They say you are what you wear, and this especially rings true in hip hop and dancing. Because hip hop is one of the few forms of dancing wherein there’s no strict uniform, dancers are given the liberty to dress according to what they think shouts out their personality and style the most. You can almost identify what style a dancer is into by the clothes he or she wears.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about getting your urban leg wear on point so you can rock a cool, flamboyant style on the dance floor in no time.
Creative professionals (dancers, artists, etc.) may have been asked about what their branding is especially when they go out there and try to make a living out of their passion. Now, I understand that hearing the word “branding” might make your eyes go:
More or less, you’ll probably say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” After all, who wants to be called a brand when we’re human beings? Why would I have to spend time thinking about what I want people to think of me, right? Am I right? Wrong.
In the simplest of terms, branding is how you present yourself to people you interact with. It is how you want them to know you for and how they will remember you by. I would like to stress that your personal brand, while partly intentional to be in a good context, should be something that reflects YOU. It should present the person who you really are and aspire to be. It should not be some made-up, idealistic, perfect persona. Especially if you’re a dancer, you don’t have to spend too much time thinking about how you want to present yourself to everyone. You just have to know who you are and what you love to do.
As a part of personal branding, you also have to take the way you dress up into consideration. Of course, it’s a drastic measure to own a wardrobe like Lady Gaga, and I’m not saying you have to go all out on spending good money on clothes. What’s great about hip hop dancing is that you have complete freewill to play around and express yourself through your clothes even before and dancing is done. Your outfit should exude a vibe that screams swag and personality.
One good example of an artist who’s done a great job at branding by what she wears is Olivia “Chachi” Gonzales. Her unique way of choreographing dance routines that took the world by storm, and eventually earned her a huge following online. But aside from her exceptional dancing skills, her outfit choices were also well liked by her followers. As seen in her videos and photos, she mixes up her tops- wearing a tank top with a plaid sleeve wrapped around her hips, or sometimes, a plain shirt. But what was most noticeable was her legwear. She wore jogger or harem pants most of the time, so much she has her “Chachimomma pants.”
Olivia "Chachi" Gonzales
Get the look
In order to understand how hip hop- and urban fashion alongside- evolved throughout the years, let’s strut down on memory lane for a bit, shall we?
The start of hip hop dance and fashion can be traced way back in the 1970’s, back to when a new energy of hip hop was unleashed by young dancers who likes going to parties. The music that played in these parties inspired these dancers to do moves that eventually became the foundation of hip hop dance. From Bronx, New York to Compton, California, young ones took to the streets new feats of hip hop such as breaking, popping, and krumping among others. It was a familiar scene to see a big boom box in the streets, or a circle of men rapping and beatboxing, with bboys and bgirls busting each rhyme with dance moves.
It didn’t take long before they realized how big of an impact hip hop is creating in the society. The movie industry caught on, until such time in the 1990s, the phenomenon spread like wildfire.
Dancers from all over the world organized competitions. It sparked a new lifestyle, and with it, came the birth of new styles to incorporate into hip hop dancing like tutting, waving, and shuffling.
Do Da Shuffle - IamABRAHAMMER feat [Foxy & El Tiro]
Hip hop timeline told through Legwear
- Late 1970's- Bellbottoms
Since hip hop was still starting during that time, bellbottom pants, commonly used by disco goers were the norm. Own a pair of jeans with belled bottom, and you also own an extremely high level of swag.
- Early 1980s and early 2010s- Leather Pants
Edgy aesthetic and the colliding of punk and rap due to their political nature gave way to rappers rocking leather pants, with ripped sleeve shirts to match. Kanye West revived the use of leather pants that came with slitted knees three decades later, only at a higher price.
- Mid 1980s and mid 1990s- Track suits
Matchy-matchy tracksuits or "windbreakers" became popular due to the number of bboys and bgirls rocking them as they do windmills on the street.
- Early 1990s and early 2010s- MC Hammer Pants
Flinging hip hop into the mainstream public, artist MC Hammer introduced harem pants.He did so while wearing one on his "U Can't Touch This" music video. Watching him skidding sideways along with the music looked so much fun with him wearing those baggy pants. Fast forward to the present, and it has made a successful comeback.
- Mid 1990s- Cargo Pants
An indie label uprising led to what was known as underground hip hop wherein artists made their own labels because major producers didn't want to do so. A part of the alternative and independent feel brought about by these artists was the clothing. What with how convenient it was and how everything seems to fit into the extra knee pockets, cargo jeans became the norm.
