Whether it’s the long pearls of the Roaring 20’s, tie-dyed tees from the hippies of the 60’s or the baggy jeans from the “Golden Age of Hip Hop”, musicians have always played an iconic role in setting the fashion trends of their generation. It just comes with the job description, or does it?
Since its very beginnings, hip hop artists have pioneered some of the most memorable movements in contemporary fashion trends. Run DMC introduced “MY ADIDAS” in the form of classic “shell top” sneakers, LL Cool J “made the “Kangol” a headwear must, the “Puba” mentioned “Hilfiger” in “360 degrees,” and it was time for a new wardrobe, Raekwon wore the “Lo, Snow Beach Jacket”(Polo}, and it was game over.
It did not take long for major designers as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein to take notice of soaring sales, a new target market, and opportunities within the urban community. Mainstream designers developed new lines of sports and street wear catering to hip hop fans, by producing collections that would include looser fit jeans, “larger” sized sweat, and t-shirts with over-sized logos.
Someone had done their homework, and it was then a matter of time before hip hop artists would dip into the pot of urban economics and create their own line of street wear. “Walker Wear”, became one of the first urban clothing labels, founded in 1991 by “The Godmother of Hip Hop Fashion”, April Walker. Around the same time Carl Williams’s merged hip hop with fashion in hip hop’s first clothing line known as “Karl Kani.” The market of hip hop clothing had taken off, with notable brands like Cross Colours, FUBU, Mecca, Ecko Unlimited, Enyce, Rocawear, Wu Wear, Rotten Apple Wear, Phat Farm, Sean John and the list continues.
Urban clothing lines became a collective of trendy headwear and sporting apparel only for the purpose of looking “fly.” The ultimate basketball sneaker known as the Air Jordan, hardly ever stepped on a basketball court to actually play a game. The clothing apparel of the urban youth which was often categorized as “city sportswear” appeared to have only been designed with predominantly one objective, “panache”. Hip Hop artists have often constituted an inadvertent guise of uniformity by the use of baseball caps simply to represent the locale of their humble beginnings, but hardly to make one a better rapper.
One may say the relationship between sporting apparel and hip hop culture up to present day has been rather one sided. You may see your favorite rapper rocking a stylish Yankee cap, but we have yet to see a professional athlete wear a brand which originated within the hip hop culture.
Imagine creating a ski jacket to actually go skiing? Imagine designing a gym suit for customers to actually hit the gym? Imagine a sports figure as prominent in their sport as Jordan wearing a hip hop brand to enhance his performance?
In 2015, something amazing occurred that millions witnessed the results this past weekend during ESPN’s 2016 Winter X Games.
The Annual Extreme Sport competition held from January 28th- January 31st, on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado which jumped 6% from their prior year to a record of 37 million viewers worldwide.
Hip Hop had made its way onto the slopes and broke down a barrier that had been long overdue. Nas opened up the the games “Illmatic” style, and posed alongside Henrik Harlaut (wearing his “Linx Beach”), and NY Giant Victor Cruz. One might title this photo as the “Verbal Intercourse” Reunion.
It has been 20 years since the first cassette tape ever painted purple was released. Purple, ironically similar to the mirage in the horizon which set the tone to one of most daring meetings in hip hop fashion.
It was during Raekwon and Ghostface Killah’s historic performance at Coachella, when “The Chef” debuted the “Linx Beach-MK2 Jacket” commemorating the 20th Anniversary, to one of the most influential albums in hip hop history, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It was a remake of the classic Polo “Snow Beach” Jacket, which “he made famous” back in ‘95 in the video, “Can It Be All So Simple.” Partnering with a Queens Native, John Nunez and Rob Santana to create the fastest growing clothing line in hip hop, known today as, CL-95Inc.Upon Raekwon, hitting the stage with the “Linx Beach” at the Coachella Music Festival, hip hop fans instantly took to social media to learn how to place their orders. A groundbreaking performance with 2 of the greatest emcees to ever pick up a mic, the preparation for a new opportunity was now in the midst of its conception.
The CL-95Inc. team, alongside Raekwon walked through a cloud of dust as they made their way to meet with 2 time “X Games” gold medalist, freestyle skier, Henrik Harlaut. Upon their meeting, Raekwon passed Harlaut the first limited edition “Linx Beach- MK2 Jacket.”Within seconds, Henrik Harlaut started posing for fans and their photos made their way to social media outlets as Twitter and Instagram. The hottest rapper, on the hottest stage, outfitted the hottest “freestyle skier” into the hottest ski jacket in the sport.
Harlaut, born in Stockholm and raised in Are, Sweden, has been a fan of the Wu-Tang Clan as far back when all was “so simple. Harlaut gained international recognition during his appearance at the “Sochi Winter Olympics” when he lost his trousers in the qualifying stage of the Games. Harlaut finished three places shy of a bronze medal, but regardless of the final results, he smiled into the camera, gestured the “W” hand gesture while saying ‘Wu-Tang is for the children.” Wise words first said by the late “Old Dirty Bastard” during the 1998 Grammy Awards.
The” Linx Beach Jacket” has become a symbol of integrity throughout the hip hop community similar to a badge of honor in which it would be only given to those worthy. Upon a leap of faith, CL-95Inc, has now slipped its way into the arena of extreme sports competition.
Henrik Harlaut returned back on the slopes (in a blue and yellow ski jacket) almost a year after suffering a concussion and a broken collar bone during a monstrous fall at the Winter X Games back in January, 2015.As for the results of his comeback, Henrik Harlaut came in 4th in the Men’s “Big Air” competition, but that didn’t stop him from throwing up the “W” while showing off his “CL-95 Ski Pants” along with his “Linx Beach-MK1 Jacket.” He once again echoed the words of “Ol Dirty”, “Wu-Tang is for the children.”
A collection that truly demonstrates the innovation behind “The Legend of the Linx Beach”. CL-95Inc. have officially bridged a gap which has merged hip hop, fashion and professional sports into a line that was conceived on the slopes of hip hop.
The only time a hip hop brand merged with professional sports was during the reign of “Iron” Mike Tyson. The Tyson Legacy was often decorated in a pair of “Walker Wear” boxing shorts on fight night. Brand marketing a hip hop clothing line in the sport of boxing in the 90’s was not exactly an easy task. In a sport and music genre predominantly driven by men, one might say April Walker was “The Pioneer”, among pioneers.
CL-95Inc., a brand on the rise within the field of extremities while competing against the Goliath’s of Nike, Reebok and Adidas on a global venue.
“We went from competing for gold ropes to gold medals on the slopes” were the words of CL-95Inc. Owner, John Nunez.
Hip hop has broken many barriers, and has appeared in almost every element of entertainment with the exception of “sports branding”. For the first time a hip hop brand has become the product of choice by an athletic icon during competition. A product defying the conventional tradition of sport brands being used by a hip hop icons. Cl-95Inc. have designed a line that is fashionable during a NYC Blizzard and tough enough to contend in the most extreme sport competition on the planet. It appears we can look stylish without the need of catching a cold, beware of the ides of the “Linx Beach.”