Sneakers have always been associated with hip hop music thanks to rap artists from all eras who choose to wear these casual shoes as part of their standard dress. One of the main sources of inspiration for hip hop fashion and hip hop shoes has been urban youth and street culture, a culture often influenced by athletics. That’s why sports clothing and running shoes have always been part of hip hop image and lifestyle.
In the 1980s, Run-DMC helped establish Adidas Superstar® as the premier hip hop shoe. The groundbreaking rap group was often seen in their trademark style of fedoras, big glasses, and all-black outfits, set off by their white Adidas® hip hop shoes. The classic basketball shoes were recorded for low-top style finishing before the ankles and rubberized shell toe, making the shoe more durable. Run-DMC usually wore their Adidas® without laces, while other groups of the era often choose to pair their Adidas® with large shoestrings. Run-DMC were such fans of shoes that they even released a tribute song discussing their love for sneakers tilted My Adidasin 1986; Their popularity and success of the song would lead to an endorsement deal with the shoe company, the first of many such profitable relationships between shoe brands and popular rappers.
Even while Adidas® was enjoying success, a new candidate was to get steam as the possibly favorite hip hop sneaker. In 1985 Michael Jordan, a Chicago Bulls rookie, supported a line of Nike® shoes called Air Jordan®. The line will be very popular from the start and will be snapped up by prominent player fans, many of whom included top hip hop artists. Even before the release of this iconic hip hop shoe, but Nike® was already affecting the hip hop culture thanks to Nike Air Force 1®. The shoes, known for their full-length air sole, were originally released in 1982 and were worn by new hip hop artists taking the look directly from the streets of Brooklyn.
The 1990s is considered one of the most versatile periods in rap music. As hip hop artists experimented with different sounds and used the music to express themselves, hip hop artists emerging from different regions of the United States brought their own unique fashion and hip hop shoes to the audience’s attention. On the East Coast, for example, Timberland® boots, a brand of waterproof hiking boots, would be a preferred look for hip hop artists. Meanwhile, West Coast rappers choose to embrace the Chuck Taylor®, high-top canvas sneakers from Converse®. Often known as the Chuck Taylor All-Stars®, the shoes were originally released in 1917 and were one of the first basketball shoes created.
As of 2011, sneakers remain the primary shoe worn in hip hop fashion. Brands that are identified as part of hip hop style, but have expanded their shoe offerings to include all types of shoes, such as sandals and flip flops. Styles and colors catering to women and children have also become popular. Redeeming the great profits associated with hip hop fashion, hip hop artists have increasingly been making hip hop shoes for their own clothing brands or in collaboration with established shoe brands. The increase in shoe customization has also allowed the individual to design their own unique look to express their individuality.
- Shoes are often associated with rap music.