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Sneakers with a Statement: Hip-Hop Culture and the Elements of Sneaker Design

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In terms of its influence on urban style, sneakers widely became the ultimate status symbol…

Sneakers are the most sought after fashion trend in the world. But why? What is it about “kicks” that make them so prominent amongst the youth? Well, most of its popularity can be attributed to the global phenomenon known as Hip-Hop culture. Beyond it being a culture that stems from the artistic expressions of inner-city youth, it has also become a multi-billion dollar industry that has influenced, or at least played a part in, almost every facet of society. In terms of its influence on urban style, sneakers widely became the ultimate status symbol, particularly because of the Adidas brand. They were the perfect shoes for b-boys due to their comfort and color variations. They became even more popular in 1986 due to the promotion of the brand by Run DMC when they stated:

“My Adidas/walked through concert doors/ and roamed all over coliseum floors/ I stepped on stage, at Live Aid/ All the people gave and the poor got paid/ And out of speakers I did speak/ I wore my sneakers but I’m not a sneak/ My Adidas cuts the sand of a foreign land/With a mic in hand I cold took command”

In the article, “Three Brothers with Three Stripes: RUN-DMC and Adidas,” it states:

“Enter Run, Jam-Master Jay and DMC. Their signature street style, a staunch mix of denim, Adidas tracksuit tops, Kangols, fedoras, heavy framed glasses, and of course Adidas Superstars (worn in true prison-style without laces) was a powerfully simple statement that recast the template.”

The relationship between Hip-Hop and shoe brands would eventually spark a sub-culture, known as the “Sneakerheads.”

The Superstars became a fashion statement that represented the streets and its direct influence from the prison system. Inmates in prison were not allowed to wear shoe laces due to the probability of using them for harmful purposes. As a result, when inmates returned to their respective communities, they continued to wear their sneakers without shoe laces. RUN DMC wanted to shy away from looking like superstars and more like the ordinary people the community would see on a daily basis. Their fashion statement would eventually gain the attention of executives at Adidas. The website Sneaker Freaker mentions “while performing the track ‘My Adidas’ to a packed crowd at Madison Square Garden in NYC, they asked the crowd to hold up their sneakers. Thousands of Adidas Superstar sneakers were raised in unison. An Adidas employee in the crowd informed the company and the subsequent million dollar deal marked a new era of corporate affiliation with hip hop music.” The relationship between Hip-Hop and shoe brands would eventually spark a sub-culture, known as the “Sneakerheads.”


The Elements of Design

Each element in a sneaker design can serve a purpose. For instance, lines can stress a word or phrase, the use of color can generate emotions, shapes can be used to attract attention, value (lightness or darkness) can be used for emphasis, size can attract attention, texture can create visual interest, and space can be used to define importance or group information. The use of color can be depicted by one particular shoe that would literally change the shoe game forever, Nike’s Air Jordan 1s.

The Black / Varsity Red model was banned by the NBA back in 1985 due to NBA color rules and this actually helped to create more publicity and interest for the shoes. In essence, the rebelliousness fell right in line with origins of Hip-Hop culture, which at times was a form of rebellion against the establishment. It became symbolic not only because of its color but also because of the man who wore them, a young, innovative athlete who overcame the odds. As a result, the Jordan Brand has been one of the top selling sneakers of all time.

Another shoe that utilized the elements of design to make specific statements was the Lebron 10s.  Austin Boykins states, With LeBron James facing a wide range of opinions from fans and naysayers in the recent year, the beauty and durability of a diamond is used within the shoe to tell the story in relation to LeBron’s on and off the court abilities and experiences.” See “The Inspiration Behind the Nike LeBron 10.”

 

Other shoes such as Nike’s Air Galaxy Foamposites, Nike Air Mag’s, or the recently released Yeezy Boosts by Adidas all encompass a wide range of unique styles, which can be explored when taking into consideration the elements of design.


Just for KICKS: What Do You Rep?

