Reflecting African-American community novel sounds and street attire, the 80s Hip-Hop fashion style emerged as a unique way of dressing that defined the looks of future generations.
Introduced by decade’s celebs like Run D.M.C., L.L. Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Rakim, and N.W.A. and popularized by brands like FUBU, Adidas, Nike, and Puma, there are several 80s hip-hop styles to choose from.
In this article, our expert stylists have curated 10 popular hip-hop outfits of the 80s – as sported by the stars of those times from early to late 80s hip-hop – to inspire your authentic look.
1. Afrika Bambaataa 80s Streetwear
Afrika Bambaataa’s 80s hip-hop look combined classic factory workwear with streetwear style apparel.
The hip-hop star became famous for his military-style jacket with epaulets, hoodie underneath, wide-leg pants, and Afro-American accessories.
2. The Sequence Funky Style
The Sequence’s early 80s hip-hop style was inspired by the funky looks of the 70s; colorful sequins adorned by feather decorations.
To replicate the band’s renowned 80s Hip-hop style, wear sequin flared pants with a sequin top and. a sequin jacket all in gold.
For footwear, wear feather high-heel slippers or pumps.
3. Grandmaster Flash Punker Style
Inspired by the decade’s Punk-rock fashion style, Grandmaster Flash was one of the first hip-hop celebrities of the 80s decade who understood the need for a fresh style to match the uniqueness of the music.
To dress in Grandmaster Flash’s famous Hip-hop Punk style, wear a white biker jacket, black leather pants, a white leather baker boy cap, and white high boots.
4. RUN D.M.C.’s ‘Rock Box’ Look
Run DMC brought Hip-hop fashion style into the cultural mainstream by blending the Rock ‘n’ Roll style of the time with their unique take on streetwear.
To dress the band’s famous Rock Box style, combine a leather jacket, leather pants, and a black Fedora hat with the band’s signature laceless Adidas original shoes and a chunky gold necklace.
5. The Fat Boys ‘New Money’ Style
The Fat Boys’ Hip-hop ‘New Money’ style depicts the clash of the wealthy and working class by blending luxury monogram logo patterns and chunky jewelry with jeans, t-shirts, and trainers.
To replicate the band’s most popular outfit, wear an ‘all-over logo’ bomber leather jacket and cap, a loud logo Adidas or Puma tee, straight-leg dark jeans, Puma or Adidas sneakers, and a massive golden chain.
6. Lisa Lisa Glam Hip Hop
The lead vocalist of the band Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, Lisa Velez, brought stylistic elements from Glam Rock to Hip-hop in the 80s.
To replicate Lisa’s 80s dressing style, wear a black velvet corset under a loose-fitting white satin blazer, paired with spandex leggings.
Accessorize the outfit with a bandana, an 80s signature, layered pearl bracelets, and a cross necklace.
7. LL Cool J Athleisure Wear
LL Cool J, born James Todd Smith, emerged in the mid-1980s as one of the most influential Hip-hop style icons.
Influenced by his athletic background and fitness, LL Cool J adopted a hip-hop athletic style.
To dress in LL Cool J’s 80s Hip-Hop style, wear a red tracksuit and Adidas Original high-top sneakers, and accessorize with a Kangol bucket hat and huge golden chains.
8. Beastie Boys Skater Style
Beastie Boys mesmerized the mid-80s hip-hop scene with a rare blend of rap, punk, and rock music and a unique skater hip-hop dressing style.
To replicate the band’s rebellious and playful style, wear an oversized checkered shirt over t-shirts, rolled-up jeans, caps, skater sneakers, and hip-hop accessories like pagers and golden chains.
9. Roxanne Shante Hip-Hop Dance
Roxanne Shante’s 80s Hip-hop Dance style was a mix of streetwear, punk, glam, and 80s dance.
To recreate her signature outfit, wear a white bike jacket with a white mini skirt, white high-top sneakers with white crew socks, and leg warmers.
Accessorize with chunky hip-hop-style jewelry like gold chains and earrings.
10. MC Lyte Tomboy Style
MC Lyte’s tomboyish Hip-hop dressing style was seen as a departure from the traditional feminine clothing worn by other 80s female hip-hop artists.
The American rapper’s masculine Tomboy way of dressing reflected her lyrics on empowering women and challenging gender norms.
To dress in 80s Hip-Hop Tomboy style, pair rolled-up baggy jeans with an oversized t-shirt and combat boots.
Add chunky gold jewelry to the look for the extra Hip-hop flair.
11. Sweet Tee Baddie Style
Reaching popularity in the late 1980s with hit songs like “It’s My Beat” and “On the Smooth Tip,” Sweet Tee’s hip-hop fashion was what we describe nowadays as “Baddie style.”
To recreate Sweet Tee’s Hip-hop look, you should blend sportswear and streetwear clothes: distressed jeans with graphic prints, crop tops under a bomber jacket or an oversized jumper, platform sneakers, lots of chunky gold jewelry like hoop earrings, and colorful bandanas.
12. Queen Latifah African Style
Rapper, singer, and actress Queen Latifah was a prominent figure in the late 80s hip-hop scene.
