Society shifts over time, and sometimes these shifts are visible to us through fashion. This is especially true when looking at fashion in the rap industry.

Historically men’s fashion is toxic. Men who don’t adhere to masculine styles and trends are judged for expressing their individuality still to this day. Although there’s been a progression, many still don’t understand the concept of gender being a social construct.

Lil Nas X performing on The Tonight Show

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When looking back at the fashion from popular music videos and red-carpet events we can see that over time the image of the “rapper” has evolved repeatedly.

The hip-hop group Run-DMC was prominent in the 1980s and influenced culture for years to come. They sported gold chains and sports jackets and always wore an organized, put-together look. The group’s matching outfits helped solidify its image. Although the members dressed in uniform, they each expressed their own individuality in a small way. Group member, Darryl McDaniels was synonymous with his oversized glasses. This can be seen in the “It’s Tricky” music video.

Hip-hop duo, OutKast followed Run-DMC in the early nineties. The duo was said to dress more boldly. In a time, when this simply wasn’t the norm, André 3000 and Big Boi were seriously pushing the envelope. Big Boi would pair his feminine hairstyles with vintage sports jerseys and André 3000 would wear tons of fur. Both men were heavily criticized by the media, they were often referred to as freaks and were even called the “Odd Couple”.  Despite the duo’s success, OutKast was ahead of its time.

OutKast (André 3000 & Big Boi)

Photo Credit: John Bazemore/Shutterstock

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In the 2000s rappers continued to flaunt their success with their outfits. As Jay-Z rose to fame his wardrobe saw an increase in luxury. Rap artists were now wearing couture and high-end clothing as opposed to streetwear. In Jay-Z’s video “Do It Again”, he is shown wearing a New York Yankees hat and gold chain. This outfit highlights his wealth, but also his individuality and roots being from Brooklyn.

Jay-Z singing on stage with wife, Beyoncé

Photo Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

Since the early 2000s, many rappers have developed careers as designers. Kanye West is an example of a rapper who has made this pivot. Yeezy is so unique that it is recognizable to the public. On top of having his own successful luxury brand, he has also shaped pop culture. Kim Kardashian credits Mr. West as her stylist throughout their marriage in episode five of The Kardashians. Kanye being at all interested in fashion questions the gender binary.

Kim & Kanye at 2016 Met

Photo Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Today, artists like Lil Nas X are dismantling the gender binary through their music. Although people are more accepting, it would be remiss to say that Lil Nas X hasn’t faced backlash for his music videos. The visuals from his debut studio album, Montero are controversial to many.

Lil Nas X attends the 2021 BET Awards

Photo Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Elton John has even praised Lil Nas X for representing the LGBTQ+ community in a genre full of toxic masculinity and homophobia.

Published by HOLR Magazine.