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.



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





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!



Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Lesson Plan

Learning Objective/Outcomes: Students will explore patterns and tessellations by identifying four types of symmetry: translation, rotation, reflection, and glide reflection.

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Lesson tags: Art, Eighth, Fashion, Featured, Hip-Hop Culture, Math, Ninth, Pop Culture, Seventh, Urban Fashion

Jeffrey Vinson

Jeffrey Vinson Jeffrey D. Vinson has been an educator for nearly a decade and is the head teacher at Roots Activity Learning Center, an African-centered private school in Washington, DC. His research and practice in Hip-Hop Integration is primarily based on the many contributions that the African Diaspora has made on western civilization. His aim is to provide students the necessary skills and experiences to handle the many challenges that they will face both inside and outside of classroom. Jeffrey empowers his students’ learning experiences by utilizing culturally responsive teaching through art, technology, and community development.