In the words of Andre 3000 “Styles will change. They say change is dang-erous/As a King standing on the terrace….”. But when is change truly dangerous? Watching Pharrell’s CHANEL’s GABRIELLE bag ad had me thinking. This is really real, rappers are actually rockin what has been referred to as a “Man Purse”. I remember watching an episode of the show “Friends” in the late 90’s that brought attention to the man purse. The character on the show Joey had gotten attached to the new fashion craze that was coined as the man purse. Joey being a non-gay straight man even found it strange that he liked the man purse so much and felt that he had to explain himself everywhere he went with it. I had no idea that in 2017 I would see so many rappers (hardcore rappers at that) walking around and flaunting their man purses. It has gotten so prevalent that one of Hip-Hop’s major mainstream figures in Pharrell has been chosen for a man bag campaign by Chanel.
We know the first thing many people go to when they see this ad is the “emasculation of the Black Man” argument. There can be some validity to that statement but I’m not going to go there. I’ll leave that part of the discussion for someone a bit more qualified in that arena. But I do want to explore how we got here. How did the most masculine genre in music get to the point where man purses are ok? In previous eras a man purse would make you the target of countless joking punchlines that ultimately would have taken you out of the game. But clearly in this changing world this is not the case. Outside of the world changing how did Hip-Hop get to this point of comfort and acceptance for things that were previously unacceptable? Many changes in the Hip-Hop mainstream come by way of two of Hip-Hop’s major influential figures, Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Although I do believe that this one falls more so on Kanye West’s doorstep. Kanye West’s emphasis on pushing high fashion trends and crazes into Hip-Hop culture opened up a whole new door of acceptance in Hip-Hop fashion.
Let’s be clear, the man purse thing is a Hollywood high fashion thing. With that being said Kanye West and Pharrell are those bridges that were bringing high fashion ways to the Hip-Hop landscape. Kanye went from the backpack to the man purse. So maybe it was just an evolution of having a more fashionable place to hold his belongings that were previously place in his backpack.
The normalization of the man purse has been furthered in Hip-Hop by the likes of A$AP Rocky, Young Thug, Migos, and more. When artist are seen in photos with man purses now it’s not even a topic. The topic now is basically what brand they are rockin and how much it cost. Are we about to get to a point in Hip-Hop music where rappers are going to be bragging about who’s man purse cost the most? Dissing other rappers for not carrying around the right man purse or a fake man purse?
As we have seen with the infamous “Uzi Shirt” all a rapper has to do is say that their shirt cost $2,400 and all is forgiven. Young Thug performed with a $9,000 Chanel man purse swinging from his arm. But is any of this truly dangerous for Hip-Hop or is this an example of Old Heads not getting with the times? So the question from here is what should we expect next in Hip-Hop? Only time will tell, but the one thing that is definite in this ever changing culture we will see change one way or another.