Review: ‘Fresh Dressed’ checks out the why of what gets worn

‘Fresh Dressed’

The jean jacket was graffiti art’s first canvas, as  boys on the street in Brooklyn demonstrate.

( Jamel Shabazz / Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Given the demand for today’s latest “It” label and status accessories, and the constant push by media toward the next must-have purchase, a film that approaches clothing from a timeless point of view is a welcome respite from the exhausting cycle of trends that fuel the fashion industry.

“Fresh Dressed,” a documentary examining hip-hop’s influence on fashion, forgoes today’s frequently asked question of “Who are you wearing?” and, instead, compellingly explores the why of what we wear.

Directed by Sacha Jenkins, the film is as rhythmic and hypnotic as the old-school hip-hop-heavy soundtrack that supports it. With its high-profile interviews with Nas, Kanye West and Sean Combs, as well as street wear clothing pioneers Carl Jones, co-founder of Cross Colours, and Daymond John, co-founder of FUBU, the movie is as entertaining as it is educational. Its consistent pulse and strong historic arc should keep even nonfashion fans engaged for the entire 83 minutes.

Starting with the significance of Sunday-best clothing during the slavery era, to the presence of street gangs in the Bronx and the rise of rap and hip-hop music, which arguably remains the strongest influence on current fashion considering the ubiquitousness of crisp white, sneaker-clad feet, the film captures the stories behind how fashion — from the latest sneakers to the popularity of Polo Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton — within African American culture came to be.


“Someone said to me your clothes are your wings,” says rapper Nas in “Fresh Dressed.” “So you know if you want to fly, you’re going to put on something nice. … Once we put it on, it’s a whole different story. We take it to the next level.”

That next level, whether shell toe Adidas with starched laces or a custom made Gucci logo jacket by Harlem haute couturier Dapper Dan, was the result of creating a unique and fresh image that mirrored the free-flowing sound of hip-hop and acted as an expression of inner-city life.

“Fresh Dressed” is a refreshing and thoroughly engaging reminder that the most enduring and interesting fashion is not just simply about the clothing but more about the people wearing it, where they’ve been and where they want to go.