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The definition of hip hop shirts has changed since the beginning of the hip hop movement that began in the 1980s. Generally speaking, however, the source of inspiration for hip hop shirts remains the same: the urban, street or hip hop culture. Since the beginning of the hip hop movement, hip hop shirts have maintained their popularity, especially with young men and teenagers who follow the movement. During the 1980s, the emerging popularity of hip hop music inspired a generation of young men to emulate the styles chosen by their favorite hip hop artists. Brightly colored, sports-inspired shirts were an increasingly popular choice among the teens in the urban epicenters of the early hip hop movement.
Even early in the history of the movement, hip hop shirts were often produced by popular sportswear designers. Branding was everything. These early shirts were simply designed and prominently displayed the maker's logo.
Designers working at major fashion houses began to take notice of the hip hop shirt trend during the 1990s. Although any serious interest was relatively short-lived in high-fashion circles, the introduction of hip hop clothing and shirts into a high-fashion context encouraged non-urban individuals to incorporate urban-inspired fashions into their T-shirt wardrobe. For the first time, elite hip hop recording artists began to create their own lines of hip hop shirts. Unlike the shirts produced by sports clothing manufacturers, these shirts relied on creative graphics and culture-specific references instead of logo placement.
Throwback sports jerseys peaked in popularity during the 1990s. These jerseys replicate the jersey of a team or individual player from the past. Although significantly less popular than they had been, throwback jerseys were still being worn by hip hop enthusiasts as of 2011.
During the late 1990s and through the 2000s, hip hop T-shirt fashion was even further dominated by labels created within the urban community. Although some shirts still prominently displayed the labels of prominent sportswear labels, others relied upon urban-inspired graphical illustrations. The trend of wearing oversized hip hop shirts increased between 2003 and 2005. By 2010, the shirts, though still large and loose, were cut much closer to the wearer's body.
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