“Suede Timbs on my feet make my cypher complete” ~ Nas “The Word is Yours”

As I think about my childhood as a military brat, I remember the distinct differences between what was worn throughout the various regions of the United States. Whether it’s Converse’s Chuck Taylors in California, “Soulja” Reeboks in New Orleans, Timberlands and Clark Wallabees in New York, or New Balances and Nike Boots in Washington, DC, each city, state or region, seemed to have a shoe that represented where they were from.

What statements do these shoes make, and why were they chosen to represent where they are from? Fashion trends aren’t necessarily limited to just sneakers; however, it is evident that you can tell where somebody is from strictly by what they are wearing. So, what does your shoe selection say about you? What do you rep? 

Test your kick game knowledge by taking the quiz after the jump…

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

dope

The Art of Fresh: Retro Hip-Hop Style

“Being fresh is more important than having money. The entire time I grew up, it was like…I only wanted money, so I could be fresh.” ~ Kanye West.

Recently, I had the chance to see the indie film entitled Dope. The movie centers on Malcolm, a straight-A student and musician from a rough neighborhood in present-day Los Angeles. Obsessed with 90s Hip-Hop music and fashion, the movie captures his search for identity while navigating the turbulence of his immediate environment. Embracing a retro style patterned after the 90s, he wears a high top fade haircut, stonewashed denim jeans, Nike Air Jordans, and other brands prevalent during the “Golden Era of Hip-Hop”. Unfortunately, he is inadvertently pulled into criminal life when he comes to posses several kilos of a drug dealer’s molly, and presented with the choice of two potential life paths. This choice between two essential life paths is presented to today’s youth on a daily basis, and the search for personal identity is universally experienced during the adolescent stage of development. So why did Malcolm look to a past aesthetic of fashion to represent his present identity?  His choice possibly was made to visually and distinctively set himself apart from the negative expectations for black males in his community.

Throughout history, all art forms have reflected the cultural elements of communities. As a result, there has been a constant exchange between artists and the communities from which they originate. Essentially, the arts have been impacted and influenced by their communal environments, and inversely, communities have been impacted by the artistic forms emanating from within them. Fashion trends as an art form, especially those prominent in Hip-Hop culture, are exemplary of this mirrored relationship. Furthermore, the art of fashion has been moved forward by the push and pull between forces of innovation and conformity within specific communities. In this vein, Malcolm’s character felt that he did not fit into the stereotypical mold of the young black male in Inglewood, California. In the midst of gangs and drugs that existed within his community, he was considered a “nerd” because he was focused on school, played in a punk band called “Oreo” with his two friends, and he was still a virgin. In his position, I believe that Malcolm and his friends embraced this particular style as a conscious derivative of the past in an attempt to escape the harsh realities of their present. Even though Malcolm and his friends did not actually live through the ‘90s, the concept of their nostalgia as a form of rebellion against the expected norm, paid homage to the idea of “better times”. Consequently, this establishes a direct link between one’s socio-economic environment and their artistic expression of their status within it. According to Dictionary.com, socio-economics is “the study of the interrelation between economics and social behavior.”

On Friday, June 26th, a documentary was released that traces the history of Hip-Hop fashion entitled, Fresh Dressed. According to this film, the term “fresh” refers to “a crisp, new-in-the-box fashion look or tidy appearance.” Not only does this film discuss the impact that fashion has made on Hip-Hop culture, but it also notes fashion’s role to express commentary on social and economic statuses. Again, the mirrored relationship exemplified in fashion is explored. So, what is the connection between socio-economic statuses and artistic forms? In this documentary, Hip-Hop mogul, Damon Dash, makes a profound statement on the matter. He mentions that the whole idea of looking fresh stems from “the insecurity of not having anything.” He continues:

“The only way that you can kind of show that you have anything and feel some kind of status is, you know, what you have on your body. What you have on your body is a reflection of how you’re economically doing. It’s just a status symbol based on insecurity.”

Shirt King Phade, Co-Founder of Shirt Kings adds to Dash’s point, “When times are bad, a lot of people tend to gravitate towards art. Art takes our mind to another place.”

