Review: Fresh Dressed
Director: Sacha Jenkins
By Rhys Tarling
On the surface Fresh Dressed is a bright and breezy documentary concerning the fashion history of hip hop, from the 60s right up until Kanye West’s current attempts to compete with the likes of Ralph. Beneath the surface lies a minor tragedy – hip hop fashion or the urban market, marginalised and despised, was a literalisation of aspiration; to wear these clothes meant an attainment of success even if your own apartment was infested with bugs and you had fifty cents to your name. Folks in the Bronx, Harlem, and Brooklyn would kill someone for the right pair of sneakers or a cool coat. You had no respect, couldn’t make the right moves, if you didn’t look good. What they had on their body was the totality of their pride and dignity as a human being. That’s what these clothes meant.
Once the urban market achieved the recognition from mainstream America that it so desperately craved, it ceased to have meaning or a reason for being other than doing what cogs in the machine do; over-saturating the market, copying copies of copies to numbing effect, turning people into walking billboards. The aspiration was revealed to have no meaning, the dream didn’t last – dreams never do.
The film is propelled along mostly by interviews with hip hop artists, fashion designers, fashion professors, some colourful characters who were alive when looking fly was really gaining traction in the 60s, and one guy who owns half a million dollars worth of sneakers. They’re all fascinating to watch in their own way, though sometimes three of them in a row will say the same thing, making the pace of this documentary occasionally sluggish. It’s still great to watch even when repetitive due to the propulsive editing and a killer soundtrack featuring Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, NAS, Pusha T and many more. And not for nothing, but the zany yet strangely regal fashion that is hip hop is just positively delightful to look at.
Fresh Dressed touches on the social, race, and class issues of the respective periods that it covered. The class and race divide was, sadly, screamingly clear – no mainstream boutique store would have hip hop style clothing until it would’ve been monetarily irresponsible not to. Even then they designated the buyers of such clothing as “the urban market”. Urban market means scary black thugs in plain speak. But at the same time, the divide fuelled the creativity of the designers to push the boundaries, take risks, standout and demand to be counted when nobody wanted them there. Art from adversity.
This is an informative, inspiring, and a fun time at the movies.
Fresh Dressed is playing Sunday 10 July at Luna Leederville. Check it out.
For more information visit the Revelation Film Festival Website.