80s Hip Hop Fashion

Written By Bakes

Avid writer on Men's Hair, Grooming, and Lifestyle!

The 80s marked the 2nd decade in Hip Hop in which the new genre began to form its identity sonically and stylistically. At the forefront of the 70s in Hip Hop were the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Within the early development years of Hip Hop Culture the groups fashion entailed a cowboy flamboyant aesthetic and Rockstar looks.

While the groups appeal grew globally artists such as LL COOL J, RUN DMC, Eric B. & Rakim set precedence by dressing as the everyday individuals within the Bronx and throughout New York. Which is why 80s Hip Hop Fashion is a merger of street, sport, and luxury fashion.

This off set of change during the 80s would go on to set the blueprint for 90s Hip Hop Fashion as we continued to see select pieces from the 80s be worn in the 90s and still worn today such as air Jordan’s, bucket hats and full tracksuits.



Here are the Staple 80s Hip Hop Fashion Pieces


Adidas Shell Toes

run dmc adidas sneakers

During the mid-80’s RUN DMC recorded the song “My Adidas” which would become an instant hit influencing the masses at the time to purchase the Adidas Shell Toe.

The impact of the song resulted in the first deal between a music group and a sports cooperation of $1 million. Run DMC invited adidas executives to a live show in which the group told the crowd to raise their shoes in the air during the song’s performance.


How its worn Today

how its worn today

Run DMC were adamant about dressing as the people from their communities and neighbourhoods who often time wore adidas shell toes. The song reflected the group’s life and style which allowed Hip Hop to embrace the shoe throughout the 80s. 




80s tracksuit

Sportswear brands such as Fila & Kappa began dominating the 80s by creating highly sought-after tracksuits. While the 80s style and aesthetic could be described as loud and flamboyant the flip side to this was Hip Hop artists also opting for more comfortable apparel.

Outside of looking great in its sports detail and patterns the 80s tracksuits provided much comfort and a style which is constantly worn today for its retro appeal.


How its worn Today

how to wear an adidas tracksuit

As a response to the hip hop community’s likeness towards tracksuits brands began to expand on the fabrics with material such as silk, nylon & velour.



Air Jordan 1

80s hip hop fashion
Credit – Nike

The Air Jordan 1 was a prominent sneaker during 80s Hip Hop fashion due to the influence of Michael Jordan and the connection between music and sports. What initially started as a sportswear sneaker immediately became a staple amongst rappers in the 80s.

Nike and Jordan released the Air Jordan series 1 – 4 which would set precedence for style in the 80s & 90s.


How its worn Today

air jordan 1 outfit styles

Since then pop culture has referenced Air Jordan’s in music, television, film, and sports which evidently continues to be a topic of discussion today.




Dapper Dan (Luxury Fashion)

dapper dan and LL COOL J

Dapper Dan is responsible for introducing High End Luxury fashion to the world of Hip Hop during the 80s. Dapper made a name for himself creating custom made pieces which artists in the 80s wore. Featuring redesigned logos from Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, Dans redesign of High-End Fashion added a street feel to luxury apparel which became an 80s Hip Hop fashion look.

Dapper Dans creation can be seen all throughout the 80s for example Eric B. & Rakim used Daps creation on album covers, Salt-N-Pepa used Daps creations in photoshoots & LL COOL J used Daps pieces in videos.

GQ spoke to Dapper Dan about his early beginnings in business during the 80s in Harlem, celebrity clientele and Gucci Partnership.



Kangol Bucket Hat

kangol hat 80s style

LL Cool J popularized the Kangol Bucket Hat making it apart of his signature look during the 80s. While Hip Hop began to form its identity sonically it simultaneously began to dress accordingly which involved making statements using fashion which the Kangol did.


How its worn Today

bucket hat outfit idea

This tradition off set by LL Cool J would influence others such as Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, and Slick rick during this period. This Hip-Hop exposure caught the attention of the masses and soon the 80s would be filled with consumers sporting the hat to complete the street look.




Track Jacket

80s track jacket

The track jacket in the 80s is associated to the B Boys who were responsible to adding the break dance element to Hip Hop during this period. The first major trend in B-Boy fashion during this period was the use of sports track jackets.  


How its worn Today

80s track jacket

The track jacket normally worn as a tracksuit or as a single piece allowed for comfortable movement with break dancing on the streets in the 80s.



Rope Chain

eric b and rakim

Evidence of the use of Jewellery dates to the start of the 80s in which artists such as Kurtis Blow posed on album covers with gold chains. Following the years to come Big Daddy Kane, LL COOL J, Run DMC, Eric B, Rakim & Slick Rick incorporated rope chains into their look.

The main purpose of jewellery was to communicate status and riches which would also compliment the flamboyant outfits rappers wore in the 80s to make statements.

As the culture began to grow so did label budgets which inevitably meant bigger chains for the artists. Rope chains were the status symbol of the 80s and can be seen all throughout the years during this period.



Bomber Jacket

90s hip hop fashion

Certain fashion pieces are connected and synonymous to sub cultural movements and this is the case with the Bomber Jacket regarding Hip Hop.


How its worn Today

bomber jacket styles today

To quote ourselves

“The Bomber Jacket became massively popular within Hip Hop as the culture started to connect with sports. 80’s baseball Bomber style jackets became popular in the 80s after the influence from acts such as RUN DMC.”


Starter Jackets & Snapback Caps

80s hip hop fashion cap and hat

The natural connection between sports and music would result in sports merchandise forming a huge part of 80s Hip Hop Fashion.

During 1983 the official licensing of deals with NFL, NBA & MLB allowed for merchandising which saw artists supporting their respective hometown teams.


How its worn Today

Starter Jackets & Caps

Glossy jackets, Snapbacks and T-Shirts became the staple look. Evidence of this can be seen with the rap group NWA religiously wearing Los Angeles Raiders merchandise.



Troop Clothing & Sneakers

troop fashion

One of the biggest streetwear brands connected to Hip Hop during the 80s was Troop who had been endorsed by the biggest artists at the time.

Within a short period of time Troop grossed millions and gained the admiration from the Hip Hop community. From LL COOL J, MC Hammer to Chuck D, artists had outfits and sneakers from the brand due to its high-quality fabrics and style.

At the height of TROOP’s streetwear dominance, a rumour began to spread which suggested that the brand was run by the KKK, this overnight had the Hip Hop community disassociate themselves from any Troop clothing. While you will not see much troops clothes worn today it is still about of the 80s Hip Hop history.

Higsnobiety interviewed the founders of troop – The Incredible Truth Behind ’80s Mega-Brand TROOP



4 Finger Rings

big daddy kane 4 finger rings

While rope chains were the jewelry accessory of choice during the 80s 4 Finger rings were often used to further communicate status and wealth.

As we have mentioned multiple times in this article, the 80s were about creating statement outfits which 4 finger rings supported! Much credit can be given to Big Daddy Kane for popularizing this style! 

Today the tradition continues within Hip Hop culture as artists such as 2 Chainz use this 80s look to compliment statement outfits and styles.



One37pm also covered The History of ’80s Hip-Hop Fashion



What accessory was popular in hip hop in the 80s?

The most popular accessory during hip hop in the 80s were snapback caps, kangol bucket hats and rope chains.

What do I wear to an 80s party?

The items featured in our article – Kangol Bucket Hat, Adidas Shell toes, Rope Chains, Air Jordan 1, snapback, sportwear apparel and starter jackets can be worn at an 80s party.


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