Grime luminary Skepta couldn’t be further from a new kid on the block. Sure, his global notoriety may have reached new heights in recent times, but the Tottenham emcee and his Boy Better Know brethren have been commanding the grime scene since the genre’s inaugural wave in the early 2000s.
While his music influence remains unquestioned, Skepta’s impact on the fashion industry holds a comparable potency. Though his affinity for sportswear was demonstrated early in his career, there were times where the grime don dipped in the luxury label pond and even dabbled in a bit of Ed Hardy (it happens to the best of us). This period was denounced, however, when Skepta dropped his emancipation anthem “That’s Not Me,” boasting about throwing all his Gucci in the bin as an effort to call out the phoniness and superficial peacocking affiliated with high-end brands.
The pride Skepta holds in his London roots and the traditional urban style that defines UK street culture has made him one of the most authentic icons in recent times, and the fashion world has certainly taken notice; the grime star has landed countless best-dressed lists (including ours) and has been sought out for a number of big-named endorsement deals.
But throughout it all, Skepta remains unfazed by the hype and continues to remain grounded by his upbringing, telling i-D, “I want the kids to see that maybe they should be aligning themselves not just with a price range, but the people who are designing for you.”
With the highly anticipated release of Skepta’s fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, dropping this week, we’ve rounded up some of the best moments showcasing the emcee in what he wears best: the tracksuit.
For his SS15 collection, London’s leading avant-sportswear designer Nasir Mazhar teamed up with Skepta for his presentation at London Collections: Men. In addition to compiling the show’s bass-rattling soundtrack, the grime heavyweight made his runway debut in a matching all-black tracksuit that Mazhar created especially for him. Not only was the pairing synergetic, it proved extremely relevant given how deeply the two ground their creative roots in their respective London upbringings.
Earl Grey Sway
In an effort to re-launch its flagship on Oxford Street, Japanese fast-fashion chain Uniqlo enlisted Skepta, along with five other UK tastemakers, to front its “This Way To Utopia” campaign. While the collaboration may have seemed a bit unlikely, we’re confident that the deal was sealed once Uniqlo decided to lace the radical emcee in none other than an earl grey iteration of his beloved sweatsuit, topped with a marble-printed down vest.
Tokyo-based label AMBUSH has a history of rappers co-signing its designs – Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Jay Z and Big Sean being but a mere fraction among a bevy of honorable mentions – so it was only a matter of time before Skepta joined the roster, seen here wearing a zipper-laden, patchwork denim jumpsuit from the brand’s “Dreamcatchers” collection.
Here’s one of many, many moments capturing the grime star wearing NYC’s stalwart streetwear mainstay, this particular occasion being the UK’s annual Bestival music festival back in 2015.
Experiential sportswear label Cottweiler has been spearheading London’s new wave of progressive design talent with its outré cult references, innovative fabrics and eccentric presentations. Yet despite the broad swath of international influences that are injected into the brand’s aesthetic each season, its ethos remains firmly planted in the functional wearability that defined British clubwear during the ’90s and early 2000s.
Skepta’s affinity for tracksuits shares a similar ideology, which was made clear when the rapper was seen performing in this glossy “Liquid” tracksuit from Cottweiler’s FW16 collection.
Welding London-tinged streetwear with eccentric Japanese aesthetics, Tokyo-based label C.E. has accrued a sizable cult fanbase (Skepta included) since it was first launched back in 2011 by BAPE and Billionaire Boys Club alumni Toby Feltwell and SK8Thing. Though their take on the British street staple – the tracksuit – is hardly traditional, C.E.’s success lies in their ability to sustain comfort and wearability amidst all of their weird graphics and unconventional fabrics.
“In a very short time those guys have a done an amazing job in building their brand image,” GOODHOOD’s Joe Warner once told us. “It always comes off very organically with them, never at all contrived. Which I think is rare these days.”
Beast From the East
Launched in 2014, burgeoning British label BAZAR14 is about as enigmatic as the Cyrillic lettering it frequently emblazons on its range of graphic streetwear. But what it lacks in context it certainly makes up for in Skepta endorsements, who’s been spotted any number of times wearing the brand’s designs.
Ghost of Grime-stmas Past
Last summer, Skepta channeled his inner grime ghost on the cover of The FADER‘s 98th issue in this all-white tracksuit from Cottweiler’s SS16 collection, once again showing his close rapport with the British label.
What would a “best tracksuit” list be without at least one inclusion from the brand that not only pioneered the trend, but perfected it, resurrected it and popularized it over the last four decades? A shabby one, that’s what. No need to explain Skepta’s sartorial choice here.
The Blue Banger
Whether on or off duty, the rapper does prefer to keep things low-key and casual, but even in doing so he still manages to ride steady on the fleek wave.
Danish designer Astrid Andersen has pinned urban-flavored music as the crux behind many of her designs over the past few seasons. Combined with her London work base and flare for luxe sportswear, Skepta’s friendship with Astrid – seen here in a white/beige ensemble from her SS14 collection – was certainly in the cards.
When the grime legend was placed in British GQ‘s top 50 best-dressed list this year, Astrid lauded the inclusion, saying, “best-dressed should not just be about being able to buy the most expensive suit, but about influencing a culture and for understanding how to bring a strong personal sense of view across.”
In the video for fellow grime emcee Fekky’s single “Way Too Much,” Skepta chose to brave the elements (ignoring the clear blue sky behind him) in this fisherman-style jacket by Norwegian tech brand Helly Hansen. Sure, another rapper sporting such a look might have very well been way too much, but not in this case.
Nike One, Bruv
Skepta getting his terrace menace game on point in the video for “It Ain’t Safe,” featuring A$AP Mob affiliate Young Lord (aka A$AP Bari).
So judging from previous inclusions, I think it’s safe to say that Skepta is rather fond of Supreme. This 3M-embellished hi-vis seam jacket, however, is a personal (and enviable) favorite. Just thought I’d make note of that.
Bum Bag, Still Swag
By topping off his trademark sporty look with a fanny pack (aka “bum bag”) slung across the shoulder and a national football team kit, I honestly don’t think it’d be possible for Skepta to drop his Brit card any harder (just disregard the “Woes” cap).
Get your grime knowledge sorted before ‘Konnichiwa’ drops by checking out the following:
Everything You Need to Know About Grime Collective Boy Better Know
5 Things You Need to Know About Grime
A Beginner’s Guide to Grime
- GIF Art: Dominik Schulte / Highsnobiety