Known for socially conscious lyrics that championed women’s rights faced by the African American community, Latifah’s hip-hop fashion style reflected her African heritage.
To dress in 80s African Hip-hop style, wear a colorful African print dashiki set, a headwrap, or kufi, paired with cowrie shell necklaces, hoop earrings, and African-style bracelets.
13. Salt ‘N’ Pepa 80s ‘Fitness Craze’
Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s 80s Hip-hop style is the combination of the band’s African heritage and the fitness craze of the 80s.
To recreate Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s iconic 80s Hip-hop look, wear a spandex jumpsuit under an oversized varsity bomber jacket, paired with red leather knee-high boots.
Accessorize with a colorful African kufi hat and chunky gold jewelry.
14. Ice T ‘Pusher’ Style
The legendary rapper, actor, and producer is one of the pioneers of gangsta rap, a subgenre of hip-hop covering the gritty realities of street life.
Ice T’s 80s hip-hop ‘Pusher’ style was influenced by the drug dealer fashion of the time.
To dress in Ice T’s ‘Pusher’ style, wear a black shirt with sequin details, flared suit pants, Kagol’s Baret hat, a gold gun pendant rope necklace, and oversized frameless sunglasses.
15. Big Daddy Kane Street Style Formalwear
By the end of the 80s decade, the most popular hip-hop styles were Big Daddy Kane’s complex blend of streetwear looks with tailored suits from high-end brands.
To dress in 80s street-style formalwear, you should wear an oversized jacket over a black silk collarless shirt, loose-fitting formal pants, red Wallabee shoes, a gold watch, a gold bracelet, and a rope necklace to create a luxurious, wealthy look.
The Evolution of 80s Hip-Hop Fashion
Early 80s Hip-Hop Fashion
1980 – 1983
At the start of the 80s decade, the streets of New York City came alive at the sound of hip-hop.
Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash The Furious Five, and Lovebug Starski’s beats were unique, fresh, and infectious.
Dressed in workwear, cowboy, and streetwear with flared pants and matched with baker boy, cowboy, and factory-style hats, the looks were inspired by the 70s fashion decade.
However, as more hip-hop groups and celebs emerged, such as Run D.M.C., The Sequence, Kurtis Blow, and Treacherous Three, the 80s hip-hop fashion styles diversified.
The new looks transitioned from workwear and funky fashion to more polished ones comprising coats, shorts, oversized glasses, and golden accessories.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five grew in popularity; their punk-influenced style built around leather and shiny metallics also started to catch up.
Mid-80s Hip-Hop Fashion
1984 – 1987
During the mid-80s, celebs like LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Whodini, Run DMC, Lisa Lisa, Beastie Boys, and The Fat Boys started to pay full attention to their hip-hop fashion styles.
Athletic wear, tracksuits, leather jackets, sneakers, fedora hats, college jackets, blue jeans, oversized sunglasses, and golden chains made up the bulk hip-hop fashion.
Brands like Adidas, Puma, Kangol, Fila, Lee Jeans, and Nike were hip-hopper’s main choices during the mid-80s decade.
Late 80s Hip-Hop Fashion
1988 – 1989
As the hip-hop musical genre solidifies its presence in the cultural realm, so do the fashion styles accompanying the soul-snatching beats.
The late 80s hip-hop fashion scene was a vibrant mix of streetwear, African-inspired styles, and designer looks that exuded luxury and sophistication.
Streetwear continued to be popular, with oversized clothing, baggy pants, and bucket hats dominating the scene.
However, African-inspired prints of bright colors started to be adopted by hip-hop stars, with brands like Kangol and Sergio Tacchini becoming the decade’s household names.
Hip-hop fashion also saw a rise in the adoption of ‘gangsta dressing style,’ and the ‘rich boys look’ comprised of tailored designer suits mixed with sneakers and oversized gold accessories.
Hip-hop celebs like Queen Latifah, Kurtis Blow, Salt N Pepa, Ice T, and Big Daddy Kane were leading the new trend with high-quality pieces that combined the streetwear aesthetic with the sophistication of luxury fashion.
Overall, the late 80s hip-hop fashion scene was a fusion of diverse styles and influences, creating a unique and dynamic look that has continued to inspire fashion today.
In conclusion, the 80s hip-hop fashion was a mix of streetwear, African-inspired clothes, and tailored designer suits and gold accessories, with stylistic adaptations year after year.
The clothing styles of influential artists like Run D.M.C., Whodini, Lisa Lisa, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, and Roxanne Shante represented the diversity and creativity of the era.
The fashion of the 80s hip-hop scene was a statement of identity and a representation of the community.
The style of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Kurtis Blow, Rakim, MC Lyte, Ice T, and Big Daddy Kane represented the struggles and triumphs of the people and gave them a sense of pride and empowerment.
The 80s hip-hop fashion continues to inspire and influence current styles, such as the resurgence of tracksuits, oversized jackets, name belts, and chunky gold jewelry.
The legacy of the 80s hip-hop fashion lives on and will continue to inspire future generations.
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After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.