If you grew up in the 80s, there is a good chance if you were hip you owned a Starter Jacket or two. These jackets were cool, comfy, and an affordable way to make a fashion statement that was a staple of 1980s hip hop fashion.
When most people think of 80’s hip-hop fashion, they imagine baggy jeans, Adidas suits and even bigger gold chains than the previous generation. What isn’t as well known about that time is that on top of those trends came a new trend that would change the way we wear jackets today. We’re talking about none other than the Starter jacket and their trendy pullover hoodies.
These pieces were worn by rappers like Run DMC and LL Cool J and became a staple of any kid who grew up in New York or pretty much anywhere on the East Coast between 1985 and 1988.
What made this jacket so different from any other sportswear out at the time was that it wasn’t just a sports logo, but it became an iconic symbol of New York’s hip-hop scene. It was low-key enough to be worn by rappers who were still trying to keep their street cred while also being flashy enough for rap fans to start wearing them.
What may come as a surprise is that although these jackets are now icons of 80s fashion, they didn’t even produce these pieces until 1985 when Darryl DMC McDaniels reached out to Starter founder David Beckerman about making custom jackets for their upcoming tour. What came out of that meeting would forever change the way musicians and athletes approached branded apparel.
What made this so successful was the method of branding and the quality of material and style. What set this jacket apart from other jackets at the time were three things; their nylon fabric, kangaroo pouch (used to hold items like sunglasses) and the zipper pull (used for easy access).
What made these pieces pop were all the different colourways that came out over the years. What started as simple black jackets with gold writing included plaids, pinstripes, checkers and even leather versions in 1988. What also helped bring them into fashion was when more and more celebrities started wearing them as well their eventual introduction into pop culture and movies. For example Starter Jackets were worn by Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall in their 1988 smash hit Coming To America.
The popularity of this jacket was a turning point in pop culture and fashion history that we still feel to this day. What started as just a black and gold jacket would come to define streetwear for years to come, and pave the way for countless other designers who wanted their brands recognized on the streets.
What also made Starter Jackets famous was their affordability. What made the brand take off was its ability to create an affordable version of these customized jackets that everyone could have access to. What hasn’t changed since 1985 is that this jacket’s impact on fashion is still felt today and is a must-have for any 80’s collector.
Something that also hasn’t changed is the quality of their jackets. They are still high quality and reasonably priced, which is likely why they still remain popular today.
Even though the hardcore underground rap scene clothing has been left in the ash piles of 80s fashion history, we will always remember the Starter Jacket as a piece of hip hop history that will soon not be forgotten.