October 9th, 2012
Celebrity Style, Fashion Discussion
Fashion Discussion: What is Urban Fashion?
By Claire

As you know, we typically classify The Fashion Bomb as an ‘urban’ style site, a word I used to denominate a spectrum of chic from a multicultural, though largely African-American perspective. Urban fashion meant a look that bounces to the beat of Hip-Hop and R&B, puts a unique twist on ready-to-wear, and mixes high and low fabulously.

Back in the 90′s, urban fashion was reserved for hip-hop and R&B artists who embraced streetwear brands as varied as Tommy Hilfiger and Karl Kani. Big logos were ubiquitous, as were copious instances of statement jewelry whether found in earrings or heavy gold rope chains.

Many nascent rap groups undoubtedly embraced FUBU and Cross Colours due to accessibility and their finger-on-the-pulse relevance. Later on many hip-hop insiders launched their own lines, with Wu Tang and Wu Wear, Russell and Kimora Lee Simmons with Phat Farm and Baby Phat, Nelly with Apple Bottoms, and more.

Though urban brands certainly enjoyed their moment, their popularity seems to be waning. Instead of Jay-Z wearing Rocawear, you’re most likely to see him in Givenchy. Though Beyonce is the face of House of Deréon (and is werqing it in their new ad!), we know the R&B and pop songstress truly has a soft spot for Balmain, Lanvin and Alexander McQueen. Nicki Minaj loves her Versace as much as Kim loves her Kanye West.

All that to say our ‘urban’ idols and hip-hop and R&B stars, much like hip-hop and R&B themselves, are more mainstream. And as far as this site goes, yes, we show love to Sean John and House of Dereon, but we also cover Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and Burberry.

So what does urban fashion mean to you in these evolving fashionable times? Does it mean anything? Or has urban fashion, like urban music, simply gone mainstream?

Main Images: Anais Mali, Cora Emmanuel, Rob Evans, Travone Hill and Chrishell Stubbs for V Magazine’s Music Issue.

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43 Responses to “Fashion Discussion: What is Urban Fashion?”

  1. ShopHeiress says:

    We have to stop letting people tell us what “Urban Fashion” is.

  2. ShopHeiress says:

    If is it’s in Vouge it’s not Urban!

  3. Anon says:

    IMO urban fashion is the fashion you see being rocked in the urban areas of the country. The everyday items that a north phillian or a bedstuy native may throw on. Urban fashions used to seem taboo until mainstream america “decided” it was hot. Before then, we would rock our gear, nail designs, big gold jewelry with no problem and you didnt have to tell us we looked hot because we knew it.

  4. Jlynn719 says:

    I think fashion in general has just gone mainstream. With the popularity of fast and affordable fashion (Zara, H&M, Asos, etc… ) and also blogs and just the internet in general many trends and brands have become more accessible and well known. Back in the days of FUBU and Baby Phat you really only had access to magazines, TV and the neighborhood around you. You wore what you could easily find in your local mall, now you can see a pic of Rihanna and have the exact same thing shipped to you in a matter of moments. I think everyone these days is into “fashion” which basically just makes almost all of us copies (celebrities included). You don’t see the diversity you used to see when going from city to city. When I started college (Hampton U) back in ’98 you could tell where a lot of people were from (DC/NY/Cali) based on their style. Now everyone just seems to blend. So to finish my long winded point, urban fashion has just done what all fashion has done… blended in.

  5. Jbrizzy says:

    Urban fashion is nearly dead. Especially with people mainly with in the urban community aspiring to wear more high end labels. We are just un a new era. What was hot back in the 2000s is deemed cheap by today’s standards

  6. Anon says:

    IMO urban fashion is the fashion you see being rocked in the urban areas of the country. The everyday items that a north phillian or a bedstuy native may throw on. Urban fashions used to seem taboo until mainstream america “decided” it was hot. Before then, we would rock our gear, nail designs, big gold jewelry with no problem and you didnt have to tell us we looked hot because we knew it.

    I agree urban fashion is almost dead and has gone too mainstream.

  7. Coco says:

    Although urban music has gone mainstream to me it is still recognizable and I think urban fashion is the same regardless of what the big urban artists are favoring now. I still consider my style classy quirky urban and the urban component constitutes the over the top ‘ fl y’ part

  8. Meighbee says:

    I think with the proliferation of global fashion and culture through the digital space along with general availability through e-commerce “urban fashion” can’t hold the same definition as it once did. There is not longer the wall between what the average urban typically black consumer can wear and what’s available to them. Also in a sense Urban fashion still exists it just manifests itself differently. We no longer turn to urban brands necessarily but we still represent the cool factor of living in an urban environment.

