The Enduring Legacy of Tupac's Style 25 Years Later
Tupac Shakur’s legacy as a musician was recently cemented by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This month also marks the 25-year anniversary of his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, making its Billboard chart debut (April 25, 1992).
But as he is recognized for his poignant lyrics, his varied style deserves a mention as well. Before fashion blogs existed and certainly prior to hip-hop stars being embraced as fashion icons, Tupac (stage name: 2Pac) -- both smooth and brash -- was coolly slipping into couture suits and jerseys with the ease, influencing many for decades to come.
Below, stylists who have dressed the likes Beyonce, Nas, and Alicia Keys talk about what their favorite 2Pac looks are, why his style lives on and who’s giving off ‘Pac vibes today.
Wouri Vice, Wardrobe Stylist (Alicia Keys, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis)
David Lachapelle about Pac: Tupac was great, he was very sensitive and is truly a good person. I wrote to his mum when he died and she sent me flowers and gave me his last song, “Ghetto Gospel.” When we did the shoot, he had just come out of prison and every shot has a reason, it’s never random, so this was the idea of the photo shoot, him becoming clean. He had given this interview when he was still in prison and he really opened up and was so honest. I had read it and thought it was so truthful so for the work I did with him, there was this idea of washing away and rebirth. And we did another shoot where he posed as a slave on a cotton field. They traced rapping and rhyming to “call and repeat” during slavery time in sugar cane and cotton fields to pass the time. It’s on the Hotel Lachapelle book. Tupac came to the shoot 2 hours early, which was very unusual for a rapper. So I wasn’t ready for the shoot and he didn’t care. He reminded me of my black friends whom I went to art schools with, he was so cool, open-minded and chill. He wasn’t judgemental. Then later on, I found out that he had gone to an art school. He left behind a big bag of socks and underwear because he had just come out from prison and never picked it up. He died shortly after. I still wear his socks sometimes #Tupac #2pac #TupacFamily
Favorite Look: My favorite 2Pac was from the David LaChapelle photo shoot when he's bathing in gold jewelry. I felt this was his way of mocking Hollywood and it's glamor while still being vulnerable.
Tupac’s Enduring Style: 2Pac's style has definitely endured. There was a fashionable edge to it. The suits with bandanas, even wearing jeans with no shirt became a part of the culture, turning hip-hop men into rock gods. I still see a touch of Juice and Poetic Justice-era ‘Pac fashion [today], with the layering and simple statement looks.
Favorite Song: “How Do You Want It,” of course!
Style Versus Music: His style definitely matched his music. There was always the apparent hardness, but there was always a level of consciousness to it.
Memsor Kamarake, former VIBE Magazine Fashion Editor, current Stylist for Wendy Williams and The Wendy Williams Show.
Favorite Tupac Look: From the now iconic and highly controversial "Becoming Clean" photoshoot by David LaChapelle—the one where he's sitting upright covered by soap suds, not the one lying with the gold chains. Regardless of how you feel about the images—and a quick online search will show debate still rages on, they illustrate Tupac's willingness to create art that pushes the envelope and people's buttons, regardless of the prevailing machismo permeating Hip-Hop at the time.
Tupac’s Enduring Style: Tupac was one of the original fashion killers, pioneering the melding of street style—bandanas, gold chains, exposed boxers—with high fashion, which is now commonplace in mags and on runways worldwide. He even walked a Versace runway show with then girlfriend Kidada Jones, daughter of VIBE founder Quincy Jones. I'm a denim fiend and the jacket he wore to the Soul Train Awards in 1993 wouldn't look out of place in my closet today in 2017!
I see little bits of Tupac everywhere. Lil Wayne and his tattoos and his gold chains are the most obvious heir apparent. Travis Scott and Wiz Khalifa with the fearless style and devil-may-care attitude. Kendrick, Chance and Joey Badass with the nose rings.
Favorite Songs: “Dear Mama” and “How Do U Want It”
Style Versus Music: His style evolution reflected the twists and turns of his personal life and career. The streetwear, bandana and backward baseball caps reflected the stories recounted in his earlier music. The golden suits and Versace shirts and were hallmarks of his "success" and newfound access into more affluent worlds. But whether he was decked out in a full suit or performing shirtless with pants sagging, ‘Pac always exuded a confidence and keen awareness of the power of his own image which was light-years ahead of many of his rap contemporaries.
Brea Stinson, Stylist and STINSON HAUS Designer (Nas, Beyonce, Anderson .Paak)
Favorite Look: I absolutely love the infamous photo of ‘Pac in the Red Wings jersey and bandana. It's iconic! This image is so rude and so rock 'n' roll. It brilliantly captures his anger, frustration and rebellion that so many young people felt at that time. These are the emotions that come along with being judged by skin color or your wardrobe. It's how he felt when he was mistreated by the police and the authorities, and the overall feelings of being misunderstood. It's so ironic because these are some of the same issues we face today.
Tupac’s Enduring Style: 2Pac was larger than life! His style can't really be put in a box. He was a bit of a style chameleon, embracing fashion influences from everywhere he lived. I've often wondered if 2 Chainz was inspired by the "I Get Around" video. ‘Pac had every guy in my neighborhood putting on two herringbone necklaces on lay-a-way! [Laughs].
Future’s tattoos and layered gold jewelry reminds me of 2Pac. It’s a great mix of street cred' and sex appeal. Wiz Khalifa, wearing Saint Laurent silk shirts relaxed and undone with great use of tattoos and bandanas is similar to 2Pac’s rebellious rock star vibes. Kendrick Lamar’s Coachella look -- that two-piece velvet outfit -- reminded me of the silk sets ‘Pac used to wear. Clean and chic.
Favorite Song: “Keep Ya Head Up.” This song is like the gospel. Full of testimony and encouragement. It’s timeless! A lesser known favorite is "Gotta Get Mine" by MC Breed featuring 2Pac. It gives such good energy and it's motivating in a different type of way.
Style Versus Music: His style definitely matched his music. His fashion was just as well-rounded as his music. He could transition to streetwear to a suit so effortlessly. He didn't always choose the safest fashion choices and he prided himself on using his voice to speak on issues that maybe other artists strayed away from. His music was thoughtful, intelligent, emotional, rebellious, confident, and fun. I think his fashion choices were all of these things.
Ty Hunter, Stylist for Beyonce
Favorite Tupac Look: I really liked his look on Poetic Justice, but his work with David LaChapelle was timeless and iconic, too.
Favorite Song: A lot of artists learned from his swag. It was his confidence in himself that made the man. I loved his music -- my favorite song is “Dear Mama.” I was raised by a single mother and on every Mother's Day, I send that song to her.
Style Versus Music: His street-style matched his lyrics. His tattoos were another piece of him that told stories. Tupac was an artist and it showed through his ink and his clothing.