Hip Hop Subculture is Making A Fashionable Comeback

The 90s were a time when music had value. Fans of hip hop, grunge, R&B, rock, showed their love and support of their favorite musicians by dressing as them. And our nostalgia for this notion has grown into a full-fledged fashion trend.


A champagne-buzzed crowd at Nicopanda’s show eagerly awaited the streetwear brand’s Fall/Winter 2018 presentation. If the collection’s title “Smells Like Queens Spirit” wasn’t enough foreshadowing into the level of influence from 90s music, it was certainly made clear when the lights dimmed and the soundtrack began.

“The time has come for you to lipsync for your life!” RuPaul’s voice announced. “Good luck and don’t fuck it up.” The voice fades smoothly into the opening riffs of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but then an unexpected plot twist brings the familiar “It’s Britney, bitch” line from “Gimme More.” At this point, it was very clear that Nicola Formichetti’s latest work was intertwined with music.

Throughout a continued backdrop of Nirvana tunes, an eclectic pastiche of hip hop and pop hits blended together into an audible interpretation of the compilation Formichetti presented on his runway; basically, a love letter to the 90s.

Nicopanda, Nicola Formichetti, 90s hip hop, hip hop

Courtesy of brand

“The 90s celebrated subculture more than any era, [like] punks, goths, ravers, jocks,” Formichetti tells COOLS. “I love the fashion and music that defined these types of groups.” And this is totally evident in his collection. The grunge-meets-hip-hop looks featured lots of dark-hued plaid, logos, layers, sparkly pink, skin-tight silhouettes, and huge jewelry pieces. At first, grunge outfits were followed by hip hops looks, but eventually the two contrasting styles seamed together until you couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began.

As they say, opposites attract – and these two genres couldn’t be more different – in regards to both the style of music and the looks they inspire. Grunge is edgy and gritty, birthed out of alternative rock in the rainy Pacific Northwest. The subculture associated with the genre is defined by dark colors, lots of plaid, messy hair, and torn up jeans. And its polar opposite is hip hop, which rose up in the 1980s and reached its golden age by the time grunge had taken flight. A more lively sound, hip hop music influenced animated styles, with bright colors, big jewelry, and kitschy clothing pairings of skin-revealing ensembles in womenswear and baggy, oversized shapes in menswear.

Nicopanda, Nicola Formichetti, 90s hip hop, hip hop

Courtesy of brand

Music in the 90s was in many ways more valuable than music is today. If people wanted to hear a new album, they had to get up, leave their home, and take steps to actually hear music–first going to a record store to buy a CD, then putting that CD in a stereo. Now, all we have to do is type a song into our streaming service of choice. Those who followed specific genres during the 90s thoroughly adhered to that genre, incorporating the fashion styles of their favorite musicians into their own personas. “It’s almost cosplay when you look back at it and compare it to now, when everything is so blended and fluid,” Formichetti observes.

And Formichetti is not alone in his nostalgia for 90s music and its aesthetics. The affection for 90s trends, especially the hip hop and grunge aspects, has been a growing trend over the past year, and if you don’t believe it, just take a look at all the plaid everywhere.

For Fall/Winter 2018, Nicopanda was just one of many showing love for this trend. In Palm Angels’ collection, looks that showed the blend of grunge and hip hop were plentiful. A highlight shows a yellow plaid mini skirt accompanied by long pink gloves and knee-high black socks to bring that beloved hip hop element to a clearly grunge focal piece. 

Christian Cowan went all hip hop in his collection, with one perfectly on-trend look comprised of a sweatsuit combo in which the hooded top was cropped to just below the collarbone, revealing lots of skin below a sparkly bra-top. Similarly in Jeremy Scott’s collection, we saw a hot pink cropped sweatsuit teamed with vibrant platform sneakers.

90s trend, hip hip, Fall/Winter 2018, Christian Cowan, AW18

via Vogue Runway

The grunge/hip hop trend has already crawled out of the runways and into the streets. In fashion week street style, looks that fused 90s elements into contemporary looks were everywhere. Some highlights include large and kitchy fur jackets over denim-on-denim, patent go-go boots paired with brightly colored mini dresses, and clashing prints on oversized, unmatching pant and crop-top sets.

Nicopanda’s collection showcased the epitome of our nostalgia and love of 90s music and trends. Subcultures like those created by each music genre don’t exist anymore. People used clothing to show how they felt about music, sparking a connection between music and style that formed a shared passion amongst those with similar interests. In our age of internet, where we can listen to whatever we want at the click of our button, we’ve lost that connection. Maybe that’s what the hip hop trend represents.

“For me, the [translation of music into fashion] is natural! Music and fashion are intertwined,” Formichetti says. “Inspiration always starts from music. Then, I start diving deeper. It becomes all about the aesthetics around the music and the culture evoked.”

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