When it comes to urban fashion, nothing makes a grander statement than hip hop footwear. Once solely ubiquitous with the Adidas shell-toe sneakers that donned the feet of rap artists in the 1980s, the hip hop shoe trend has evolved into a wide, varied and ever-growing industry.
A Brief History
During the 1980s, hip hop music reached new heights of popularity. Famous artists of the era, including LL Cool J and Run DMC, became as renowned for their style as their music. Oversized shirts and jackets, baggy pants, heavyweight jewelry and sneakers were the uniform of choice, and the mainstream culture quickly caught on.
Shoes, in particular, offered a wide variety of options. From its early beginnings, urban fashion favored sneakers like Adidas and Nike. As the culture developed, so too did the style. This resulted in an influx of clothing and accessories inspired not just by entertainers, but trends specific to different parts of the country. While the sneaker remained popular, the introduction of military-inspired footwear paved the way for fashionable alligator-skin shoes. Today, urban footwear includes a diverse selection of designs, but the sneakers remain the true arbiters of hip hop style.
Popular Hip Hop Footwear Brands
Several brands dominate the world of urban fashion, with many specializing in hip hop footwear. The following is a list of brands and their more popular shoes:
The iconic brand's Air Force Ones are considered by many to be the first hip hop shoe. It's no wonder why -- with the shoes' 25th anniversary commemorated in 2007, Nike will hold nothing back in celebrating the major occasion. The year saw the creation of a limited edition, Italian-made, crocodile and anaconda skin-crafted Lux Air Force One shoe. As with most limited editions, these hip hop footwear are highly coveted and thus far impossible to get.
Adidas Superstar Vintage Shoes
Considered to be one of the world's most popular and best-loved styles of shoe, the Adidas Superstars, or "shell toes," became athletic staples in the late 1960s and early 1970s before transitioning to a street-smart trend. During the 1980s, the shoes were synonymous with popular rappers of the period. The shoe has since earned vintage status, costs a pretty penny more than it ever did and is highly coveted by everyone -- not just athletes and celebrities!
Though certain styles resemble the famous Adidas Superstars, the Pumas are fashion superstars in their own right. The brand's customization program, available in certain areas, allows consumers the opportunity to design their own shoes. A wide variety of patterns are available, each designed in an array of colors, materials and textures. This innovation allows wearers to be true trendsetters -- each shoe is one-of-a-kind, all but ensuring that no one else wears the same pair.
The modern hip hop culture has embraced the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars. The shoes, first introduced in the early 1920s, experienced a revival in the 1990s, when grunge and gangsta rap experienced surges in popularity. Chuck Taylors have been worn by countless rappers and other musical artists in contemporary videos, and often the shoes stand out as the most noticeable part of the artists' ensembles.
Since its founding in 1993, the Ecko Unlimited fashion and lifestyle company has taken the urban culture and hip hop shoe worlds by storm. Style has always been of enormous importance amongst youth, and more than ever in the new century. This brand's hip hop footwear is artistically created; many are etched with graffiti logos and imprints. The result is an instantly trend-setting shoe that has captured the interest of urban youth.
Where to Buy
A variety of specialty urban fashion stores exist, especially on the Internet. The following is a list of reputable sites carrying hip hop footwear:
- Karmaloop: Specializing in a combination of contemporary, urban and underground brands, Karmaloop caters to the younger crowd. Its line of footwear includes plenty of trendy hip hop footwear.
- Dr. Jays: The urban fashion retailer carries an impressively large number of hip hop shoe brands, including Nike Air Force Ones, Southpole and Pro Keds.
- Urban Venom: Based in the United Kingdom, Urban Venom is a fashion retailer with more than 15 years of experience. Its wide variety of urban clothing -- including accessories and hip hop footwear -- has made its name synonymous with trends and style.