Instead of doing the million and one things I’m supposed to be doing now (including my Lisbon post and reformatting my hard disk)- Netflix made me watch the Sundance 2015 docu project Fresh Dressed. Thanks Netflix
The Stats- Year: 2015 Length: 83 mins Director: Sacha Jenkins Producer: Nasir Jones/ Sacha Jenkins Who’s in it?: Endless ‘80s & ‘90s rappers, designers, Andre Leon Talley for fashion credibility and excellent cartoons
Rating: 6.8/10 (please bear in mind this is my first rating so I have absolutely no context)
Watching Fresh Dressed made me wish I was a decade or so older a few times just so I could feel the cultural references properly. Of course, I recognised a lot of the people and the labels but its nothing like coming of age during the seminal 80s-90s eras described. It’s the equivalent of explaining Alex Mack and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles to my little
sister. She was there- but she wasn’t there.
Fresh Dressed is a swift, witty, visually interesting history of New York hip hop fashion and eventually, its global commercial influence. The documentary is driven by a series of
interviews with `your favourite rap folks past and present- Nas, Kid n Play, Pharrell, Pusha T, Kanye (still somebody’s favourite rap folk?), Damon Dash and Big Daddy Kane among others
Jenkins does a good job of capturing what makes Hip Hop so easily lend itself to fashion- the image is inseparable from the sound. The music is synonymous with the trainers, the clothes, the high top fades, the Adidas and Fresh Prince’s multi-coloured get-up. Your outfit could demonstrate everything from astronomical self esteem to respect for the Bronx or Brooklyn. ‘Being fresh is more important than having money!’, an interviewee exclaimed and you can completely see the truth in it. After all, the originators of the best styles were never rich but always outlandishly cool. So cool that the impact of the trends transcended the five boroughs and MTV, becoming worldwide phenomena.
At times during Fresh, glimpses of the past offer high hopes for the future. A chronological cruise through major grossing hip hop clothing lines from Dapper Dan, Cross Colours and Karl Kani right through to Fubu, Rocawear and Sean John reminds me of old Vibe magazine ads. It also marks an inspirational point on the power of determined self-starters. Jenkins does well to briefly look at the economics of pitching to department stores and their target demographics. Just as often though, you will worry about the apparent level of materialism deemed acceptable by the culture- a point briefly covered by news clippings on fatal sneaker muggings (yes, really).
Fresh Dressed attempts to tell a broad story in a limiting hour and twenty minutes and probably does as well as it could have given this wide reaching subject. Perhaps most important is the running undercurrent of social commentary –something that could have been expounded on. During the 90s and even now, hip hop wear is often aspirational, with labels chosen to reflect a lifestyle and ethos miles from the wearer’s reality. Case in point- preppy American classic Ralph Lauren was once a heavy hitter in hip hop fashion. Interestingly, Lauren would visit New York projects and hand out his clothes to capitalize on the power of cheap marketing. Until recently, few endorsements were offered to credit young, often poor black New Yorkers for sparking sales rises in countless clothing lines.
Should you watch it? Yes, If you are interested in fashion, hip hop or Jamel Shabazz photography. No if you should be formatting your hard drive.
Check it out: http://freshdressedmovie.com