Thank Hip Hop for the Logo Mania Trend

BREAKING NEWS: Yet another ‘Ghetto’ fashion staple has been packaged and sold for mainstream consumption.
Logo mania is an understatement for one of the biggest trends that made a comeback this season. Fashion houses that became infamously known for brazenly stamping their logos all over garments and accessorizes from the 80’s into the early 2000’s have come back from their decades-long lull with a vengeance. But this time around, they’ve taken notes from Hip Hop’s iconic fashion sense of the 80s and 90s, pulling street style aesthetics from the very same community that was once ridiculed as ghetto and tacky for sporting it. The return of this trend simultaneously signals hip hop culture’s revived infatuation with European brands. Let’s take a walk through time and look back at how logo mania became so instrumental to hip hop culture and relive the golden era, where the most popular logo-centric trends came from our very own.

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European fashion houses,  from Chanel and Louis Vuitton to Gucci and Versace, are widely credited for putting logo mania on the map because their logos and color combinations have remained well-established staples — and status symbols — among fashion lovers for decades. Although these brands made the original garments that spearheaded the logo mania movement in hip hop, there’s no doubt that the culture itself pivoted the trend into a new stratosphere and made it timeless. European brand’s initial infatuation with logo mania was (and in many ways still is) birthed out of a necessity to drive sales and visibility for their brands rather than a desire to create art.  While this trend is often interpreted as a symbol of luxury and the high life, it was ironically birthed out of a desperate attempt by Parisian designers to regain their reputability as the driving forces of fashion during the 80s when the grunge movement of London and the MTV street culture of New York began to takeover. It just so happened that the yuppie movement — an audience that reflected the people and lifestyle shown in the editorials for these brands — erupted just in time to justify the exuberance of logo mania from these high end designers, making the trend a mild hit among the high class — since most yuppies preferred big houses over big logos. Consequently, European brands benefitted from good timing as their clothes became a symbol for lavish living among these two completely different audiences.


At the same time, Hip Hop was erupting as a full fledged cultural movement in the urban areas of New York City and logo centric sportswear brands — including Adidas, Puma, Tommy Hilfiger, and Polo —quickly became fashion staples among the community. While the affluent yuppies in uptown were merely attempting to wear their wealth on their sleeves, urban youth were using logo mania as a way to fulfill a fantasy lifestyle that juxtaposed the ugly truth of their impoverished reality. Logos became a form of currency in “street credit”  that appealed  to hip hop because it represented the boastful nature of rap, particularly as artists’ lyrics became more fixated with opulence and the high life. These people didn’t have much, but they wore what they had on their shoulders — because no amount of money was as valuable as being fly. With the help of game changers like Dapper Dan, Hip Hop invented a counter culture that removed the uppity, clean cut nature of European brands and redefined it with a street edge that created something raw and authentic for the culture to call its own. Although they didn’t have wealth, big homes and adequate resources, they certainly didn’t look like what they went through.
Dapper Dan wasn’t just creating knockoffs of high end clothing. Rather, he was creating ‘knock-ups,’ reimagining luxury garments by making them accessible to his community in a comfortable and non-judgmental environment. He used logo-filled fabric from high fashion garments to create lavish, logo-heavy, one-of-a-kind pieces that manufactured the ’streetwear’ aesthetic, dressing the most influential people in his community — from drug lords and rappers. The influence and magnitude uncovered a high demand for fashion brands that exclusively catered to urban communities. His influence undoubtedly spearheaded the introduction of black designers who continued on his legacy after his boutique was forced to close its doors.
The 90s signaled a major shift where affluent European brands were ditched for exclusively urban brands created by black people, for people. Game changers like Carl Jones of Cross Colours, Jeff Tweedy of FUBU and Karl Kani of his namesake label kept logo mania alive and gave it new meaning. Rather than wearing brands that symbolized the wealth and status that urban youth aspired to, they were proudly wearing brands that represented a stronger sense of community and supporting people who look like you who were grinding to make something out of nothing. And most notably, these brands weren’t afraid to put the culture at the forefront of their advertising, by using rappers in their editorial campaigns. This was the turnkey moment when hip hop became its own self-operating culture. By this time, logo mania was written off by mainstream culture as ghetto and tacky.
By the mid 2000s, the creativity integrity of black owned collections had lost its spark, and as hip hop grew into a multi-million dollar industry, artists began using clothing collections as just another marketing tool. This half-hearted attempt at churning out clothing line after clothing line devalued urban streetwear brands and they gradually lost their street-cred. Simultaneously, ‘high-end’ logo mania was making a comeback in mainstream culture thanks to socialites like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, while hip hop gradually transitioned back to a stronger focus on sportswear.
Take a good look back at a brief history of logo mania in fashion, and it’s no longer surprising that our 90s nostalgia has led us back to this era-defining trend, worn by some of the most influential, edgy and groundbreaking artists of that era. Take a deeper look into this trend’s symbolism in hip hop specifically, and it’s clear that the culture’s infatuation with logo mania goes far beyond the surface. 
Isn’t it ironic that the designs of a man who lost everything to give the hip hop community access to high fashion is now being copied by the biggest high fashion designers in the industry? And ain’t it funny how a brand like GUCCI is now looking to him for creative direction on a limited collection?
That alone goes to show that hip hop’s influence in not just music but ALL art forms is as relevant as it’s ever been.  We’ve shifted back to a time period in hip hop where wearing your wealth in your sleeves has once again become essential to your status. But let’s not forget who made logo mania the phenonomen it became, and let’s not allow these brands to resell us our own creative concepts with a high profit margin.
Will European brands continue to dominate the trajectory of logo mania, or does this resurgence signal the comeback of legacy urban streetwear brands? Weigh in below!
Gabriella Layne

Editor-in-Chief of The Strut Magazine

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