- Early 00s- Sagging Jeans
How low can you go? Jeans used during this era weren't that different from normal jeans. What differs is the way they were worn. Sagging is a manner of wearing your jeans in such a way your jean's waistband is significantly below your waist, revealing much of your boxers.
Baggy or fitting?
The journey of hip hop has become one of the most important revolutions that sparked so many dance styles. In return, different cultures have also affected the way people see and do hip hop. Way back when hip hop was just starting in the 70’s, dancers got inspiration from the wardrobe of rappers. It wasn’t just fashion. It was all about street cred, and hip hop was commonly portrayed in loose-fitting wardrobe, snapbacks, and big sparkly chain jewelries referred to as “bling bling.”
Of course it can’t be helped that as time goes by, changes can happen in the world of hip hop. After all, it is said that the only constant in this world is change, right? Enter the 21st century, wherein hip hop has come a long way, influencing other cultures, and also influencing them in return. One example is the influence of skate culture in hip hop style. Skaters have been known for sporting shorts and skinny jeans. Eventually, some hip hop dancers got inspiration from them and turned to more fitting leg wear in lieu of baggy ones.
What are the factors you have to take into consideration when buying a cover-up for your bottom half? Read on to find out.
A big factor that comes into play for hip hop dancers is the functionality of an outfit. Functionality is how well the clothes will allow you to perform the moves you have to do. What good would an outfit be if it only looked good but becomes a hindrance in delivering a good performance? You don't want to end your performance abruptly just because of ripping sounds from down there. Kidding and ripping jeans aside, break dancing could involve doing windmills and flips that would require you to have pants that are more loose so your legs can have more room to breathe while doing the moves.
The go-to leg wear for dancers has always been sweatpants. With the heavenly leg airflow it provides dancers, these things could make you sweat without having to feel damp and gross, compared to when you're wearing jeans.
Justin Bieber sporting different styles
Get the look
Joggers and baggy sweatpants can be sported by both genders. Commonly, they go for neutral colors such as black, gray, or white. While sweatpants feel nice on a cold weather and when inside the comfort of an air-conditioned studio, it could be bothersome during the summer. Dancers need something they can wear in the summer that would allow them to move freely without too much of a heavy baggage. This is why a basketball-inspired fashion was also incorporated in hip hop dancing. Dancers began wearing basketball shorts and athletic shorts.
With functionality and comfort considered, the right outfit should also aid in your safety. Constraints in your outfit could give you a hard time moving, and if you have a hard time moving, you won't be able to do the moves properly. This is crucial to your safety when doing gravity-defying power moves and freezes. Your jumps could be set short because you couldn't move your legs as much as you want them, and this could lead to strain or worse, dislocations and fractures.
It only makes sense to look for a a leg wear that will stand the test of time and will not give up on you in the middle of a dance sequence.
So... what pants should I wear?
Baggy or loose? Short or long? So many factors have been discussed- all for the love of bottom cover-ups. How would you decide on what to add or remove from your wardrobe?
Dancers would sometimes go for the tight top-loose pants combo or vice versa for variety to accentuate different parts of their bodies. A fitting tank top could go well with harem or jogger pants. Other would pair a shirt one size bigger or a hoodie with a fitting track pants. Experiment on different looks. You can also get inspiration from your favorite dancer.
At the end of the day, the decision is entirely up to YOU. What feels comfortable to you? Comfort is subjective so whether you want a pair of spandex or the baggiest pair of sweatpants, I want you to go get it. Wear it. Own it. Wear something you feel great in and one that would make you feel at your most comfortable self.
An amalgam of wardrobe also works, too! Wear capri pants one day, and the next, bring those yoga pants out. Feeling basic? Wear neutral colors. Feeling crazy? Go get those shiny metallics and neons!
We hope that giving a brief history on hip hop told through pants will give you a perspective of how liberating hip hop is- enough to make a unique style of your own. Since hip hop is a big world you can discover, feel free to mix up styles. Who knows? You might be the next trendsetter while you're busting your moves away to the music.
If you're still worried after all that's been said and done because you don't know where to get the perfect hip hop pants, we can help. We've curated quality hip hop pants on our shop so you won't have to. From sweatpants, harem pants, and joggers- to more slim-fitting leg wear such as leggings and yoga pants- we have them for you. Plus, we are advocates or art, dance, and making the world a better place. A portion of our proceeds from is dedicated to helping inspire dreamers to pursue their passion by teaching dance to areas of poverty.
And to repeat what has been said earlier in this article- hip hop is a lifestyle. So whether you have the street cred or not, live and dance on, my friend, no matter what pants you are on.