Prep-Hop style features flashy hoodies, custom shoes

BAPE, leaders in urban streetwear

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Lupe Fiasco

Chances are you’ve seen the hit music video for “Crank That (Soulja Boy).” But you may have missed when Soulja Boy declares, “Haters get mad, ’cause I got me some Bathing Apes,” as he points down at his shoes. What are these so-called ‘Bathing Apes’?

For the answer, travel halfway across the globe to Japan, where Tomoaki Nagao, also known as Nigo, DJs for the Japanese rap group, Teriyaki Boyz. He’s also the founder and head designer of the influential streetwear company, A Bathing Ape, otherwise known as BAPE.

The name was coined from the Japanese saying, “An ape bathing in lukewarm water,” a reference to a spiritual practise for overly pampered Japanese youth. BAPE was made to speak out creatively against those spoiled by commercialized society.

Ironically, it’s the youth that Nigo initially mocked that fuels “Prep-Hop,” the emerging fashion trend in popular media. Custom shoes, zip-up hoodies, large belt buckles, flamboyant designs and trucker and fitted caps have become the new gold standard.

The trend is a step away from the dominant baggy hip-hop style. The creative forces of hip-hop are leading the change, including Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell Williams, Andre 3000 and Lil’ Wayne.

BAPE focuses on bright, colourful logo-inspired designs printed on high-quality material, ranging from jackets, hoodies, sweaters and T-shirts. BAPE’s collection has also spread to include print-screened jeans, hats, belts and accessories.

Pharrell Williams

The company has some unique ideas, like hoodies that zip all the way to the top with eyes, animals, or robots on their mask-like hoods. Nike Air Force 1-influenced BapeStas are also popular, which are known for the star jutting across the side of the shoe with custom colours and designs that often represent pop culture.

What drives these products, for both collectors and fashion-obsessed fans, are the limited runs, hard-to-find exclusivity, and high prices " hoodies can range from $300 to $450 USD and BapeSta Shoes start at $200 USD. As of now, there are only six places in the world where you can “officially” buy BAPE " Japan, Hong Kong, London, New York, Los Angeles and Taipei.

However, BAPE is not the only company leading the charge. Nigo and Pharrell Williams joined forces to form Billionaire Boys Club (BBC) and Ice Cream Shoes, which are made of organic material. Lifted Research Group (LRG), “World Famous” brand STUSSY, as well as Evisu, 10 Deep, The Hundreds, Reigning Champ, Neighborhood, Crooks & Castle and W)taps also influence and represent “Prep-Hop.”

BAPE Shoes

The focus of these brands is creativity and making wearers stand out, both of which inspire a “revolution” and a “fighting the masses” attitude that makes these brands unique.

Many of the brands mentioned can be found in Toronto stores Goodfoot, Livestock, and the New Era Concept Store, all located on or near Queen St. West. If a trek up north is not feasible, visit www.karmaloop.com.

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