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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…

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Blueprint to a Mogul: Switching it Up Like Jigga

“The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.” – Jay Z

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you have seen at least part of Jay Z’s slow and steady rise to the top. Though he began his career in music, and continues to make moves in that genre, the 45 year old has added several other career labels to his name. A brief read over of his biography and you see job titles like former Def Jam Records president, co-founder of Roc-a-Fella Records, Rock Nation Sports owner, 40/40 Club owner, Brooklyn Nets co-owner, author, and now streaming music service owner. His ability to move fluidly between career fields is what makes him the definition of a mogul. But what is it about him that makes this possible?

Biography

Jay Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 5, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of four children and raised by a single mother after his father left the family when he was 11 years old. Jay’s early environment in the Marcy housing projects meant his surrounding environment included plenty of drugs and crime.  In “Where I’m From” he rapped, “I’m from… up the block, around the corner and down the street/ From where the pimps, prostitutes and the drug lords meet/We make a million off of beats, cause our stories is deep.” Though he could have remained in this environment his whole life, he used this same upbringing to motivate himself to pursue bigger dreams.

Jay Z as a child

While he began rapping in his teen years, it wasn’t until the early 90s that he began to get a little spotlight from working with artists like Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J. He encountered struggles from large record companies who refused to sign him, so in 1995 he began his own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records with friend Damon Dash. Here he released his first solo album, Reasonable Doubt, which Rolling Stone named one of the 500 Greatest albums of all time. Over the next 17 years Jay Z would release another 10 records, ultimately selling over 100 million records and earning 19 Grammies for his work.

Throughout his career as a musician he began planting his foot firmly in other ventures and established himself as a true mogul. Some of his most significant business achievements include buying a piece of the New Jersey Nets basketball team and moving them to his hometown of Brooklyn, becoming president of Def Jam Records, founding a sports management company, and landing the cover of Forbes magazine alongside billionaire Warren Buffet. To date he is worth nearly half a billion dollars! These accomplishments show how diverse Jay Z’s skills are. As he rapped in Kanye West’s Diamonds are Forever Remix, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a BUSINESS, man.”

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Code Switching

Though a number of his talents have led him to success, it is his ability to work seamlessly in several different fields that has enabled him to try so many different projects. In particular, a skill called “Code-switching” allows him to speak and behave appropriately in different circumstances and with very different crowds. Code switching is defined as the practice of alternating between two or more varieties of language in conversation.  He summed up this skill perfectly in a 2005 Rolling Stone article, “Be water. If you pour water in a cup, it takes the shape of a cup. If you pour it in a teapot, it takes the shape of a teapot. Be fluid. Treat each project differently. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.”

Alicia Keys Diary Tour At Radio City Music Hall

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So how often do people have to rely on code-switching to succeed? When have you relied on code-switching to get ahead? Is it strategy or selling out? To a mogul, it’s just another tool in the arsenal.

jay-z-speaks-with-billboard-about-new-streaming-service-tidal-jimmy-iovine-poaching-his-artists-and-competition-with-spotify-1 thumbnail

Blueprint to a Mogul: Switching it Up Like Jigga

“The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.” – Jay Z

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you have seen at least part of Jay Z’s slow and steady rise to the top. Though he began his career in music, and continues to make moves in that genre, the 45 year old has added several other career labels to his name. A brief read over of his biography and you see job titles like former Def Jam Records president, co-founder of Roc-a-Fella Records, Rock Nation Sports owner, 40/40 Club owner, Brooklyn Nets co-owner, author, and now streaming music service owner. His ability to move fluidly between career fields is what makes him the definition of a mogul. But what is it about him that makes this possible?
Biography
Jay Z was born Shawn Corey Carter on December 5, 1969 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of four children and raised by a single mother after his father left the family when he was 11 years old. Jay’s early environment in the Marcy housing projects meant his surrounding environment included plenty of drugs and crime.  In “Where I’m From” he rapped, “I’m from… up the block, around the corner and down the street/ From where the pimps, prostitutes and the drug lords meet/We make a million off of beats, cause our stories is deep.” Though he could have remained in this environment his whole life, he used this same upbringing to motivate himself to pursue bigger dreams.

While he began rapping in his teen years, it wasn’t until the early 90s that he began to get a little spotlight from working with artists like Big Daddy Kane and LL Cool J. He encountered struggles from large record companies who refused to sign him, so in 1995 he began his own record label, Roc-A-Fella Records with friend Damon Dash. Here he released his first solo album, Reasonable Doubt, which Rolling Stone named one of the 500 Greatest albums of all time. Over the next 17 years Jay Z would release another 10 records, ultimately selling over 100 million records and earning 19 Grammies for his work.

Throughout his career as a musician he began planting his foot firmly in other ventures and established himself as a true mogul. Some of his most significant business achievements include buying a piece of the New Jersey Nets basketball team and moving them to his hometown of Brooklyn, becoming president of Def Jam Records, founding a sports management company, and landing the cover of Forbes magazine alongside billionaire Warren Buffet. To date he is worth nearly half a billion dollars! These accomplishments show how diverse Jay Z’s skills are. As he rapped in Kanye West’s Diamonds are Forever Remix, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a BUSINESS, man.”

Code Switching
Though a number of his talents have led him to success, it is his ability to work seamlessly in several different fields that has enabled him to try so many different projects. In particular, a skill called “Code-switching” allows him to speak and behave appropriately in different circumstances and with very different crowds. Code switching is defined as the practice of alternating between two or more varieties of language in conversation.  He summed up this skill perfectly in a 2005 Rolling Stone article, “Be water. If you pour water in a cup, it takes the shape of a cup. If you pour it in a teapot, it takes the shape of a teapot. Be fluid. Treat each project differently. The best style is no style. Because styles can be figured out. And when you have no style, they can’t figure you out.”

So how often do people have to rely on code-switching to succeed? When have you relied on code-switching to get ahead? Is it strategy or selling out? To a mogul, it’s just another tool in the arsenal.

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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!

 

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!