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Notorious Style: Biggie’s Influence On Hip-Hop Fashion

Submitted by on March 9, 2010 – 10:54 am39 Comments

“…cuz the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9.”

- Canibus, “Second Round K.O.”

The Notorious B.I.G. Biggie Smalls. The King of New York. The Black Frank White. Big Poppa. Christopher Wallace, the Brooklyn native known also by these aforementioned aliases has been gone for over a decade, yet his influence on hip-hop culture has been monumental even in his absence.

The late and great emcee was considered light-years ahead of his time, which is probably why he’s still spun regularly on radio stations all over the globe. Biggie’s still in the forefront of the minds of virtually all those who appreciate hip-hop; from those who remember scrambling home and eagerly ripping off the plastic to the ’94 classic Ready To Die to the younger guys and girls that had no qualms illegally downloading Biggie’s posthumous album, Duets: The Final Chapter.

The one thing Biggie did phenomenally that was constantly overshadowed by his dazzling wordplay was dress himself stylishly. The younger generation didn’t really get a glimpse of his ability to start trends, but they definitely heard about it in his countless rhymes filled with constant references to his various designer clothes and accessories. To celebrate the 12th anniversary of Biggie’s passing, we decided to focus on the rapper’s most memorable fashion contributions to hip-hop.

COOGI sweaters

Sure, Australian clothing company COOGI had been creating these multi-hued sweaters since 1969, and Bill Cosby’s Heathcliff Huxtable character sported them on The Cosby Show in the ’80s, but the ‘hood wasn’t hip to the colorful look until Biggie did it. When Biggie donned the sweaters during performances — and, notably, on the cover of The Source with the Twin Towers behind him [picture above] — the look exploded in the hip-hop scene.

But as the story has it, Biggie borrowed his style from another New York kid, Mount Vernon resident Walt G. local As told to MTV News by veteran stylist Groovey Lew:

“We used to go to [Manhattan club] the Grand on Sundays, and my man had all the Coogi’s and the Kangols. And I got the pictures where G got his Kangol on and his COOGI, but Big had on Army jackets and Timberlands. So [Big] fell in love with this kid’s style right there — just took it to the next level for the world to see. If you weren’t Bill Cosby or just a rich mother—-er from Australia playing golf, nobody knew about [COOGI]. Big homie started running around with it, and that’s what opened the hood up to it.”

Once Biggie introduced the luxury company to the streets, he helped start a trend in colorful clothing that streetwear brands everywhere adopted. We’re one of the few retailers with a constant supply of brand new COOGI gear for the fellas and the ladies, so make sure you grab some today – check it out here.


Biggie was often draped in Versace from head to toe – from the shades to the silk shirt to the upholstery in his crib. He didn’t mind that that Versace didn’t design 4XL; he wore it anyway, tailor-made. In 1997, when Biggie rocked a rare, limited edition of Versace sunglasses in his “Hypnotize” video, the streets went crazy trying to figure out what model of the shades he had on.

Even Lady GaGa referred to her 1980s vintage Versace frames as her “Biggie Smalls Versace glasses” to the media after they were stolen from her on her European tour earlier in ’09. The international superstar went as far as to offer whoever finds them a spot in her next video. To this day, collectors are auctioning the few pairs in this style that still exist at ridiculous prices. Your best bet may be hitting eBay, but beware of fakes!

“Jesus Pieces”

Biggie made the infamous “Jesus Piece” his choice of jewelry in the ‘90s and a significant amount of rappers today are resurrecting the piece. If there ever was a checklist of must have items rappers should have, this tops the list. Kanye West and the G.O.O.D. Music crew definitely have these bad boys crossed off their list. While his was glittering gold, the piece has been redesigned in various styles and with countless materials.

If you’ve ever wanted to own a Jesus Piece but didn’t have the funds and despised the cheap imitations on the market, New York-based brand Good Wood has a great alternative. The Good Wood Jesus Piece features a 30-inch wood beaded chain available in various colorways. These items became popular towards the end of ’09, and have been mostly sold out on their online store – check it out to see what you can still get your hands on.

These are just a few of the fashion items that Biggie brought to the forefront of hip-hop culture. We’d love for you guys to share your favorite fashion memories of Biggie’s, and even your favorite verses that relate to his style. Hit us with ‘em!

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  • th!z says:

    “I put hoes in NY onto DKNY, Miami, DC preferred Versace, all Philly hoes dealt with Moschino, every cutie with a booty bought a Coogi.”

    That pretty much sums it up in the mans own words. Big was ahead of his time with the drapes, all the way from the custom Bad Boy jersey in the “Juicy” vid to the tailored suit mafioso look he donned several times before his death (he was Ye before Ye with the cut-&-sewn!)

  • ash says:

    Can’t think of one Biggie song that didn’t reference fashion, biggie was a true trendsetter! and of course the Jesus Piece is everywhere..

  • Millsy says:

    “While ninjas flirt, I’m sewing tigers on my shirts, and alligators/
    you wanna see the inside? I’ll see ya later.”

    I wasn’t trying to get snuffed for wearing anything fake, so I just didn’t own Lacoste until I got a job ::shrugs shoulders::

  • Rav says:

    Don’t forget about Biggie rockin BAPE 10 years before it was the next big thing…


  • Sheila says:

    Biggie’s 90s style was definitely hot — its sad to see what Coogi is now compared to what it was then.

  • Nick says:

    “Miami, DC/Prefer Versace” why do I love this line? Cuz DC was the city that raised me and I “grew up” going to college in Miami. Yezzir!

  • La'Tise says:

    it says a lot when someone has the power to bring together two rival coast through music and style

  • the_sabrina says:

    Only dude who made Versace silk shirts not look like a big ass conglomerate of different silk panties.

