One of my favorite moments in Fresh Dressed is when Kanye West honestly explains, “I only wanted money so I could be fresh.” Kanye is pretty funny whenever he appears in the doc, but in this moment, he adeptly summarizes what many of the interviewee’s repeat throughout. That, for them, fashion and looking good was about more than “dressing for success” it was a way of cutting class lines. It was a form of liberation from your surroundings. Sacha Jenkins fashion documentary has a lot of interesting moments like this. While die hard Kanye fans probably already know about his fashion aspirations, Fresh Dressed has a lot more to offer than a cursory look into hip-hop’s connection with the fashion industry. While it takes a broader look than Just For Kicks (which I highly recommend if you’re interested in sneakers and hip-hop), it’s a great overview of how fashion and hip-hop have grown together.
Of course, hip-hop is not the only genre with ties to fashion. Rock, country, indie, emo, punk, EDM, and any other genre you can think of has it’s own type of uniform. What’s interesting about hip-hop, and what Jenkins documentary explores, is what influenced its specific style in the culture. What makes Ralph Lauren cool in the 90’s? What made BAPE cool in the early 2000’s? Many of the people interviewed in the doc, who range from rappers, to store owners, to those in the fashion industry, all seem to agree that fashion in hip-hop was driven by the need to be distinct and to cut class lines.
From Shirt Kings to Cross Colours to Karl Kani, Fresh Dressed covers quite a bit of fashion history, but I never felt rushed or bombarded while watching it. Even though many of the people interviewed come to similar conclusions, Jenkins did a good job of presenting related ideas in different ways, whether he was using interviews to tell a story or pulling up archival footage to give you a direct look back in time. Although, I have to say, some of my favorite stories and insights came from Andre Leon Talley, former Vogue Editor-at-large, and (of course) Kanye West, who at one point charmingly yells “THANK YOU, RALPH!” while talking about his old obsession with Polo.
If you have any interest in hip-hop, high fashion, or the rise of streetwear, this documentary definitely has a lot to offer. If you just want to hear some of your favorite rappers (like Kanye, Nas, P. Diddy, and more) enthuse over clothes, then this doc is fine for that, too.