  9. Savage says:

    Urban fashion used to be based on looks/brands that catered to us. Also most black celebrities wore those same brands. But now your fave black artist is not in that Tommy Hilfiger that could run you only a few hundred dollars. They’re in Armani Prive’. And some like Beyonce’ who has her own line, you very rarely ever see her in her own clothes! Which makes us the consumers, rather the black consumers less likely to want to buy her line. “If its not good enough for you then why is it good enough for me?” Plus as black consumers our taste in a way (lol) is evolving so majority of the lines directed to black consumers are tacky and of poor quality.

  10. bella says:

    in this day and age there is no such thing as urban fashion. everything has mixed together.

  11. MiMi says:

    I don’t think “urban” fashion went mainstream, it got better. Like all types of fashion it evolved.

  12. Juice love says:

    I think urban fashion is not so much a label but just what people are wearing in the streets….wasn’t there a similar post about this before?

  13. Christie says:

    But what is Bella talking about ?

    Ok There still is Urban Fashion … Because if Preppy and Hippie exists, why can’t Urban ? Nothing has blended in. But in fact, MORE people have started to embrace Urban Fashion (Black Style…basically) because they want to be hip just like us :) just like Simon Doonan (creative director at Barney’s ) told a small audience once at school ….” If your looking for inspiration or the next trend or just learning how to dress, ALWAYS go to a black person. THEY can dress..they have style.” words of a white gay man in the industry.

    Urban fashion has evolved into greatness… We now have brands doing quality items in good and current style (at HIGH PRICES, none the less.. THAT’S the appeal) a lot of urban wear these days are expensive, and I don’t mind that…stores have embraced our looks by making them RTW and available for all groups faster than the speed of light . ( H&M, Zara with Cuban link gold plated chains, harem pants, leather bombers(originally coined in streetwear by PELLE PELLE – NYC BRONX favorite) and motorcycle jackets …. Acid washes, platformed kicks and capitalized on snap backs and fittedes, EVEN grillz , now reigning in high fashion with different and more feminine designs, respectfully. ) and you know what ….even with all of this, THE HIGH FASHION INDUSTRY CLAIMS THEY CREATED THESE TRENDS FIRST ( when I say HIGH fashion I mean the predominantly white designers who capitalize on urban wear styles ….LE sigh, that’s for another time….

    All in all, we are not blending in, but only getting better as time progresses


  14. XOXO says:

    I my opinion; It’s actually the other way around. Seems as though mainstream has gone urban. The infusion of street chic and sporty being infused in high-end runway collection. Urban is now a synonym with fashion, adding a daring factor to otherwise “chic” fashion, hence “Street Chic” the inspiration for many designers and celebs.

  15. Deb says:

    Since the roots of Urban fashion are not just linked to hip-hop, R&B and rap but more importantly it’s artists I think it’s understandable that when their fashion style evolved so does the look of Urban fashion. Hence, the more mainstream their music got the more mainstream the fashion that they embody will become. This can only be a good thing like pushing designer like Michael Knight to forefront. No one dresses in Karl Kani anymore….

  16. LA says:

    Urban fashion has not changed in the decades since the 80′s. As long as someone can identify what brand or it’s retail price black men and women will embrace it in the masses. It’s all about Monograms & red soles. I am educated and employed and can’t afford/ and choose not too embrace a $1500 shoe. Some people need to validate themselves and America has made us feel unworthy as people so we measure our value with what we can wear and drive.

  17. Indigo says:

    These comments are funny and all over the place… LOL There is urban fashion. I remember telling someone I don’t wear urban clothes and they were offended.. LOL

  18. The SPS says:

    Well if you’re looking at “luxury rap” and the over-utilization of labels and brands in songs, you should not be surprised that “urban” fashion is dead. Rap is unfortunately assimilating and co-opted and just cookie cutter and everyone wants to fit in. Didn’t Jay-Z baldly say RocAWear was not an urban brand? Lies, fallacies, and falsehoods. He is ashamed and is obfuscating the roots of his fashion label as he tries to appeal to a wider audience.

  19. yusufswifee says:

    urban fashion still exist and is not dead. I agree with Anon. I think it is was is rocked in the urban areas…then it goes mainstream. :-) Those urban areas are changing also

  20. J. Nicole says:

    It’s easy for some to say urban fashion is wandering off, especially if only mainstream images are being thrusted on you, or ones only source of info is that of a mainstream publication.

    To be literal, ‘urban’ is defined as relating to a characteristic of a town or city. Using it in authentic denotation, then it will truly never go away as there is always an aesthetic to certain areas.

    When urban fashion is then interpreted as simply black fashion or hip hop artists with fashion labels, people then begin to see it not so much as negative, but obsolete or as a stepping stone to the mainstream. I do not see it this way, but there are some designers who started off with what would be considered urban in relation to hip hop or ‘black style’ only to abandon it as their fame increased. But there’s also who were never urban (again, relating to hip hop) but were urban as far as being trendy, civic or related to a well populated metropolis; for example Tracy Reese.