What I personally appreciate about the artistic expression of fashion, especially in Hip-Hop culture, is its ability to be both definitive and flexible. While at times a person can clearly take on a specific “look”, that same person remains able to represent his or her own individuality, ideas, or personal philosophy through their stylistic choices. In a sense, fashion can be a reflection of a person’s search for an identity within a paradigm of a specific culture. In the documentary, Pharrell Williams states, “When you’re young, there’s like a sense of wanting to express yourself…an importance of individuality.” This urge to find and establish individuality is a prominent challenge for the main characters of Dope. While Malcolm is not the only exception to the perceived “black male” typecast, through his character, the film examines a spectrum of stereotypes that are projected both inside and outside of an urban community. As seen in the current events that have spurred recent protest movements, stereotypes of black males are in full swing in today’s cities throughout the world, and our youth are continually placed at the intersection between expression of their own values, cultural histories, and pressures within community environments.

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

shirt

The Art of Fresh: Popular Patterns in Urban Fashion

Pop culture encompasses a variety of trends that reflect the style of the youth. Fashion, for example, plays a pivotal role in how young people express their individuality, using clothing as a medium. The aesthetic significance of fashion becomes symbolic, as it not only refers to what’s “hot”, “fresh”, “hip” (or any other colloquialism for “acceptable”), but also represents a lifestyle and attitude. This is especially true for urban fashion, which is heavily influenced by urban culture from the inner cities. One of its unique characteristics is that it is constantly changing. As Jasica Thomas puts it, “Keeping up with the trends in fashion are an ongoing process, and those who are keen on being in the most fashionable list definitely have to be on the alert all the time.” (See “Urban Fashion Trends”)

Currently, one of the most popular trends in urban fashion is the use of patterns, or repeating set of objects.

 

 

Some of these patterns may include images in a random order, such as these socks with the late Hip-Hop artist and Wu Tang Member,  Ol’ Dirty Bastard. However, others are more organized and are created by tessellations. Tessellations takes place when images such as popular icons, characters, shapes, animals, and flowers are placed in a symmetrical manner without overlapping or leaving gaps.

 

Line of Symmetry

 

In order to fully comprehend how tessellations are created, there must be a fundamental understanding of symmetry. By definition, symmetry is “the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position.” In other words, if an image was split in the middle, the left and right, top and bottom, or diagonals of that image would be identical. Using an imaginary line referred to as the line of symmetry usually indicates if an image is symmetrical. Each image below is an example of a symmetrical figure.

 

 

Four types of symmetry that can create tessellations include: translation, reflection, rotation, and glide reflection. Below are a few examples of each tessellation.

Translation

 

A translation is a shape that “slides” across a surface and does not turn or flip. The picture below shows a series of black and white triangles that are translated.

 

 

Reflection

 

Reflection occurs when a shape is “flipped”, usually vertically or horizontally, but can also be done at an angle.

 

 

Rotation

 

When a pattern includes shapes, animals, or plants that appear to spin or “rotate” around a specific point, a rotation occurs. The image below is a prime example of rotation.

 

 

Glide Reflection

 

In glide reflections, both reflection and translation are used to create a pattern.

 

 

Notice how the image above has white and black birds that are translated from left to right. Because the birds are going in opposite directions, they also create a reflection of each other.

Now that we have a good idea of what patterns, symmetry, and tessellations are, let’s look at a few examples of how they are incorporated within the latest fashion. As you are viewing the images, think of the types of symmetry that the images create.

 

As you can see, patterns are prominent in urban fashion. They can be found on shirts, bucket hats, joggers, leggings, shoes, book bags, and anything else. If you still aren’t convinced, I suggest you look into your closet or in the nearest mall. You are sure to find patterns everywhere!

 

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

 

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

 

fresh

The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by Sneakers.fr, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

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The Art of Fresh: Popular Patterns in Urban Fashion

Pop culture encompasses a variety of trends that reflect the style of the youth. Fashion, for example, plays a pivotal role in how young people express their individuality, using clothing as a medium. The aesthetic significance of fashion becomes symbolic, as it not only refers to what’s “hot”, “fresh”, “hip” (or any other colloquialism for “acceptable”), but also represents a lifestyle and attitude. This is especially true for urban fashion, which is heavily influenced by urban culture from the inner cities. One of its unique characteristics is that it is constantly changing. As Jasica Thomas puts it, “Keeping up with the trends in fashion are an ongoing process, and those who are keen on being in the most fashionable list definitely have to be on the alert all the time.” (See “Urban Fashion Trends”)

Currently, one of the most popular trends in urban fashion is the use of patterns, or repeating set of objects.

