Earlier than launching his presently working Off-Season tour, J. Cole made an announcement together with his performance at the iHeartRadio Festival. It wasn’t a political assertion, and even an announcement, although. It was a style assertion. Rocking a tie-dye shirt, sweatpants, and black Crocs, Cole captured the eye of social media. Whereas he’s removed from the one rapper to endorse the Broomfield, Colorado shoe model’s signature chunky, no-effort clogs, it was notable that he did so throughout such a high-profile efficiency. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t be stunning; J. Cole has all the time secretly been considered one of rap’s most trendy artists.
I do know what you’re pondering: “J. Cole? Fashionable??” And I get it. If you happen to’re on-line in any manner, you’ve probably seen the Fayetteville, North Carolina rapper getting roasted for seemingly placing minimal effort into his efficiency suits — see the aforementioned Crocs occasion. He’s by no means been one to shout out identify manufacturers or assemble elaborate ensembles with glittering equipment dangling from his neck or wrists. He’s the ultra-regular rapper whose nearly excessive relatability will get him clowned for not being flashy sufficient both in content material or presentation.
Let’s get a number of issues clear, although. Vogue and magnificence are two various things. As Cole’s mentor Jay-Z once said, “I can’t train you my swag / You possibly can pay for varsity however you may’t purchase class.” Simply donning a stack of pricey objects bearing the model marks of Italian designers doesn’t equate to having fashion; anybody should buy their manner into style icon standing with sufficient cash. Having fashion means having a signature look, an ethos behind what you’re sporting moreover displaying off your checking account. It’s about displaying individuals who you are. Loads of rappers are arguably extra modern than J. Cole however whereas designers’ names pop off of particular person items, their ensembles typically seem like they obtained dressed at nighttime with their stunner shades on.
Cole is aware of precisely what he’s going for together with his seems, choosing consolation over identify recognition. And sure, he too flaunts established guidelines about shade matching and match, he normally seems to only be forward of a coming development slightly than out of favor. Take into account his extremely laid-back seems of late. Some could think about them frumpy or lazy, however who amongst us didn’t hand over on denims throughout the pandemic in favor of layabout suits higher suited to our new working from dwelling life (I imply, these of you who didn’t already do business from home)? Even his adoption of Crocs as efficiency put on displays the froth clogs’ newfound popularity and cultural cachet. Trade friends like Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, and Post Malone have collaborated with the model with items so extremely demanded they’ve offered out inside minutes of availability.
Perhaps Cole hasn’t turn into a style icon as a result of his easy, cozy suits replicate his down-to-earth persona a bit too effectively. Simply take a look at Kanye West, who’s gotten away with leather-based kilts, retro puffer vests, cultural appropriation (these keffiyehs didn’t hassle anybody else?), and all sorts of different outlandish sartorial selections — together with his personal lazy-boy, dad-life-inspired Yeezy model — nearly solely as a result of he presents himself as a style maven, going to designers’ exhibits and pitching suits (no pun meant) about his perceived lack of assist from these within the business.
Say what you need about Cole’s love for tie-dye and dishevelled joggers, at the very least his seems have numerous persona. Yeezy seasons 2-6 have been roundly ridiculed for being bland and lackadaisical, with Kanye seemingly re-pitching the identical shapeless, earth-tone items yr after yr. Cole could not have his personal model, however his fashion has an identification; he isn’t simply mashing collectively designer items for the sake of Frankenstein-ing the costliest outfit for the only real objective of flexing. You possibly can even see how his — and Yeezy’s — respective influences have begun to unfold. Increasingly more celebrities like Bieber and Billie Eilish have already embraced the comfortable life-style dressing for consolation over Vogue approval… And followers have naturally reciprocated. Being exterior after the previous yr is anxiety-inducing sufficient; why not at the very least be heat (or well-ventilated), cell, and free from worries about displaying off the quarantine 15 many people picked up after a yr of UberEats (or Postmates, or DoorDash) and suspended gymnasium memberships?
If you happen to ask me, J. Cole all the time had the best concept. He’s all the time simply dressed like himself, whilst he strove to be a celebrity rapper. If something, that’s essentially the most hip-hop factor he may’ve finished. Keep in mind when the Beastie Boys tried to decorate like rappers, with their matching Adidas sweatsuits? Russell Simmons noticed proper by means of them; they seemed ridiculous. As an alternative, he advised them, they need to be themselves — that will endear them much more to the tradition than trying like outsiders attempting to decorate the half. It appeared like that will be the rule perpetually, however someplace alongside the way in which, that rule obtained misplaced. Holding it actual wasn’t sufficient; you needed to seem like you have been wealthy — which, to the newly rich artists of the platinum period, meant sporting all the cash they have been “making,” even when they have been simply losing their advance cash to look cool by another person’s customary.
From the second he arrived on the scene, J. Cole supplied an antithesis to the money-hungry picture typically related to main label rap acts. Positive, for some time, he obtained caught up within the hype himself (howdy, “Mr. Good Watch”), however in time, he grew into his standing and embraced his personal manner of doing issues. His fashion is a mirrored image of his music, which is a rejection of rap’s established order — or perhaps only a reclamation of its roots. Sure, the pioneers of the tradition wished to be fly, however they wished to be fly their manner, to indicate the world who they have been with out frills or having to code-switch to slot in. Cole doesn’t swap up for anybody else’s approval, which is actually what hip-hop is all about. For that alone, he must be thought-about not only a fashion icon, however considered one of rap’s function fashions for redefining the foundations and displaying the world that fashion and substance don’t must be opposites. Like Cole’s intricate rhymes and his mainstream success, they’ll counterintuitively go hand-in-hand.