
With the public’s acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition and scientific breakthroughs regarding gender, fashion houses are thinking forward even if it is only currently serving a niche group of consumer.
Best believe the big guys see the change coming as well.
Earlier this year major UK retailer Selfridges did away with the men’s and women’s department of their stores and created three floors of unisex fashion. Just last week, retailing giant Target announced that it was phasing out gender-based signage in their stores around the United States.