    One more thing before I go (I’ve ranted enough). When urban style is rendered obsolete, it is sometimes because its equated with being too ‘ghetto’- a term I’ve seen thrown around as an insult when their style mimics what is stereotypically associated with being too black. We blacks (African American, Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean) sometimes care way too much if our appearance is considred ‘too black’ and will shy away from it. As someone who uses the word ‘urban’ in my blog (shameless plug) I embrace it as a term celebrating black culture and its Websters defined term.


  21. Robin says:

    It’s gone mainstream right along with hip hop. It’s really not even cool to rock logos on clothing. Unless is smaller and not as visible. Most of the younger generation are liking the things that the rappers and r&b divas are wearing such as your what I used to call in high school was the preppy look. The polo’s with cardigans and creased pants and boats shoes. Rarely do I see many people rocking Urban name brands such as Rocawear BabyPhat etc. Jordans are still the hot thing but Sperry’s and getting the lasted trending flats or heels is the new thing. I think Timberland like Jordan will always be a hit but sneakers are being made my not only Reebok and Nike but Louboutin and other names. Were as we say mainstream rapping and being commercialized it’s kind of like it’s maturing. That’s just my take on it for the younger generation being those 16-30.

  22. bella says:

    wtf? I don’t think urban fashion exists because your skin color doesn’t determine what urban is.

    What is still considered urban these days? doorknockers? big chains? snapbacks?
    fashion magazines and rappers have totally made all these things that used to only be seen in the hood mainstream.

    urban to ME has always been a tricky word. who is considered urban and who is not?

    you can be black and not have urban style at all..if that’s the case there are many celebs on this site who don’t have “urban” style IMO.

    khloe and kourtney kardashian, kerry washington, rachel roy, nicole richie, and zoe saldana just to name a few.

  23. Tee says:

    So I guess fools like Kreyshawn are considered to have “URBAN style?”…..fugg outta here!

  24. I totally agree with Jlynn719 and I also think fashion has gone urban. So many of the designs are influenced by urban culture, it’s hard to deny. With that said, I do think fashion has become watered down because of accessibility and social media.

  25. Puffy was very smart when he made sure his brand could go from the boardroom to the street.

  26. StephieMinion says:

    Urban fashion is alive and kicking. I do not get into the look, myself because its not my taste but nonetheless, people still embrace it. Go to any main city (DETROIT) My City, and it is DIFFERENT from the next. some black people will never ever let go of the street look which includes a lot of logos still today and no its not a huge name across the chest but signature prints or signs that are deff tell tell. Sneakers mainly Jordans and Cartier glasses lol is still Hood wear. I don’t even Like to wear True Religion anymore because the Hood is wearing it. Street wear will always be a factor, just not anything that I would wear.

  27. Gigi Young says:

    Urabn fashion to me has always been what people on the streets–those who can’t afford labels or even the latest trends–create from what they do have. That’s part of the reason why I stopped paying attention to all those street fashion blogs–it looks nice, but you’re still wearing the latest trends and the hottest labels. It is very rare to see someone who creates their own look out of what they can afford (or sew up).

  28. binks says:

    I agree with most of the comments urban fashion isn’t dead but just evolved. And let’s be honest MAINSTREAM is STILL STEALING our style and fail to give us credit. Urban fashion to me is not necessarily about brands but the twist and flair we give when it comes to fashion weather it is babyphat or Gucci. I hate when people think urban fashion= ghetto when that’s not the case. Sure back in the day we were loyal to certain brands because those brands was A) catering to us and B) the labels that was exclusive wasn’t checking for us. Now that our world has become virtually boardless and accessibility has been a game changer to fashion overall.

  29. makeeasweet says:

    am i the only one that finds it tacky if a person only wear clothes from their clothing line?.i really dont understand how people expect beyonce to walk around wearing her designs all the time.she did rock her own stuff when it first came out,like most designers do.now that she more establish she doesnt have to do that anymore.

  30. Heide says:

    Urban Fashion is simply black fashion. Instead of saying black or ethnic fashion journalist, the media, publicist and fashion insiders say urban. As the comment above mentioned if it is in Vogue it is not urban. Case in point though SJP’s character Carrie Bradshaw lived in NY and at times she’d rock a urban look (like a pair of baggy fatigue pants) but her fashion was never considered urban. So Urban isn’t classified as street wear. Scott Schuman may feature some urban looks on his blog but his blog is not an Urban blog.

    Not only is it dead it has been dead for a while now. Do high end fashion houses steal urban looks? Absolutely. So then why aren’t they considered urban lines? Because they are not black. If anything urban fashion has become a look as opposed to a fashion genre. Also I think a lot of folks get confused between what is considered urban fashion, street wear & American sportswear.

