The First Rapper to Start a Clothing Line: A Look Back at the Origins of Hip-Hop Fashion




Love hip-hop, love fashion. Be he who was the first to make the combination?

Im not sure actually. You cant always believe the web when you do research.

Rap music has always been more than just about the music. It’s a lifestyle, a culture, a way of dressing, and a means of self-expression. As rap music grew in popularity during the late 70s and early 80s, so did the associated fashion trends. In this blog post, we look back at the first rapper to start a clothing line and explore how hip-hop fashion has evolved.

The Birth of Hip-Hop Fashion

The birth of hip-hop fashion can be traced back to the streets of New York City in the late 1970s. It was a fashion movement born out of a desire to express creativity and individuality. The early pioneers of rap music were young African American and Latino men and women from the inner cities looking for a way to express themselves creatively. They started wearing comfortable, affordable, and easy-to-move clothes, such as tracksuits, sneakers, and gold chains.

One of the most iconic elements of early hip-hop fashion was the tracksuit. Tracksuits were often worn in bold, bright colors and made from nylon or velour fabric. They were comfortable, easy to move in, and became the signature look of many early rap groups.

Another staple of early hip-hop fashion was the sneaker. Sneakers were originally designed for athletic purposes but soon became rap artists’ fashion statements. They were often worn in bright colors and bold designs and were a vital part of the hip-hop aesthetic.

Gold chains were also a popular accessory in early hip-hop fashion. They were worn as a symbol of status and wealth and were often worn in multiple layers to create a bold and eye-catching look.

Hip-hop fashion has become more diverse and experimental, constantly emerging new styles and trends. The baggy, oversized look became popular in the 1990s, with rappers like Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan sporting baggy jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies.

Hip-hop fashion also played a significant role in breaking down gender norms. Women in the hip-hop community often wore baggy clothing, oversized t-shirts, and sneakers, challenging traditional notions of femininity and what was considered “appropriate” for women to wear.

Today, hip-hop fashion continues to evolve and influence mainstream fashion trends. The genre has become a global phenomenon, with rap stars like Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Pharrell Williams launching their clothing lines. From the early days of tracksuits and gold chains to the current streetwear-inspired aesthetic, hip-hop fashion remains a vibrant and dynamic part of popular culture.

They were the First Rappers to Start a Clothing Line

Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, was the first rapper to start a clothing line with his iconic Phat Farm brand. Simmons was already a prominent figure in the music industry, having co-founded Def Jam with Rick Rubin in the 1980s. However, he saw an opportunity to expand his empire and create a fashion line that embodied the spirit of hip-hop culture.

  • The Origins of Phat Farm

In 1992, Russell Simmons launched Phat Farm, a clothing line that quickly became one of the most successful urban fashion brands of the 1990s. The brand’s name was a play on words, with “phat” meaning “cool” or “excellent” in hip-hop slang. Simmons wanted to create a brand that captured the energy and spirit of the hip-hop movement.

  • The Phat Farm Aesthetic

Phat Farm’s signature aesthetic was a blend of urban and streetwear fashion. The brand’s baggy jeans, hoodies, and graphic t-shirts were must-haves for any self-respecting hip-hop fan. The brand also embraced the trend for oversized clothing that was popular in the 1990s, with Simmons himself often seen wearing baggy clothing.

The Phat Farm logo was also crucial to the brand’s identity. The stylized bulldog became instantly recognizable, and it was often featured on the brand’s clothing, as well as on other merchandise like hats and bags.

  • The Success of Phat Farm

The brand’s affiliation with Def Jam Recordings, which led the rap music industry in the 1990s, contributed to its prominence.

Additionally, benefitting from Simmons’ financial savvy was Phat Farm. He was knowledgeable about marketing and advertising and promoted the brand using his contacts in the music business. He understood the influence of celebrity endorsements and worked to ensure that some of the greatest stars in hip-hop, like Jay-Z and Run DMC, wore Phat Farm gear.

  • Now Phat Farm

Although Phat Farm is less well-known than it once was, it had a significant role in developing hip-hop fashion. Today’s streetwear-inspired apparel worn by rappers and hip-hop fans carries on the brand’s tradition. Simmons’ latest company, Tantris, focuses on yoga and health apparel, and he has continued to be a key figure in the fashion business.

Current Hip-Hop Fashion

Since its inception on the streets of New York City in the late 1970s, hip-hop fashion has gone a long way. Hip-hop-inspired clothing lines and styles are influencing mainstream fashion all over the globe, making it a global phenomenon.

  • The Impact Of Streetwear

Streetwear is one of the main inspirations of the modern hip-hop style. In the skating and surf cultures of the 1980s and 1990s, streetwear emerged as a fashion trend. It is distinguished by its natural, cozy look and by the graphic motifs and vivid colors it employs.

Rappers and hip-hop fans have embraced the streetwear style, making it a mainstay of hip-hop fashion. Hip-hop celebrities and fashion influencers often sport the apparel of streetwear companies like Supreme, Palace, and Off-White, which have grown to be the most well-known worldwide.

  • Impact Of Athletic Wear

Athleisure is a fashion trend that has grown in popularity in hip-hop. Athleisure blends athletic apparel with casual attire to provide a relaxed and fashionable appearance.

Adidas and Nike have emerged as some of the most well-liked apparel companies among rappers and fans due to the hip-hop community’s adoption of athleisure. The prevalence of joggers, leggings, and other athletic-inspired apparel items is another manifestation of the trend.

  • Gender-Neutral Clothing’s Impact

Gender stereotypes have always been questioned and changed in hip-hop fashion. Gender-neutral clothing has become more prevalent in recent years thanks to hip-hop celebrities and fashion companies supporting the concept.

Unisex t-shirts, baggy pants, and oversized apparel are all prominent examples of this style. Brands like Hood By Air, Telfar, and A-Cold-Wall have been at the forefront, and hip-hop fans and fashion connoisseurs are becoming increasingly enamored with their gender-neutral apparel lines.


A fashion movement was established to show creativity and originality, and it has since spread worldwide. Rapper Russell Simmons, who co-founded Def Jam Recordings, was the first to launch a clothing line under the Phat Farm moniker. Hip-hop fashion still impacts current fashion trends and isn’t slowing down soon.


mandy b.
mandy b.
Founder, owner, writer & (coming up this summer)
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