Hip-hop dress and identity: a qualitative study of music, materialism, and meaning

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Courtney B. Suddreth (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Nancy Hodges

Abstract: Throughout the 20th and early 21st century, music and culture have had tremendous influence on fashion. One style in particular, known as "hip-hop" has become synonymous with sound, subculture, and style. Hip-hop music, also referred to as rap or rap music, is a style of popular music which came into existence in the United States during the late 1970s, only to become a large part of modern popular culture by the 1980s. Today hip-hop has become mainstreamed, and embraced the consumption of luxury goods and status symbols as emblems of success. Materialism is now a fundamental message within hip-hop, but this factor has received little attention in extant research. The purpose of this study is to explore its influence on hip-hop style and the significance of the messages it conveys for those involved with it. Two qualitative methods, the in-depth interview and photo-elicitation, were the primary techniques used to collect data. Combined, these two methods provided the means to reveal and explore the experiences of 12 African-American males relative to hip-hop culture. A thematic interpretation of the responses revealed a spectrum of perceptions and opinions about the significance of dress and other material objects within hip-hop, along with different degrees of internalization of hip-hop influence. Responses point to a general consensus that hip-hop has become mainstreamed today and that consequently, the messages it communicates through lyrics, videos, and other media are significantly different than those of "old school" hip-hop during its early days. While all participants indicated a long-time presence of the use of dress and other material objects to communicate status and identity within hip-hop, many felt that this presence has become amplified over the years to the point where the music is now more about image than substance. According to the participants, conspicuous consumption in the form of excessive amounts of jewelry, luxury brand apparel, and expensive cars have replaced a focus on community togetherness, action, and social justice. Results of this study highlight the experiences of an understudied population--African-American males--and provides an understanding of the personal and social impact of hip-hop from their point of view. Much more research is needed to illuminate the experiences of African-American males in general, and particularly as consumers of dress.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Dress, Hip-Hop, Identity, Materialism, Qualitative
Clothing and dress $x Social aspects.
Hip-hop $x Influence.
African American men $x Clothing.

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