Protest in Hip Hop Fashion

T-shirts and hoodies have been blank canvases for messages of protest and rebellion since the 1950s.

Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyér Moss, viscose T-shirt, spring/summer 2016, USA, gift of Pyér MossThe Museum at FIT

T-shirts and hoodies have been blank canvases for messages of protest and rebellion since the 1950s. They are especially visible in hip hop culture and act as a barometer of current times.

Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond

used the medium to protest the ongoing murders of Black American men at his spring 2016 fashion show, which he dedicated to the Black Lives Matter movement, continuing a long-held hip hop fashion statement made by earlier brands such as PNB Nation.

Virgil Abloh for Off-White, black cotton sweatshirt, fall 2018, Italy, gift of Off-White Virgil Abloh for Off-White, black cotton sweatshirt, fall 2018, Italy, gift of Off-WhiteThe Museum at FIT

Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh was known for his quotation designs that satirized the practice of fashion branding. Here he applied the signature technique to the black hoodie.

(L) Virgil Abloh for Off-White, black cotton sweatshirt, fall 2018, Italy, gift of Off-White, 2019.8.1 (R) Virgil Abloh for Off-White, coat, pullover, and jeans, wool, cotton, suede, leather, rubber, polyester, and metal, fall/winter 2015-2016, Italy, gift of Off-White c/o Virgil AblohThe Museum at FIT

The hoodie is an enduring hip hop fashion staple and a powerful symbol for Black and Brown communities, because of its connection to the 2012 death of Treyvon Martin and its adoption by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beau McCall, Black Lives Matter Triple T-shirt, cotton, 2021, USA, museum purchase (2021)The Museum at FIT

Beau McCall

Fashion designer Beau McCall draws specifically on hip hop music’s power of protest and assertion of Black pride by pairing Tupac Shakur’s portrait with Black Lives Matter imagery and text about police corruption.  

His avant-garde triple t-shirt poignantly brings the issues that affect Black lives together with the ways Black people fight injustice.

Credits: Story

Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style was on view at The Museum at FIT February - April 2023. It was curated by Elena Romero, assistant professor, Advertising and Marketing Communications, FIT, and Elizabeth Way, associate curator of costume, MFIT. 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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