    I love how…

    “Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack
    With the hat to match”

    …is now the go-to shirt (of course, in different colorways) for every faux hipster at your local Urban Outfitters.

  • Jackson says:

    Nice article…definitely need to educate these new schoolers.

  • judge mental says:

    meh… to be completely honest i’ve never been a fan of biggie. sure, he was incredibly talented as an MC and left a really meaningful impact on the world of hip hop though his innovative delivery and wordplay. i respect his legacy, and appreciate what he’s done for the artform. but i’ve never been a fan of his music (or fashion sense).

  • FAT TONY says:

    Very true. Never seen somebody bring up Biggie’s fashion influence! Especially on the Coogi shit. Is Coogi even still popppin??

  • Jonna says:

    Good observation on the influence Biggie had. What rapper today has the same influence on fashion? Is it Kanye? Is it Jay Z? Who’s the rapper that sets the trend that all the others follow? Is it an underground dude who constantly sets trends but the trend gets mass distribution through people like kanye?

    In commemorating Biggie’s influence on fashion, it might be interesting to spark a discussion on recent rappers with fashion influence–and note how their trends have minor or major influence from Biggie.

  • Modi says:

    “versace wear, moschino on my b!tches / she whippin my ride, countin my ones, thinkin i’m the richest!” – “player’s anthem”

    bladaow. yeah, i know a lil bit.

  • Da says:

    this guy embodied the term “swagger”

  • YEBies says:

    When this dude’s first album came up I was still recording songs off the radio to make sure I got every word right so I could be the man at school. Ready to Die came out in the most important year in hip hop history in my opinion (“It’s like ’93, ’94, bout the year that Big and Mac dropped; and “Illmatic rocked outta every rag drop, and the West had it locked”- Jay-Z). Biggie as a solo artist had the east coast on his back. I remember how the west came out and literally had the game on lock for a little while. As one of those kids who actually had word-up posters on my wall it felt good to hear it in a song (Juicy). Biggie along with the help of Puffy helped create the blueprint of what a modern MC should be; have lyrics and the street cred while being able to make music that can “crossover” and sell some units. His sense of fashion was crazy as well. Most of the stuff he rapped about you actually saw him in, not like a lot of current crop of wannabe MCs. For a man of his size to be as big of a trendsetters as he was speaks volumes to the affect he had on people through his music and way of life. In a game where everyone is constantly trying to one up the next man, BIG was at the top of it rap wise as well as on the fashion tip. Since I don’t own any Coogi, today I’m going to rock my jesus piece which I never wear for our fallen hero and super MC. WE’LL ALWAYS LOVE BIG POPPA….

  • JenStar163 says:

    extremely good post!…you coundnt have picked anyone far more better then Biggie for an example about the fashion in Hip Hop!!!!….It was fly back then
    but now with all the fake being made its rather cliche 2 me…

  • ash says:

    I wonder if brands like Coogi will ever make a proper comeback cause right now its not such a good look but one thing for sure his Versace shades will forever be hot.

  • Nick says:

    Biggie’s desire to pave new paths, make history, and change the game can only add up to him setting new fashion trends for the hip-hop culture. He set himself apart from the rest with his skills as a rapper and style of fashion. Every designer he wore, he made it cool and acceptable for people in the hip-hop culture to sport. His vision and style live on through the culture he helped create and cultivate. Not so sure about the Coogi, but Versace and the Jesus Pieces you can’t argue with.

    “…now honies play me close like butter played toast, from the Mississippi down to the east coast/condos in Queens/indo for weeks/sold out seats to hear biggie smalls speak…

  • I used to base all of my clothing decisions off his lyrics. If Biggie didn’t rap about it, I didn’t respect it. Nice article fam.

  • Jonathan says:

    He’s an icon. I honestly feel like he sparked the popularity of rappers/artists adding brands to their lyrics, and to their repertoire. Shit as far as I’m concerned there are a lot of companies that owe him some $$.

  • Notorious K.E.V. says:

    I remember watching flava in ya ear reamix and saying to myself, “damn! i wish i had that sweater in the video”. It was only a champion sweater but it was so fly.

    Him and Jay Z had the clean cut “I got money” looks. Everybody down w/ bad boy had that look. Thats how a crew is suppose to roll!!

    Coogi’s, Tims, Yankee Fitted, Uptowns = Brooklyn

  • Ghotti368 says:

    Finally a post of his Fashion Sense. Alot of poeple forgot how BIG revolutionized the Style of Fashion from HEAD 2 TOE might I ADD into Hip Hop…… The Epitome of A Trend Setter… R.I.P. Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace….

  • Mr1stImpression says:

    Man because of big I got versace glasses and I ALMOST started rocking Coogi sweaters but i realized only B.I.G could pull it off. R.I.P The Legandary Biggie Smalls

  • Dapo says:

    Solid post. Biggie was def fresh to death.

    “i put hoes in NY on to DKNY, Miami n DC prefer Versace”

    biggie pulled in the #3 spot on my freshest fat rappers in history http://drdapo.com/fashion/top-5-xxxl-rappers-style/

  • [...] Notorious Stylishness: Biggie's Influence On Hip-Hop Fashion | DrJays … [...]

  • [...] Notorious Style: Biggie's Influence On Hip-Hop Fashion | DrJays … [...]

  • Jt says:

    Biggie da man! He was thinking years ahead of the game. He had the idea of Brooklyn mint clothing line before anybody else thought about it. Jay-z copied all of biggies ideas and ran with them. Jay z would be nothing if biggie was still here. BIG forever.

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  • julian says:

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