Some of these patterns may include images in a random order, such as these socks with the late Hip-Hop artist and Wu Tang Member,  Ol’ Dirty Bastard. However, others are more organized and are created by tessellations. Tessellations takes place when images such as popular icons, characters, shapes, animals, and flowers are placed in a symmetrical manner without overlapping or leaving gaps.

Line of Symmetry

In order to fully comprehend how tessellations are created, there must be a fundamental understanding of symmetry. By definition, symmetry is “the quality of something that has two sides or halves that are the same or very close in size, shape, and position.” In other words, if an image was split in the middle, the left and right, top and bottom, or diagonals of that image would be identical. Using an imaginary line referred to as the line of symmetry usually indicates if an image is symmetrical. Each image below is an example of a symmetrical figure.

Four types of symmetry that can create tessellations include: translation, reflection, rotation, and glide reflection. Below are a few examples of each tessellation.

Translation

A translation is a shape that “slides” across a surface and does not turn or flip. The picture below shows a series of black and white triangles that are translated.

Reflection

Reflection occurs when a shape is “flipped”, usually vertically or horizontally, but can also be done at an angle.

Rotation

When a pattern includes shapes, animals, or plants that appear to spin or “rotate” around a specific point, a rotation occurs. The image below is a prime example of rotation.

Glide Reflection

In glide reflections, both reflection and translation are used to create a pattern.

Notice how the image above has white and black birds that are translated from left to right. Because the birds are going in opposite directions, they also create a reflection of each other.

Now that we have a good idea of what patterns, symmetry, and tessellations are, let’s look at a few examples of how they are incorporated within the latest fashion. As you are viewing the images, think of the types of symmetry that the images create.

As you can see, patterns are prominent in urban fashion. They can be found on shirts, bucket hats, joggers, leggings, shoes, book bags, and anything else. If you still aren’t convinced, I suggest you look into your closet or in the nearest mall. You are sure to find patterns everywhere!

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Sneaker-nomics: Supply-and-Demand Economics in the Basketball Footwear Industry

 

Steph Curry: Great Season, Corny Shoes

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry had a terrific season, but some would argue that his signature sneaker did not. In a recent article on the site Slate entitled “Why Does the World’s Best Basketball Player Wear Such Corny Sneakers?”, John Swansburg argues that Curry’s Under Armour sneaker, the Curry Two, has “almost no cultural cachet.” Swansburg says that Curry’s sneaker appeals to basketball players but has “not gained traction on the street, in the mall, or on the feet of cultural influencers.” The author specifically mentions that Drake partners with Nike and Kanye West designs for Adidas, but no similar celebrity would be seen wearing the Curry Two.

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I Wanna Be, I Wanna Be Like Mike!

Ever since the start of Nike’s Air Jordan brand — and the famous “Jumpman” logo that has become synonymous with it — the world’s biggest sneaker companies and best basketball players have marketed their footwear to both athletes and sneaker-heads. According to Forbes, even though Michael Jordan has been retired since 2003, his sneaker brand still earns him over $100 million every year.

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What IS Steph Up To?

More recent players have taken Jordan’s lead. On a recent edition of the Slate sports podcast Hang Up and Listen (sneaker conversation from 18:00-35:20 mark), host Josh Levin said, “Throughout the modern history of the NBA, having a signature shoe has been the pathway to broader cultural relevance, starting with Jordan up through LeBron and now with Steph. And the question is, ‘Is Steph Curry carving out a different pathway here…or does he want to have a similar path…in creating this shoe that people want to wear off the court?’”

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Will Curry 2.5 Save The Day?

Curry and Under Armour have not yet tapped into the full potential of the sneaker market. The good news is that the Curry 2.5 will reportedly debut in May. Will it be less corny than the Curry Two? Sneaker-heads can’t wait to find out.