It’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week circa 2002. Cam’ron, noting that then-Roc-A-Fella boss Dame Dash was hitting up the fashion week circuit, decided he needed to stand out if he was going to attend the city’s biggest fashion event. The result? The Harlem rapper came through in one of hip-hop’s most iconic pieces—the infamous pink mink coat (with hat and cell phone to match). Since that moment, the feminine hue crossed over onto the backs of hip-hop’s most notable style icons. Rappers would have never worn the shade in the ‘90s, but by the mid-2000’s, pink was all over hip-hop.
Cam’s relationship with rosé didn’t just begin and end with the fur coat either, the color became a hallmark of his image. Pink would reappear on everything from T.V. appearances, several music videos, and (of course) his legendary Range Rover. Cam’s acute professional association with fuschia wouldn’t be matched until fellow New Yorker Charles Hamilton hit the scene in the late aughts.
While Cam wasn’t the first rapper to wear pink (check Big Boi’s ensemble at 2001 MTV VMAs for proof of that) the shade spread like wildfire throughout hip-hop thanks to Mr. Giles’ influence, with labels like Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm quickly offering products to capitalize on the popularity of the color.
When Outkast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below dropped in September 2003, one half of the cover featured André 3000 holding a smoking pink pistol—a fitting metaphor for both the unconventional nature of his half of the double album, and how deeply the color was starting to embed itself in the culture. Cam’ron’s fellow Roc member, Kanye West, mused on his 2005 album Late Registration that he remembered a time when “they thought pink polos would hurt the Roc.”
West, often persecuted by his contemporaries in his earlier days for his preppy, polo-heavy style, would pioneer not just preppy styles in hip-hop, but carry the pink mantle that Cam would leave behind following the release of 2004’s Purple Haze. But even if you take West out of the equation, non-fashion-focused dudes like Fat Joe would go on to adopt pink at one point or another.
Kanye West and Pharrell took pink to new stratospheres of hip-hop style. With West, pink would adorn a variety of sneaker collaborations. There was 2008’s “Dropout Bear”-clad rendition of the S. Carter Reebok sneaker, the pink-accented Nike Air Yeezy 1s, and 2008’s Louis Vuitton “Mr. Hudson” hybrid loafer with a vibrant pink sole. In 2010, when West hit the VMA stage to perform “Runaway,” Pusha T came out in a salmon-colored sportcoat and coordinating T-shirt, an outfit he later referenced in “Christian Dior Denim Flow.”
Due in no small part to Skateboard P’s relationship to Japanese streetwear icon Nigo and his label A Bathing Ape, Pharrell’s (along with individuals like West) public support for the heavily graphic, neon-colored style of Bape helped introduce the brand and its aesthetic into the increasingly international streetwear market. By the time Pharrell’s Bape-inspired Billionaire Boys Club was hitting its stride in the late-2000’s, it was common to see regular dudes wearing everything from pink camouflage to pink Ralph Lauren polos.
While all of these movements were going on, New York’s iconic Supreme was churning out counter-cultural streetwear from the jump. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the label began adding pink into its product offerings, their recent additions have been made public knowledge through the fanaticism of Tyler, the Creator and his Odd Future crew.
As the OF team ran amok across 2011, introducing Internet-age teens into the larger hip-hop conversation, their Golf Wang clothing line has maintained the group’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, which includes offering dark-themes in colorful shades of cyan, yellow, and (of course) pink. In this current generation acts like A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg have worn the color while highlighting how they’ve mixed hip-hop and fashion in their own unique way—something that’s only recently been embraced by both communities.
Yes, all black everything has become more pervasive among rappers since N.W.A.’s ‘90s dominance, but with hip-hop fashion icons Pharrell still wearing pink publically (including a Céline Crombie coat at last year’s Jingle Ball, and a $67,000 Céline fur in the pages of GQ), it’s become anything but taboo for dudes to wear it. Recently, Been Trill founder Heron Preston appears in Vogue, wearing a pink coat from Virgil Abloh’s clothing line, Off-White.
While guys would have once balked at the idea of putting any roseate on their bodies, that’s no longer the case. There’s a bunch of pink product on the market with men in mind, with coveted Raf Simons Stan Smiths, Supreme hoodies (and swaths of the brand’s Fall/Winter 2015 collection), and even the Apple Watch going rose gold—or as many guys call it: “bro’s gold.” Even Drake’s own OVO line is putting out hot pink “Hotline Bling” merch. What a time to be alive, indeed.