YUP! In My White Tee: Looking Back at Hip Hop Fashion Trends of the Early 2000s

By: Cree Armstead

Hip hop was having a fashion moment at the turn of the century. More artists than ever were creating their own fashion lines, iconic looks from music videos were suddenly super accessible and articles of clothing weren’t just being mentioned in a verse- they had their own anthems. Many of us millennials were teens during this phase and we dived in, rushing to Jimmy Jazz to acquire the goods that we were positive were going to be hot forever.*

*Definitely not a reference to the jersey dress that sat in my closet for six months before I was brave enough to wear it and then promptly discovered it was out of style.

Some of these trends stuck around for several years and are even making a comeback now (I see you, velour tracksuit),while others came and went in the blink of an eye. Let’s take a look back on the hottest hip hop fashions of the 00s.

1. Air Force 1s

In a world ruled by Timbs and Adidas, this little shoe was the breakout star of the 00s. With the release of Nelly’s hit “Air Force Ones” the sneaker was propelled into the spotlight. Consumers rushed to the mall to get them twoooo pair. Many people opted for customized color combos like Manny but the Nelly-approved white-on-whites became a symbol of clean, cold style. This particular shoe may or may not have been correlated with a spike in anxiety in young adults obsessed with keeping them clean and crease free, lest you “scuff em and f*ck up your whole night.” (The secret was to douse them in the pricey sneaker protectant that cute Finish Line employee told you was absolutely necessary and then walk flat-footed and duck-like to avoid any creasing of the leather. I was that Finish Line employee. Commissions, yall.)

2. Tall White Tees

Incredibly cheap, this perfect complement to a pair of Girbauds and your brand new AF1s ruled the roost in the new millennium. Among the expensive trends leeching away at our coins, the basic white tee was a cubic zirconia in the rough. The Hanes 5 pack from Walmart found a place in our frugal little hearts. Buy it in a 4X and you had a tall tee- which you did without question because let’s face it, if your white tee didn't come down way past your crotch, why were you even wearing one? In 2004, Dem Franchize Boyz coined “White Tee”, a catchy snap anthem to the retail store darling. The seemingly harmless shirt came with its share of controversy, being likened to the attire of drug dealers and was often banned from nightclubs. The line “I slang in my white tee, I bang in my white tee” was probably totally unrelated. We all knew the biggest risk of wearing a white tee was spilling ketchup on it. Gotta change, man it’s a stain on my white tee! *behold art*

3. Rapper Branded Apparel

Rocawear, G-Unit, Sean John. In the early 2000s, we weren't just listening to our favorite artists, we were wearing them too. The turn of the century marked a momentous change for hip hop’s influence on fashion- rather than endorsing other brands, some of the most influential artists adopted the FUBU mentality and began creating their own. When Jay-Z and Dame Dash launched Rocawear in 1999, they helped establish a permanent place for hip hop artists in the fashion industry. Sean “/Puff Daddy/Puffy/P.Diddy/Diddy/(sigh)Brother Love Combs debuted his Sean John line the same year and a new era was born. Modern rappers were officially in the game, making apparel that was accessible to their fans and that we were proud to wear. In 2003, Nelly engineered the incredibly popular Apple Bottom jeans and 50 Cent started the G-Unit Clothing Company. Fresh gear+ your favorite rapper= a match made in heaven for the aughts urban consumer.

4. Jersey Dresses

If any of these trends lacked staying power, none of them lacked it so powerfully as the jersey dress. These unexpected little accoutrements combined NBA attire and...sex appeal. It was essentially a men’s jersey fitted into a curve-hugging mini dress. Faith Evans rockd one on “106 and Park”, immediately sparking the trend among young women. We bought them and matched our boyfriends. Mya wore one in baby blue. Then Mariah Carey wore a jersey gown (yes, gown) for her NBA All-Star game performance. They were out of style by the next year. So yeah, there’s that.

5. Velour Tracksuits

Comfort met classic with the velour tracksuit. It was a ready-made outfit that paired perfectly with a fuzzy cap, white socks and a Grammy, if you were Missy Elliott. The rest of us were just happy to traipse about in something that felt luxe and looked like we’d just won a dance competition. Nas wore a bright orange getup on the cover of Stillmatic, an outfit as bold and unapologetic as “Ether”, the single that put him back at heavyweight status. I had one in burnt orange (yes) that I wore everywhere for longer than was okay and then stored away in my closet until I finally donated it last year. Now they are coming back. Thanks, Drake. Figures. What old new millennium trends do you want to forget and which ones do you hope to see come back?

Drop yours in the comments section!

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