The History & Connection Between Hip Hop & Sneaker Culture
Ever since the first B-Boys took to the streets of Brooklyn there has always been a strong connection between Hip Hop & sneaker culture.
There have been many connections over the years between famous people and sneakers with sports stars, fashionistas and actors all trying their hand at either bring out their own or collaborating with brands. However, there is one group of people who have arguably influenced sneaker wearing like no other, and that is Hip Hop artists. Hip Hop sneaker culture is something that has dominated collaborations, album covers and the streets since its origins for the last 35 years.
When you look back through the years, there have been some pretty special collaborations between these artists and certain brands who were clever enough to realise that cool young rappers wearing their products could sell more shoes than any marketing campaign ever could. There has been an undeniable relationship between the Hip Hop scene and sneakers. Starting out as early as the start of the 1980s with groups such as Run DMC and The Beastie Boys and carrying on right through the 90s with the likes of N.W.A, eventually arriving in the 00s when it reached the height of popularity.
The origins of Hip Hop can be traced back to as early as the late 1970s with songs such as ‘Rappers delight’ by the Sugar Hill Gang bringing the genre to the forefront of modern music. The 1980s and 90s were the most productive in terms of modern Rap and Hip Hop. N.W.A , Public Enemy and Run DMC are among the most influential artists in the history of Hip Hop, and it was the latter who were really some of the first to collaborate with a clothing brand. Adidas and Run DMC clothing and, especially the sneakers, are some of the most collectable in the world these days. An example of this is adidas’ iconic Superstars with the limited edition Run DMC branding can fetch anywhere between £250 to £400 and are highly sought after by fans and collectors alike. Run DMC are credited with bringing superstars to widespread popularity, combining them with the classic firebird tracksuits they were famous for wearing.
90s Hip Hop sneaker culture saw groups like the Wu Tang clan cashing in on merchandise and signing a deal with Nike to produce a pair of super rare dunks. Around 36 pairs were ever made and can sell for as much as £18,000, highlighting the rarity. However, most of the collaborations that have happened with Hip Hop artists have been in the 00s and have been extremely successful. Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Drake have all had their go at bringing out different lines of sneakers with different brands.
There have been some absolute beauties such as Reebok’s collaboration with Jay-Z, launching the S. Carter collection. Reebok incidentally joined forces with 50 Cent and G-Unit to launch some sneakers of the same name, although not as good as their Sean Carter effort. These sorts of sneakers were widely available at the time as well as being affordable so that people could feel as they were wearing similar stuff to their favourite artists. Kanye West, however, has very rarely collaborated on clothing that you could call ‘affordable’. Before launching his own venture with Adidas, Kanye collaborated with rappers (and footballers) favourite Louis Vuitton for a frankly alarming sneaker venture. Sneakers such as the Jasper, the Mr Hudson and the Don were given a garish makeover, with prices starting at around $850.
Clothing for rappers and Hip Hop artists will always have a big relationship with each other, however collaborations will probably stay as they are in the future. However, for every successful line or collaboration made, the most successful one being pharrell with Ice Cream and his Billionaire Boys Club lines, there will be some that fade out eventually such as G-unit. Collaborating with a brand is one thing, but creating and maintaining a brand is more difficult and some rappers have wisely decided that meddling in a billionaires industry isn’t for them. The Hip Hop sneaker culture is just as strong now as it ever was, and will continue to be so.