Argyleculture: Hip Hop Prestige

Most people know Russell Simmons as one of the co-founders of Def Jam Records and a preeminent figure in the world of hip hop. In addition to being a hip hop pioneer, he is an author, vegan, yoga enthusiast, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. Although hip hop has been an integral part of his success, he never limited himself to the music industry. Personal development and progression have always been motivating factors for Simmons. As hip hop elevated in stature, he wanted disciples of the genre to become more industrious and innovative. In 2008, Simmons launched his Argyleculture fashion label but the brand struggled following two failed partnerships. In spite of these setbacks, Simmons resurrected the brand. In 2012, he re-launched Argyleculture with fashion designer Joseph Abboud to create a clothing line that tweaks traditional preppy styles with a hip hop verve.

According to the Argyleculture website, Simmons envisioned this brand for the “Urban Graduate,” a term that signifies “an emerged male and female consumer born and bred in hip hop culture, now mature and successful in his or her own right.” Hip hop in its infancy symbolized counterculture and anti-establishment. It was a completely new genre of music that reflected the attitudes of a marginalized, urban community. To the general public, hip hop was brash and transgressive. Everything from the clothing to the unfiltered lyrics represented an affront to mainstream society. Despite its tumultuous beginnings, hip hop has progressed and embedded itself in American culture. Furthermore, hip hop has become an international phenomenon embraced by people in countries around the world. This evolution manifests itself in the designs of the Argyleculture brand.

In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Joseph Abboud detailed the aesthetic appeal of Argyleculture clothing. “This is like preppy on steroids. There are a lot of preppy brands out there and no one does traditional preppy better than Ralph Lauren. But this is more irreverent. The colors are bright and the styling is aggressive. Traditional preppy has rigid boundaries and this pushes the envelope.” While Simmons’ previous Phat Farm and Baby Phat brands exuded an overt hip hop sensibility, Argyleculture presents a nuanced preppy style with an element of hip hop. The name of the brand itself extends far beyond fashion by invoking the term “culture.” The bravado and rawness of hip hop blend seamlessly with the refinement of an upscale image. Although hip hop was initially viewed as a niche movement, it is thriving and expanding into new areas.

In contrast to Phat Farm and Baby Phat, which were marketed primarily to urban youth, the Argyleculture brand caters to a more mature audience that still embraces hip hop. Many up and coming brands fall by the wayside because they cannot sustain success. Certain styles and trends that are popular among young people become passé in a matter of years. In order to succeed as a fashion label, you need to design clothing that has lasting appeal. In an interview with TheFashionPost, Simmons discussed the fleeting nature of urban fashion brands and explained his motivation for creating Argyleculture. “Well, they all come and go because they were young men. You think Diggy (Simmons) would walk downstairs and see his father (Rev Run) in Phat Farm and wear it? Of course not. So, they have a life span. It’s impossible for them to survive beyond 15 years. You don’t know any that did, and it’s not because they’re bad, it’s because they ran their course. Real fashion, if you can survive with the times, you don’t run your course. So, Argyleculture is a men’s brand. If we have 40 urban men’s brands, then 34 of them would still be here. But there’s none. Young men’s businesses are gone, and African-American designers are gone with it. So, maybe I can start something out, maybe I can help usher in a new generation. I don’t want to go through any door alone, ever. If I go through a door, I’m bringing a whole bunch of black people with me.”

Since its inception, Argyleculture has sought to empower consumers with chic and edgy selections. In 2015, Simmons collaborated with ModaBox to promote the Argyleculture Fall/Winter 2015 collection at New York Fashion Week. The collection consisted of argyle vests, bow ties, slim-fit jeans, and displayed elegant ensembles. Every aspect of the clothing is impeccable and exemplifies progressive professionalism. While the style is a departure from stereotypical hip hop attire, it still incorporates the hip hop spirit. The determination and self-assuredness championed by hip hop artists take on a new life and project a fresh, sophisticated vibe.

For entrepreneurs, it’s important to establish a lasting business model to be successful. Simmons, along with other prominent hip hop moguls such as Sean Combs and Shawn Carter, got their start in the music industry, but honed their business acumen in other areas. Hip hop was a launching pad for their careers, but they all adopted a professional image. The Argyleculture brand promotes adaptability and stability while urging hip hop listeners to expand their horizons. Professionalism and hip hop are not mutually exclusive—they can unify and flourish. People who were and currently are influenced by hip hop can excel professionally while retaining their connection to the genre.

-Elijah Yarbrough