Fashion & Music: Hip-Hop’s Fifth Element
“The most important sneakers in hip-hop history”
In Hip-Hop culture a necessary part of the uniform is sneakers. More than just the leather, mesh and rubber of which they are comprised, the sneaker is seen as a representation of your style and status and can solidify your relevance and rating. Over the years many other elements of Hip-Hop may have changed or diminished in importance but the love and respect for the right pair of fresh kicks has never. Why? Perhaps it’s because sneakers have and always will be a consumable aesthetic and representation of the culture and its values. Here is a breakdown of arguably the three most important sneakers of choice in Hip-Hop history.
When Run-DMC proclaimed that it was all about ‘My Adidas’ legions of fans and aspiring artists took that to heart by incorporating Adidas Superstars into the prerequisite section in their wardrobes. As legend has it the execs at Adidas didn’t believe that a Hip-Hop song and Hip-Hop in general could have such a big financial benefit, until one evening at a sold-out Run DMC concert in Madison Square Garden. Tens of thousands of multi-cultural youth all held up their fresh Adidas as directed to by Run. Point proved! To this day, if you are a true Hip-Hop head, you’ll have at least one pair of Superstars.
Nike Air Force 1
When the Nike Air Force 1 shoe dropped it took a minute to become a favourite of the Hip-Hop community. It had to trickle from the basketball courts to the street corners before becoming a staple of Hip-Hop style. Now, nearly three decades later, the shoe, despite maintaining the same original shape and design, is still a favourite. The various colour and textile options and ability to customise meant that it reflected Hip-Hop’s key values of self-expression and variation. However the number one version of the AF1 may still be the mid white on white, just ask Nelly.
Nike Air Jordan 1
In 1985 Michael Jordan entered the NBA, quickly catching the attention of America’s youth with his above the rim style, not to mention his blazing red and black Air Jordan 1′s. Young people weren’t the only ones who noticed; the suits of the NBA took offence to the flash footwear, actually fining MJ every time he wore them in order to make him stop. MJ chose to keep ‘repping’ in spite of this. His defiance struck a chord with the Hip-Hop community and youth, who saw MJ and the AJ1 as a representation of their fight for expression, as well as their challenge against oppression. The AJ1s will forever hold a special relationship with the Hip-Hop community. Therefore it wasn’t a shock when the retro versions dropped in 2011 and flew off the shelves as if it was 1985 all over again.
Honourable mentions: Converse, Reebok Pump, Reebok S.Carters, Nike Air Yeezy, and Reebok Freestyle.
By Yaw Owusu