The latest fashion trend in hip-hop has its male stars raiding the women’s clothing department for inspiration.
Lil Wayne jumped around in women’s skinny pants during his performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. Kanye West wore a multiprint shirt designed for women at the Coachella music festival. Kid Cudi has been seen in a plaid skirt, Snoop Dogg often wears jewelry designed for women, and Pharrell Williams is a fan of the Hermes-made Birkin bag, the ultra-expensive purse favored by Hollywood’s top actresses.
Elena Kiam, owner and creative director of the jewelry brand Lia Sophia, said that initially she was surprised to see her women’s line embraced by some of rap’s top acts, such as 50 Cent, P. Diddy and Snoop Dogg, who has worn her pieces in music videos and on magazine covers.
“When we were designing these really beautiful, sparkly necklaces, we thought more for top editors, maybe a celebrity movie star. We really weren’t thinking about hip-hop,” said Kiam, who also said Beyoncé, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus have worn her designs.
Celebrity stylist June Ambrose said those multi-platinum musicians can pull it off because their personas stretch beyond the hip-hop culture. Of Lil Wayne’s much-talked-about decision to sport a pair of boxer-revealing, black-and-white leopard print pants during the VMAs, she acknowledges his attire was “eccentric, but, you know, he’s a rock star and pulls it off extremely well.
“Fashion should be as unisex as it is right now. It’s probably the most unisex we’ve seen it,” she said.
West, hip-hop’s ultimate metrosexual who is debuting his own fashion collection in Paris, wore a flowing, long-sleeved women’s shirt designed by French-based fashion house Celine earlier this year at Coachella. Though there were some who poked fun at his clothing choice, Ambrose saw nothing wrong with it.
“I think it’s acceptable if you’re not wearing a pair of heels with it and you’re not wearing lipstick, and neither of these guys did that,” said Ambrose, who has styled Jay-Z, Diddy and Will Smith. “They treat fashion like it is art.”
It’s not just rappers. Russell Brand and rockers such as Steven Tyler and Pete Wentz have worn women’s clothes; Janet Jackson said the famous sparkly black jacket Michael Jackson wore during his legendary “Motown 25” performance was from his mother’s closet. And of course, androgyny has long been intertwined with pop, from David Bowie to Freddie Mercury to Prince (known for his trademark heels).
Bieber, the 17-year-old pop phenomenon, acknowledges he has rocked women’s jeans because of their suitable fit.
“I think I’ve worn women’s jeans before because they fit me better,” he told the Associated Press at a recent fashion event. “I just think that whatever works, works.”
“It wasn’t like it looked like a woman’s sweater,” continued Bieber, referring to the women’s shirt worn by West. “It was just a regular sweater that just happened to be a woman’s.”
But hip-hop culture — often defined as much by its masculinity as its music — always seemed to be different. It’s hard to imagine Eminem raging onstage in a breezy women’s top; rapper DMX once clowned Jay-Z for wearing sandals on the beach, deeming it unmanly. Hip-hop’s style in recent years has ranged from oversized sports jerseys to sweats to baggy, sagging pants and plain, large white T-shirts. Lately, though, hip-hop stars are likely to sport clothes that are made to fit, and sometimes, tightly, like rock and indie hipsters.