Fashion Analysis: Hip Hop Street Dancers

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - MacEwan Hall, University of Calgary

Have you ever heard the expression, “I dress for function, not for fashion?” This often comes out of the mouth of folks who wear a uniform for their profession. Be it health care, athletes or tradespeople, function is paramount. It also comes out of mouths of people who just don’t give a damn.

Have you ever thought about function in fashion for dancers? And I’m not talking about the athletica-adorned ballerinas or modern dancers mid-rehearsal. I’m focusing my consideration on street and hip-hop dancers. This past weekend I took in the Change The Game Project battles. After a week of street dance instruction, this particular dance camp wraps up with a competition for cold, hard cash. The bounty was $60,000 in cold, hard cash to be exact. As I watched each of the artists and judges dance, I considered what function and fashion could mean for them.

I could instantly see that each performer had a personal look. There was intention behind their clothing. A whole life and lifestyle was taking shape in my mind.

For example, one breaker wore a green polo T and slim cut beige khakis. I thought it was an interesting, non-traditional choice for dancing. While, another breaker wore a white T with teal logo mark, white sweat shorts with high socks, also teal, with bright white sneakers. Both of these artists could have worn typical, form fitting work out gear, for the utility, but that would not “feel” right. It wouldn’t “look” right, either. Of course the clothing had to function and perform a certain way, but they both realized the fashion was part of their performance. It helped to shape their personality and style. To really function, it needed to be fashionable. This notion tickles me pink.

I love to see all different sub cultures and disciplines. In this instance, street dancers express who they are through their clothing. This city is full of interesting people living interesting lives. At events like these you get to see the small nuances in the dancers’ clothing of choice. More explicitly, how each of them finds a part of their personality, their style, through their competition clothes.

Another standout was a popper who wore a gold three-piece suit complete with wide brim fedora, sunglasses and white dress shoes. As he flexed and popped, the silk of his suit echoed his movement creating invisible ripples from his efforts. The opposite of the suited fellow was a house dancer wore a printed, presumably second hand, button down T that reminded me of the early days of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He wore simple, tapered charcoal sweats that showcased his frantic, yet smooth, movements across the floor.

Finally, I was struck by the simplicity, and impact, of a hip-hop dancer who wore a plain, non-logo’d long sleeve heather gray T shirt and relaxed fit black sweats. He wore no hat, no jewelry. To me, he was the norm core of hip-hop. His sneakers were white and were an undistinguishable brand to me. I became aware that there’s a whole style world that I know little about. It sounds like a good research project for me.

The fashion was not simply selected for what they could move best in. No, it was selected individually for each artist’s movement. It was selected for a particular mood. They took into consideration not only how it looks while waiting their turn at that cash, but also how it would move and help them to emote.

Bottom line: each and every dancers fashion was specific. There were some fashion choices subtler than others. And others showed up to dance in loud and proud clothing

Can you think of another instance where you’ve witnessed fashion and function merging?