    Also there is a reason why JayZ has been adamant about rebranding Rocawear as a non-Urban line, as the commentor above mentioned. Because urban means black and he wants to appeal to a larger market than just black buyers. Why? Money of course.

  31. AzizMom says:

    Loving the dialogue and the responses because they are from each person’s perspective. To answer the question – urban fashion is what’s hot in the streets to me. Hip hop as a culture has a heavy influence on the streets, in turn fashion. When I was a teen in the 90s, a shearling coat, 8-Ball jacket, Timberlands, Freestyle Reeboks, Guess Jeans, door knocker earrings, a name ring and name chain were part of the urban look. I didn’t embrace Fubu, but I had my 40 Acres and a Mule t-shirt with my Girbaud jeans! I think the designers take from the streets and profit on it. For Black designers to be recognized as legitimate tastemakers and be sold in real department stores was a huge deal then! Too often kids would call it “corny” or “wack” because it was a Black designer (not knowing often white labels had Black designers on their team but I digress). Long live urban wear.

  32. AB says:

    I think “urban fashion” is fashion on an urban girl. Urban fashion can be fab if the urban woman is fab. Urban doesn’t have to be hood.

  33. Urban wear has influenced the fashion industry in numerous of ways. Today it just evolved into something different from what we are use to seeing. Who would of thought!!!!! Skinny jeans for men would be the ish!!! lol

  34. Urban fashion encompasses a number of styles which are a result of street culture. Therefore it can cover anything from Alexander Wang to Rocawear. So when people say House of Dereon is urban but Jeremy Scott isn’t…WRONG. They are in fact both doesn’t matter that one is more ‘high fashion’ it is still street influenced. I have no problem with the word Urban, I think people should get off their high horses and get over it. Aslong as you are somewhat influenced by Hip-Hop and translate it into your style then Urban style it is! No matter if it is Balmain or Baby Phat. *Throws mic*

  35. kayla says:

    Urban fashion isn’t dead its just that white people are stealing it and trying to be like us therefore the is no longer a distinction.

  36. Redd says:

    Hey check out this article called “The Kreayshawn Complex: Cultural Appropriation As Counter-Cultural Expression”


    I believe that urban fashion has not went mainstream, but that our hip hop and rNb world has went mainstream. They (including myself) do not wear the urban fashion as much, opting for more high end brands. But anything can be turned into urban fashion, its all in the why it is styled. I believe every genre influences the next. So, urban fashion is still around, it is just getting pushed back in the shadows by the people that created it, and the other cultures are embracing it.

  37. Redd says:

    I meant urban brands

  38. Planet Sox says:

    Urban Fashion is that sexy yet casual look that takes hours to put together but looks effortless. Only the coolest most Chic celebs know the true meaning for Urban fashion. A one word definition for Urban fashion is Young.
    To see the hottest fashion trends follow us on twitter and instagram @planetsox or http://www.facebook.com/planetsox
    You wont regret it

  39. Susan says:

    ‘urban fashion’ is a lightly used term, I often describe my own look as quite urban, I use a lot of colours that reflect the meaning of urban such as grey and pollution colours, I also call my look urban as the comfy and stylish gear I wear is basically suited to city life. I love criminal damage clothing, and also wear a lot of sports gear jazzed up with jewellery. Susan.

  40. Akshay says:

    Urban fashion is the term used for people who carry modern casual clothes in the urban areas. Colours like orange, blue, grey, black are urban fashion colours. I can relate to the brand ‘Breakbounce’ when it comes to a casual street wear brand. the clothes are very comfortable and are available at an affordable price.

  41. Sam says:

    I don’t think urban fashion can be defined completely. However it can be narrowed among the fashion. For instance, what we see as fashion is not applicable to most of us such as wearing million dollar stuff to look good and the stuff. On the contrary we can say that with urban fashioning anybody can wear anything and go out. You don’t really have to wear brands at all, you just choose among ur wardrobe and combine them nicely and fashionably. To be direct, fashion is people, people are the fashion. There is this new blog that attracts people attention who sre into urban fashioning, I strongly recommend it to you guys.


    Twitter: @urbanfashioning

  42. Urban fashion has been evolving since the beginning of the 50’s through the influence of new sound music being created such as Rock ‘n Roll and with every new revolutionary sound created so does the urban wear transformed into that very nature. The message of fashion was always a political way of self-expression and individual identities finding a place in society. The evolution of fashion started out purely as a message of self-identity and now modern times its more about money and glamour, this is where the big industries hijacked the urban wear and turned it into a money machine using glorified stars that are followed by millions. Simply, Urban fashion has lost its culture and became something entirely…maybe I am wrong in my approach but I know this fashion has lost its intended meaning in today’s culture.

  43. April Davis says:

    Urban Fashion comes from urban areas and streetwear.

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