This book sources interviews with scholars, urban designers, music experts, financial analysts, retailers, and hip hop celebrities to chronicle the compelling story of how hip hop transformed the fashion world and exploded into a $3 billion clothing industry.
For years, designers and manufacturers took cues from the streets to enhance their clothing lines, but before the 1980s the urban consumer was never recognized as a viable demographic. In a push to appeal to young customers, the fashion industry began hiring and backing talented African American designers and entrepreneurs. This seemingly unconventional union made business sense: seasoned fashion executives brought proven track records, while aspiring designers provided street credibility and a fresh perspective on design. The end result: a multi-billion dollar industry.
This book traces the fascinating unfolding of hip hop fashion from its roots to the present day. It explores how hip hop transitioned from “the hood” to the runway; how race, ethnicity, and culture played into commercialism; how celebrities impacted the fashion industry; and what ultimately led major department stores to jump on the urban bandwagon. Utilizing the author's journalistic lens and based upon interviews with urban fashion designers, entrepreneurs, fashion veterans, trend forecasters, and hip hop celebrities, each chapter is akin to an oral history that provides not just facts but also invaluable analysis and historical perspective.
- A foreword by Daymond John, cofounder of FUBU, star of ABC's The Shark Tank, and author of The Display of Power and The Brand Within
- A chronology of 20th-century fashion styles as well as urban fashion from the late 1970s to present
- Many photographs of pioneering urban designers, hip hop fashion trends, hip hop celebrities, and more
- A multicultural bibliography containing significant materials from the fields of history, music, culture, and fashion
- Represents the first book to comprehensively chronicle the business, history, distinctive style, controversy, and social implications of urban fashion
- Details how hip hop celebrities became some of today's leading fashion designers
- Includes images taken by legendary hip hop photographers Ernie Paniccioli and Jamel Shabazz, as well as Ronnie Wright
- Examines how several multi-million-dollar apparel brands succeeded or failed in the apparel business, including Cross Colours, Karl Kani, FUBU, Ecko Unlimited, and Sean John
“Free Stylin’ is a masterpiece of hip hop history, capturing the essence of hip hop culture by chronicling, in rich and vivid detail, the remarkable untold story of urban fashion’s transformation into a multi-billion dollar moneymaker. It is the new standard for studies of hip hop and the generation of young people who made it a global phenomenon.”
"As a reporter, Elena Romero was the first to seriously cover the rise of hip-hop fashion. Now she's the first to tell the entire, epic story in Free Stylin'. They say that journalists write the rough draft of history. But Romero has written both the first and the last words."
"In reality hip-hop and fashion have forever been inextricably linked, so an in-print insider's view such as this one from Elena Romero is more than welcomed! Romero's experience and love of hip-hop make her that perfectly-situated someone necessary to the genuine telling of any story. Free Stylin' expertly fills many voids in the scholarship and is likely to start and re-start much discussion of an under-appreciated facet of hip-hop history."
"An important addition to the field of hip-hop studies, Freestylin’, documents a previously untold but crucial chapter of hip-hop history. In the process, Elena Romero gives new meaning to our understanding of the hip-hop explosion as one of the major cultural shifts of our time."
"Elena Romero has chronicled one of the most exciting eras in the history of the global fashion industry. She takes us from the origins of Hip-Hop style in the streets, boroughs and clubs of New York to its dominance of the airways and runways of the world. From the 'Streets to the Suites', Free Stylin’ is a book that every member of the 'Rag Trade' should read – from the entry level account executive, to the chairman of the board, to retail buyers, sociologists, and certainly by students and instructors of apparel design. Not often does one get to witness the creation, rise and dominance of an entirely new cultural and economic phenomenon. All the playas are here: from Snoop Dogg to Fubu. In the last fifty years, only the rise of the computer and subsequently the Internet parallel the monumental impact of Hip-Hop on the global marketplace. Free Stylin’ is a major historical achievement and it is truly destined to be a Best Seller."
"Free Stylin' vividly reminds me of the early 70's. I had just fallen madly in love with my first pair of converse high-tops (Chuck Taylor's) and the ever budding presence of a subculture. Stylin' and profiling would forever be our mantra and the occurrence and circumstances of that time-line would forever change our lives and the course of history."
"Ms. Romero has written a definitive and well researched telling of the history of urban fashion, chronicling this facet of hip-hop's lucrative tenet, from the streets to the mainstream. This is a must read for students of fashion history and hip-hop curios interested in the documentation of the culture from someone that was there to witness it unfold."
"Free Stylin’ remixes the tale of entrepreneurship, hip hop and style. It’s a story some of us in hip-hop are partly familiar with having gear become such an important part of our celeb personas. However, Free Stylin’ educates us all on the commercial history of hip-hop fashion. Romero gives credit where credit is due by telling the stories of fashion pioneers and their brands that would’ve otherwise gone untold. Free Stylin’ is hip hop history."