Rocawear: How Jay-Z's Hip-Hop Fashion Brand Redefined Streetwear

Explore the influential legacy of Jay-Z's Rocawear and its pivotal role in shaping hip-hop fashion. Discover the brand's rise and cultural significance.


Oct. 17 2023, Published 8:59 p.m. ET

As one of the best rappers ever, Jay-Z is also considered a fashion mogul courtesy of his Rocawear fashion brand.

Some of the most iconic fashion labels that have changed the way people dress can trace their origins to hip-hop. The top brands didn’t just clothe a generation – these fashion brands also defined its identity. One of the most influential names in hip-hop fashion is Jay-Z. The rapper founded Rocawear in the late 1990s.

Considered to be one of the major brands that signaled a cultural takeover for hip-hop lovers, Rocawear played a huge role in popularizing culture-shaping trends, such as bold graphic t-shirts, leather jackets, and flashy logos, among others.

Here’s what you need to know about the legacy of this iconic brand, and how it has influenced hip-hop fashion.

How It All Started

If you are a fan of late ‘90s hip-hop, you don’t need any introduction to the Rocawear brand. However, to paint a clear picture of its impact on fashion, it is important to start at the beginning. The brand was founded back in 1999 by Jay-Z and his business associate Damon Dash.

At the time, the rapper was on top of his game in the music industry and saw the influence he had in driving purchases of various brands among his followers. This realization gave rise to the idea of starting a fashion label. And, when every major brand in the fashion industry turned him and Dash down, the two decided to bring the idea to life on their own. This is how Rocawear was born — as a Rocafella Records subsidiary.

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The brand produced and marketed everything from leather goods to denim and fitted caps. A staple in the world of hip-hop apparel, the brand was an embodiment of the hip-hop scene in New York at the dawn of the millennium. Major names such as The Diplomats, Memphis Bleek, and Beanie Sigel wore the brand on the regular.

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Growth and Impact in the Fashion World

The brand was able to spread its wings across the United States through marketing collaborations with big names, like Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, and Kanye West. This development combined with a move to Macy’s flagship store and licensing deals made the brand very lucrative – drawing in up to $700 million in annual sales at its height (around 2007)!

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Anniversary Collection

While Rocawear might not be as big as it was back in its heyday, its influence in the world of hip-hop fashion is undeniable. In 2019, the brand launched a new collection to mark its 20th anniversary. The collection is comprised of accessories, footwear, t-shirts, and sweatsuits – all featuring the iconic Rocawear logo.

The Rocawear Legacy

Starting as an idea that was not deemed viable by big brands in the fashion industry, Rocawear became one of the most influential players in the field of hip-hop apparel. By extending its reach across the U.S. and the world, the brand became quite lucrative. Over the years, the brand has influenced how hip-hop and fashion interact.

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