Tanning of America: Brand Assassins

Hip-hop isn’t just the music, it’s the culture. It’s a living breathing thing. -Andre Young

Last night concluded the 4-part docu-series of Steve Stoute's Tanning of America on VH1. The series centered on the impact Hip-Hop culture had on economies, as well as American culture at large. Much of the program discussed Hip-Hop's ability to breathe life into fledgling brands, create it's own brands, and also help recognizable brands tap into markets that they had not yet realized themselves.

These blurbs on the brands of 90’s past got me thinking about all of the brands that have fallen from grace, as well as those that have stood the test of time. Too, those that are still utilizing elements of the Hip-Hop culture to lease customers from the more reputable names associated with it. 

FUBU - The FUBU brand was a huge staple of Hip-Hop culture in the 90’s. Arguably the biggest. Damon John’s ability to place his product on the right celebrities, at the right times, with the right avenues for promotion proved to be the perfect storm for making FUBU a fixation of the culture. But what happened? FUBU had a drastic fall from grace. I can’t pinpoint where exactly FUBU’s descent began, but I think brands have a tendency of sparking decline when they try to be all things to all people. FUBU should have stayed away from shoes. They made great clothing, but I can’t remember anyone ever rushing out to get a pair of FUBU shoes. Also, accessibility. Seeing FUBU sold in a big box retailer is an easy way to dissuade the young brand consumer from buying your product. 

ADIDAS - Adidas has always been a middle-of-the-road brand for me, though they undoubtedly make quality product. Steve talks in Tanning about how Run DMC’s endorsement of the Adidas shell-toe sneaker sky-rocketed it’s sales. Adidas is still hanging around, but has never reached the brand recognition that some of it’s counterparts have. I think they are gaining some steam from the recent partnerships with 2Chainz and Big Sean

FILA - Fila had a pretty good run in the 90’s. Having athletes on their team like Grant Hill and Jerry Stackhouse helped their case. I’m not sure they ever TRULY caught on as a fashion staple. They made a brief come back in the early-mid 2000’s with the F-13 sneaker, but the imitation Pradas were just an all around bad look. 

TOMMY HILFIGER - Hilfiger was another popular brand during the 90’s. Tommy’s walking bilboards in Snoop Dogg, Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, and others allowed an opportunity for the brand to tap into a new market. Still today, it’s no chore to find Tommy draped on the racks of your favorite department store, but many constituents of the Hip-Hop culture later abandoned the brand after a false rumor began to swirl about the racist attitude of Tommy himself.

NIKE/JORDAN - The Nike/Jordan brand seem to have found the fountain of youth. Years and years later, Nike and Jordan still have managed to be some of the most named checked brands there are. Nike has made it seem an easy task to land the biggest athletes as it’s clients which in turn bolsters the already glowing reputation of the brand. A fresh pair of Air Max 90's are still my shoe of choice. I think Jordan in particular has managed to maintain it's luster by staggering it's releases of retro Jordans, and also making them in limited quantities. It's no easy task these days to just walk into a shoe store and pick up a pair of Air Jordans. High demand. Recent partnerships with artists like Drake show the brand is still paying attention to the culture and evolving with it.

Rocawear, Sean John, Enyce, And1, Ecko. Just a handful of the brands we all used to love in the 90’s. What were some of your favorites? Let me know on Twitter