Street style photography has become all the rage, there are even struggle soap operas about the phenomenon. But if you thought the search to document the best-dressed people started with the Internet, you're dead wrong.
Jamel Shabazz is hip-hop's original street style photographer. And, no, he didn't start by chasing down Kanye West or Jay Z to see which designer brands they were wearing. Shabazz started in the '70s, and has taken pictures which are the best representation of the growth of hip-hop style in New York City.
MTV Style caught up with the photographer, and not only interviewed him about his craft, but also learned how certain trends, which are still prevalent amongst today's rappers, came about. “Back in the 1970s, we made do with what we had,” Shabazz told the website. "If you had a pair of Pro- Keds or Converse sneakers they were to last you until you started seeing holes, and for the most part you only had one pair. Many of us were self-styled and we took great pride in being original; never really wanting to look like the next person.”
Through his journeys of photographing an entire generation, Shabazz noted how menswear became a part of hip-hop. Shabazz goes onto discuss how it originated from Caribbean immigrants who found a home in NYC. “They brought the Kangol hats, British walkers, Clarks, along with the London Fog, three-quarter-length trench coat. They were inspired by Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Peter Tosh, so you started to see people from Jamaica and Trinidad, wearing hats and straight-leg pants. Young men from Haiti took great pride in wearing tailor-made suits influenced by the fashion in France," Shabazz said.
The photographer goes onto reveal that it was guys from Central America who originated the love of gold fronts. “Gold teeth were very popular amongst young men from Panama, so when they started arriving, that particular style was introduced to youth," Shabazz said.
Still, with all of his credentials and knowledge, Shabazz concluded that he doesn't want to be considered a pioneer of street style photography. “The work that I have been blessed to create is all part of a visual diary of my life and journey. I just happened to photograph a generation that took great pride in how they represented themselves," Shabazz said.
[via MTV Style]