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New York's Hip-Hop, circa 1970's - 80's (2)
Hip Hop Files: Photographs 1979-1984Photography Martha Cooper

Gangs of New York: style tribes of the 80s

B-boys, Voguers and Factory-goers – after Hogan took inspiration from the city’s most exciting decade, we revisit five of NYC’s most notable crews

For SS16, Hogan got inspired by the collision of subcultures in 1980s New York with a collection that clashed sportswear with club-ready animal prints and punk references. The decade was one of the city’s most vibrant – despite its bad rep for Warriors-worthy street gangs and subway cars you definitely didn’t want to take, it was a true cultural melting pot that saw vibrant new forms of expression take hold in the city, with photographers there to document every step. We look back at five of our favourite scenes.


At the epicentre of New York’s art scene from 1962 to 1984, Warhol’s Factoryan abandoned warehouse turned studio and creative hub – drew in the eccentric artists and characters of the city to breed a counterculture that defined an era of American contemporary art, photography and film. Between it’s silver lined walls fashioned by Billy Name, the space served as a hip-hangout for Warhol’s underground clique, and saw young artists of the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring work and live alongside their idol-turned-mentor and his notorious superstars.


Already existing (albeit clandestinely) since the 70s, the graffiti artists of the North of NYC – based in Washington Heights near Harlem – really forged a name for themselves in the decade. Tagging the city, artists like TAKI 183 (183 referred to 183rd street in the neighbourhood), Futura 2000 and Lady Pink (the only girl considered capable of competing with the guys) would mark their territory in subway cars, which became entirely covered in graffiti. “We felt we understood the trains more than the Transit Authority,” explained one artist Zephyr. “Teenagers were running the system. We decided when, where, how much we wrote.” The city, unsurprisingly, was not pleased – even suing duo Sane Smith for $3m after they painted a giant mural on the top level of the Brooklyn Bridge that could be seen for miles.


For the city’s queer and transgender youth of colour, the drag ball scene offered a vibrant community. It championed voguing as a form of expression – dancers faced off to compete for ‘realness’ – which participant could perform the character they were seeking to emulate best. The culture was first brought to the attention of the public in Jennie Livingston’s iconic 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, filmed over the course of several years in the 1980s, as it chronicled the underground scene that saw legends of the likes of Octavia St. Laurent strutting around for trophies and prizes at balls. Where many of these people had been forced to leave their homes and face life on the streets, they found new families in the Houses of the scene – some of which are still surviving today.


A birthplace of punk, club CBGB (which sat beneath a flophouse on the Bowery) was responsible for the cultivation of some of the most famous music to ever come from New York City. While in the 70s it saw stars like the RamonesBlondie, Joan Jett and the bona fide Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith, take to the stage, throughout the 80s it became home to American hardcore bands and their fans, with a gallery space next door. The emergence of New York hardcore came after DC-based acts like Bad Brains made the move to the city, with the hardcore crowd gathering at the club on Sundays until escalating violence meant the tradition had to end in 1990. 


They might seem like unlikely influences, but James Brown and Kung Fu were cited as inspirations behind one of New York’s most vibrant subcultures. While across town down and out LGBT youth were battling it out for realness, in the Bronx (and later, across the entire city) breakdancers were facing off with their best moves. Blending hip hop, graffiti, fashion and a political awareness of what it meant to be black in America, breakdancing became a powerful artistic outlet for the youth of the city, channelling energy into creativity and away from the crime and violence that often plagued their under-resourced neighbourhoods.  The movement’s most famous images are the work of photographer Jamel Shabazz, who spoke to us recently about the positive power of the movement. 

Check out Hogan SS16 below: