11 Popular Hip-hop Fashion Trends That Dominated The 80s

Hip-hop culture, music, and fashion have evolved significantly since its first days in 1970’s to date with each decade having different trends. The 80’s hip-hop fashion styles are making a comeback today with most celebrities wearing some fashion items to various events. Some brands have also maintained their presence throughout the hip-hop history without losing their touch. Artists and rappers such as M.C Hammer, Queen Latifah, Grandmaster Flash, and Run DMC played a significant role in shaping the hip-hop music and fashion industry in the 80’s. Their efforts bore fruits with most trends reflecting the traditional African influences.

 Kangol bucket hats, oversized gold chains, Raiders starter jackets, and brands such as Adidas dominated the 80’s hip-hop industry. Salient colors of red, yellow, and green also made a grand entry into mainstream hip-hop industry with artists like Salt-N-Pepa wearing them. The fashion trends for women were similar to those of men in the hip-hop industry in 80’s with heavy gold jewelry and loose fitting clothes becoming a common trend. The 80’s hip-hop culture emphasized greatly on historic African roots that artists and rappers depicted through their music, clothing, and accessories. Some of the popular 80’s hip-hop fashion trends include:

Raiders Starter Jackets

chuck d jacket

Via Esquire

Starter jackets were a status symbol for hip-hop stars and enthusiasts in late 1980’s and early 90s. The starter jackets were popular with African American groups such as Public Enemy. The status symbol of the jackets contributed to reported robbery incidents in the 80s and early 90’s.

Kangol Bucket Hats

LL Cool J 80s hat

Via Complex

Nothing completed the hip-hop fashion industry in 80’s than a Kangol hat. It was a significant style for Todd Smith who wore it in 1980’s. Most hip-hop enthusiasts enjoy identifying with a favorite artist, and it is for this reason that the European brand became one of the most popular brands in the hat industry.

Four-finger Rings

bill nun 80s rap rings

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Rings are some of the popular fashion trends in the hip-hop industry, but nothing beats the 80’s four finger rings. The rings were popular with stars like Todd Smith and Big Daddy Kane. Wearing the four finger rings signaled you meant cool business back in 1980’s. The trend has since faded with present-day artists wearing fewer rings.

Salient Colors

salt n pepa 80s salient colors fashion

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Yellow, green, and red colors became the new black in the 80’s. They were popular in reggae culture for a long time until stars like Queen Latifah, Salt N Pepa, and Public Enemy introduced them to the mainstream hip-hop. The influence of Black Nationalism that supported the African culture contributed to the introduction of the colors into hip-hop fashion industry in the 80’s. Designers used the colors in designing hats and bomber jackets.

The Name Belt

the game hiphop name belt

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The big nameplate inspired belts of the 80’s were necessary for every hip-hop star. The belts screamed badass so loudly for both men and women. Most stars combined the giant gold chains with the large name belt completing the gangster-like look.

Kente Print Hats

salt n pepa 80s hat accessories

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The Kente print hats were popular with stars such as Salt-N-Pepa, Arrest Development, and X-Clan. Designers incorporated striking colors on the hat giving the wearers a fun and vibrant look. The hats are not popular today, but you can guess that this stylish look will make a comeback in future.

Adidas Shell Toes

ru dmc 80s hiphop adidas sneakers

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Hip-hop legends like Run DMC popularized the Adidas shell toes in the 1980’s. The iconic hip-hop pioneers completed the B-boys fashion with Kangol hats, oversized gold chain, and Adidas track suits. The 80’s Adidas sneakers had a large frontal design consisting of a giant rubber piece that took the shape of an upside-down shell hence the name “shell toes.” The Adidas shell toes consisted of an oversized bright lace decorations, and most people wore them without laces.

Giant Dookie Rope Chains

80s giant dookie rope chains

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The giant hollow rope chains worn by famous stars like Run-DMC were a status symbol for most hip-hop enthusiasts. The chains were like a rite of passage for every 80’s MC, and you did not rhyme right if you lacked any of these massive chains. Every star had to get one of those big chains to fit perfectly into the hip-hop industry. The chains are currently making a comeback in the present day hip-hop fashion, but most enthusiasts have limitations based on the increased gold value and labor costs.


queen latifah 80s hip hip snapbacks

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Hip-hop artists like Queen Latifah completed the 80’s hip-hop fashion with a flat brimmed cap that mostly faced backward. Snapbacks were a universal headwear for almost all hip-hop artists in 80’s regardless of their genders. The Adidas sneakers and loose fitting clothes gave a complementary and stylish look to the backward-facing snapbacks.

Tees and Jeans

nwa 80s hiphop tees jeans

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N.W.A group adopted a simple but bold look with tees and jeans. The fashion combo has survived the three decades and remains one of the popular trends among the present day hip-hop artists. The group together with other artists completed their swagger by adding Adidas shell toes, snapbacks, roped gold chains, and bomber jackets to the tees and jeans combo.

The Steps

big daddy 80s hiphop hairstyle

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The iconic hairstyle dominated the hip-hop industry in the late 1980s. The hairstyle featured trimmed and fairly shorter hair at the back and sides and some volume at the top. The hip-hop enthusiasts would then include patterned cuts in the desirable areas. The hairstyle remains popular in the 21st century with celebrities like Drake and Justin Bieber locking it to date.


Everyone who has watched the evolution of the fashion trends from 80’s to present day agrees with the fact that the era defined a complete turnaround in the hip-hop fashion industry. Some trends did not last for a long while others remain dominant today. The ability of the enthusiast to relate directly with stars style helped in creating and maintaining a hip-hop community that the pioneers wanted. Today, the hip-hop culture, music, and fashion have now evolved, and more people all over the world are embracing the 80’s trends and the current fashion styles.

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