We’re back, yes we’re back. This week we pay homage to yet another unmistakable Style Icon. We delve into his super-sagging, loose-fitting pants (ha!) and admire his double denim, fashion forwardness as we tie baby pink bandanas over our own hair in tribute. The latest segue into the land of culturally distinct Style Icons jumps right into the files of west coast legend, Tupac Shakur. Swoon.
His strain of gangsta rap was addictive and highly personal. Largely documenting a life of violence, he delivered poignant tracks depicting the struggle, alongside his mandatory cuts of hedonism. A poet and an activist of sorts, curly-lashed Shakur left a huge imprint in our memories with his striking persona and straight up thug-inflected bars telling a unforgettable tale of the streets and inner city life. That said, his style was just as significant, indubitably influential and iconic.
From head to toe, Tupac expressed his Thug Life tagline to the maximum, occasionally reeling it in with a bit of sweet boy swag. With oversized silhouettes and so much denim, the Harlem-native raised in Cali’s South Central LA, became a shining beacon of rap from the left coast of the US.
Before we put his clothes back on, let’s take a moment for the Death Row Records artist topless, adorned with his equally iconic tattoos. The AK, the ‘Thug Life’ belly tat, the Nefertiti etching. So Tupac. Also known for his vests of every kind, plus that amazing denim chore coat, which some say he was first to rock. Tupac did it all.
We all know that the ‘90s were heavily tinged with sightings of the blue jean. So wearable, Makaveli donned the dungarees, the very baggy jeans, the denim shirt, the denim jacket and so on. He loved matching shades of blue and would occasionally flirt with different coloured denims – like that pastel yellow coat. An unlikely candidate in the style stakes given his thug status, Tupac put his mark on the Hip Hop silhouette. He was equally known for other rapper staples, such as his signature tied bandana (obvs with colours to complement his outfit), his wifebeater as well as his decisively sagged trousers with his boxers showing, blunt in hand.
Wearing essentials such as camo, sports jerseys (a moment of silence for the Detroit Red Wings sweatshirt from his infamous post-court incident in ’94), beanies and snapbacks, plaid shirts and the ever so macho leather vests and jackets he loved. Tupac definitely wasn’t afraid of making a statement, playing with colours other than the popular black. He also rocked velour shirts, silks, was partial to snakeskin belts and rounded sunglasses, and sometimes even prints. The yellow and grey printed waistcoat he wore under his slightly oversized grey suit snapped alongside Snoop Dogg comes to mind.
Rocking Timbs, Filas and, erm black dress shoes, amongst other stylish fits, Tupac was also, unsurprisingly, very partial to gold jewelry. From gold Rollies and covetable Herringbone chains, medallions, crosses and that iconic cuban-linked Death Row piece. Not to mention an unmissable number of large gold rings.
You could say the test of a man’s style is his ability to compose himself in all white without looking sus’ or straight up wack. Be sure to put a check next to the All Eyez On Me rapper who added his own twist to the silhouette in 1994 by throwing a dark wash denim gilet vest type thing over his otherwise all white ensemble.
Masculinity and a keen display of macho were displayed not only in Tupac’s raps but also in his dress. With only accents such as his nose stud, which no male has ever really carried off since (it’s a no for Chris Brown and everyone else). His super curly eyelashes saw Marlon Wayans nickname him “Snuffleupagus” after the Sesame Street mammoth. The eyelashes and his seemingly baby-soft visage added a paradoxical balance to his tough image.
Living life Thug style, so I can’t smile… / Better learn about the dress code, B’s and C’s / All them other n***as copycats, these is G’s
While they’ve long been popular in Detroit, the last couple of months have seen certain personalities re-hashing the Cartier frames. Pac may not have been the first to rock them, but he sure wore them well. A visual portal of sorts into the intellectual, thoughtful, poetic Shakur which, though always present, may not have been quite as lucidly represented in Tupac’s choice of get-ups.
Now it’s all about Versace / You copied my style
It’s no secret that Tupac loved his designer labels. I mean, really, who doesn’t. When you’re one of the most prolific figures of the times as the When We Ride On Our Enemies emcee was with access to a crazy amount of luxury ‘fits, indulgence comes somewhat naturally. And indulge he did. Posing for David La Chapelle in the mid-90s as well as featuring on the Versace runway, Shakur’s penchant for the Italian fashion house was palpable and trendsetting. Again the manic resurgence of vintage Versace motifs a testament to Tupac’s referential style sway today. So no don’t thank Drake or Migos, thank Pac.
Honourable mention for sure goes to the Thug Life ambassador’s suit and tux wearing flair. Remember the time he went further and completed the look with a top hat? Ha! For every guy who shirks the conventional and observed manners in which to do formal, for every guy who puts away the dress shoes or decides to add extensive gold accessories to his ensemble, a gentle nod goes to Tupac.
Okay so there was the time he wore that questionable leather vest thing. Like WTF? The point is he pulled it off like no other rapper could. I mean with rappers today trying to make male skirts a thing, which just like the word “fetch” will never be, Tupac demonstrated that his thug appeal surpassed his baggy fits, tats and tied bandanas. He had sure style and of course street certified aura to him, that under his plaid shirt that vest with the suspenders could be ignored.
I mean let’s not kid ourselves, there are aspects of Tupac’s style that haven’t necessarily stood the test of time, namely because they were so entrenched in the creative direction of the nineties. But he remains heavily mimicked and admired by the generation that he spoke to. Certain details of Tupac’s style have transcended their Hip Hop birthing to influence stylings in mainstream popular culture and will for generations to come be the style reference that newbie rappers and rap aficionados draw from.
Words: Laura Arowolo