The relationship between hip-hop and fashion is a long and nuanced one. The co-sign of Adidas by RUN DMC, the days of Dapper Dan custom designs in hip hop clubs and the copious mentions of Gucci and Prada by your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper married hip hop and fashion. Emerging clothing lines by Sean John, Rocawear and FUBU carried the union into a new era. Fashion has always remained a driving force in hip hop, as evidence by the endorsement of its players—officially and unofficially.
As a creative medium, fashion constantly borrows and is inspired by the archive just as hip-hop borrows and remixes different styles of music through the use of samples by legends before. For both fashion and hip hop, it's all about being inspired by the past and making it your own. But when it comes to making noise in these worlds today, A$AP Rocky is the newest muse. GQ and Alexander Wang have both recognized the artist's sartorial gifts. But what is it exactly that makes A$AP so stylish? It's his ability to own his look unapologetically.
There’s no doubt A$AP Rocky was destined for the game. His born real name is Rakim Mayes. He was named after the legendary Rakim—arguably one of the greatest rappers of the late '80s to early '90s. Tragedy hit him early in life when his father was sent to jail on a drug charge. Not long after, his brother was killed near his home. It was the death of his brother that moved A$AP to grab the mic. For youth culture today, he's a rapper to bop your head to, and mimic.
While hip-hop may be seemingly predictable for the artist, his interest in fashion is shocking. Visually, he’s not exactly what you think when you think of fashion. His plaited braids could suit a high school adaptation of The Color Purple. He's certainly no Ralph Lauren ad. His demeanor is more gangster than Givenchy. Channeling the hairstyle of Snoop Dogg in an image-driven industry that tends to criminalized braided brothers past the age of 10, A$AP dares to own the look. Who are we to question it?
On his personal style, A$AP says, "The reason why I like to blend streetwear with high-end fashion is because I have a sense of both. Most people who are just into high fashion can’t do streetwear, and most streetwear people can’t do high fashion. And I’m not saying all can’t, but most. It’s not like I’m the only person who does it, but I’m known for doing it." He's even unafraid to channel John F. Kennedy rocking classic Americana in singer Lana Del Rey's video for her single "National Anthem". While other rappers in the burgeoning new class including Azealia Banks, Wiz Khalifa and Theolophuis London are also beginning to create their own space in hip hop fashion, there's little doubt the legacy of A$AP Rocky will help expand the worlds of hip hop and fashion.
It’s been said anyone can be fashionable—just have a credit card and access to a department store. But style is something you cannot buy. It's clear A$AP was born with it.