From an early age, I have become all too familiar with the two subjects aforementioned. Unfortunately for me, the latter came first. In 2001, just before my Mum bought me my first ever pair of glasses, she would make me and my brother wear eye patches as instructed by my optometrist. My cousins used to poke fun at me by calling me Little Rick, a name which I came to learn was because the eye patch I wore bared a likeness to the 90’s hip hop artist Slick Rick. From that moment, both of the topics in the following blog have been a constant in my life.
My vision is probably as bad as my lyricism however I always took comfort in knowing the coolest guys and girls on the planet in my younger years all shared a love for the same things as myself. I will now take you through a timeline of some of old school, new school and iconic artists who have triumphed, both musically and optically.
1981 – Run DMC
One of the first groups to have an album certified Gold. We’re going to focus on Darryl McDaniels, or DMC, (pictured in the middle). The Gazelle type frame pioneered by Cari Zalloni (CAZAL) was prominent in the 80’s. This oversized, tinted optical frame is still very prominent with current fashion houses, notably Dior in recent years, whilst also influencing many of the more vintagesque styles within the Dita collection.
1986 – NWA
Musically and politically one of the most powerful and controversial groups in hip hop history. It is only fitting that their eyewear was as bold as they were, as shown by Eric Wright, AKA Eazy-E (pictured). The Compton based rappers wore a brand locally known as “Locs” & these frames offered dark tinted polarized lenses. I’d say this was beneficial for all of the flashing cameras. But make of it what you will…
1997 – The Notorious B.I.G aka Biggie Smalls
In terms of Hip Hop ‘hall of famers’, Christopher Wallace is arguably as iconic as it gets. Without doubt a lyrical pioneer sat right at the forefront of hip-hop legacy. So much so, that to this day his songs are continuously played on radio and in the clubs, still sounding as relevant, even amongst a whole new hip hop culture. B.I.G was instrumental in fusing fashion and hip hop, as before he came on the scene, an artists hip hop stature was evaluated on pure lyricism. This newfound link to fashion paved the way for new school artists, who may not have been lyrically superior, but knew how to ‘flex’ and sell records. This is now a common trend amongst many modern hip hop artists whose lyrics will often reference or boast about material things, rather than the hustling of old. Like an old school influencer way before his time, designer items worn by B.I.G increased in demand a thousand times over. None more so than the Versace VE4361 sunglasses (pictured). These sunglasses were re-released late last year and sold out within one month. The legacy of the Biggie Smalls lives on in his music, as does his love for fashion.
2013 - Jay-Z
Now, although Jay’s career spans way before 2013, I am going to concentrate on the release of a song from the ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ album, entited; ‘Tom Ford’. The song was an ode to how fashion is a big passion in the artists life, and perhaps more importantly, it was an awareness of just how engrained luxury fashion is into modern hip hop. The song directly credits the designer. Prior to this Jay-Z had collaborated on Justin Timberlake’s ‘Suit and Tie’, in which the video samples Tom Ford collections and encapsulates the brands vision of well cultured, strong individuals with their own style. The song was nominated for a Grammy in 2014 and the Tom Ford brand itself experienced a spike in online sales and publicity. As we have experienced with the limited edition Tom Ford Private Eyewear Collection we have in store, the elements (polished horn, blended acetates,strong shapes based on TF’s own personal collections) certainly embody the luxe lifestyles of a highly successful modern day hip hop artist.
2019 – Migos
My current favourite hip-hop artists without question. The Migos, (made up of Quavo, Offset and Takeoff), bring a pioneering style to the music industry. Both of their albums debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, a feat which was only accomplished once before, by The Beatles. As if their dominance of hip-hop was not enough, the group also lead the way in fashion and eyewear within the music industry. Quavo and Offset boast jewellery collections worth (by their own admission) upwards of $3 million dollars. But for me what is a staple of their look, are the vintage Cartier frames they all wear. These vintage style frames are certainly synonymous with many rappers, sports starts and celebrities. As official Cartier stockists, we are all to familiar with the luxury presence Cartier holds; even within our store amongst a host of other luxury brands. We love this piece below from the latest release (in store now!)
I hope in this blog if nothing else, I have given you a brief insight into how music, eyewear and hip hop culture are constantly blending together. It must be mentioned that it is not just the hip-hop genre in which luxury eyewear has become synonymous, when you consider the likes of spectacle wearing musical icons Elton John, Buddy Holly, John Lennon to name a few. Maybe in my next blog I’ll cover some of those :)