This week, Kwabena Gyane examines the fashion choices of rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor Kid Cudi throughout his captivating career.
Authenticity is at the core of Scott Mescudi, professionally known by the alias Kid Cudi. With lyrics that allow him to bare his vulnerabilities, from his alcohol problems to his depression, to his listeners, it is no surprise that his bona fide nature bleeds into his fashion choices.
Whether it be the red fleece crop top he wore during his 2014 Coachella set which drew several superfluous opinions or the lace wedding dress to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) 2021 Awards, Cudi’s style follows no mainstream trend, rather it always marches to the beat of his drum.
Discussing Cudi’s fashion requires an examination of his entire career up to this point, the choices in habiliments in terms of his onstage performances and his personal life. Fashion evolves, it has no option but to and personal styles are no different, and in terms of Cudi, I am diving into how his sense of style has changed throughout the years since his rise to prominence.
In the early years, Cudi’s fashion sense could be succinctly described as streetwear with a pinch of punk fashion-inspired aesthetic.
Rocking leather jackets, graphic tees, and ripped jeans, from the moment he was given the spotlight, his fashion choices already went against those established by his peers and predecessors in the musical genre he inhabited.
Appearing in Complex’s Fifth Annual Style and Design Issue August 2009 cover sporting a striped top in black-and-white, and a leather jacket, it was obvious there was interest in his style especially so early in his career.
In the same year, Japanese clothing company BAPE in collaboration with Cudi released T-shirts with his likeness printed on them. He would later wear this piece to his first MTV VMAs; this would be the first of many collaborations with the company.
BAPE was not the only brand that had been enthralled by Cudi’s fashion. Leather jackets, being a staple of his style caught the eye of the Parisian luxury fashion label, Surface to Air, and in 2011, a capsule collection was released. Two pieces (the Fire Jacket V1 and the Champs Jacket V2) were featured in his ‘Mr. Rager’ music video which Jérémie Rozan, the label’s founder, directed.
Cudi’s choice of clothing always finds a way to aggravate people. At a 2010 New Year’s Eve party, he was seen wearing a cap, sunglasses, a black T-shirt and the object of people’s ire, an olive kilt to which Hello Beautiful indicated that, “men in skirts just don’t quite do it for us.”
These fashion risks during his climb to fame while operating in a genre that was extremely cruel to those who went against the masculine aesthetic highlights Cudi’s unyielding nature, and with how far society has come in terms of fashion expression, he had been right to stand his ground.
Men in crop tops are not a new phenomenon; even back in 2014. However, some people were once again up in arms when Cudi showed up for his Coachella set in cut-off denim shorts and a red crop top. This look, simplistic in nature, still had social media talking and this time with criticisms, and praise tagged along, a clear indication of the direction we were moving, especially when it came to the fashion of black male hip-hop artists.
How many artists can say that Italian fashion designer Giuseppe Zanotti designed shoes inspired by their style? Well, Kid Cudi can. In 2014 he announced this, with the shoes having a minimalist style paired with oversized straps set to debut in Zanotti’s 2015 Spring/Summer Collection. Like Cudi’s style, these shoes were both understated and loud, two opposites coming together to create something compelling.
Cudi plays with his streetwear-indie aesthetic, incorporating different styles that do not clash with one another or try to take centre stage, rather working harmoniously to bring forth each style’s strengths.
This can be the dash of smart wear at the Dior Homme Menswear Spring/Summer 2019 runway show in 2018, wearing a vintage graphic T-shirt and Off-White x Converse Chuck Taylors while in a tailored suit. Or his inclusion of a pop of psychedelic fashion with his vivid tie-dye shorts along with his crewneck sweatshirt from his Kids See Ghost merch line, a fine pair due to the album’s psychedelic artwork.
2019 saw Cudi finally dip his toes into designing, collaborating with A.P.C., a French prêt-à-porter brand to release INTERACTION #1. A range that pulled from his fashion style, from paint-splattered denim overalls with Dream On embroidered on them to his staple, a leather jacket.
This range showcased not only his eye for fashion but his ability to rework pieces to align with his style. Another shoe collaboration presented itself that year, with Cudi partnering with Adidas.
The following year saw the VADAWAM 326 released, with its suede overlays and the three midfoot straps. The number 326 is a reference to his daughter’s birthday, again we see how his private life leaks into his professional one.
During SNL in 2021, Cudi decided to pay homage to the Nirvana vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain, first sporting a green cardigan reminiscent of the sweat worn by the artist during an MTV Unplugged performance. He later wore a custom Off-White spaghetti-strapped dress with a similar floral design to the one worn by Cobain on the 1993 cover of The Face.
Modelling his stylistic choice after one of his inspirations who just like him challenged the norms of male fashion and just like him suffered from mental health issues, was met with complaints and as always Cudi stood by his choices.
That would not be the end of Cudi’s Cobain homages; at New York Fashion Week 2021, his hair was dyed ocean blue, and he wore a Nirvana sweatshirt with a long black skirt. Again, Cudi’s fashion experimentations were accompanied by questions about his sexuality, because heavens forbid a man, a black man to be specific, explores the different facets of fashion.
If you thought Cudi was done delving into styles that subverted gender norms, think again. The Met Gala also saw him grace us with his street-style emo look that incorporated not only his neon-green hair and bold black eye makeup but also a clear vinyl skirt. The CFDA Awards would later see him in an ensemble designed by Eli Russell Linnetz, wearing a catsuit with a tea-length skirt, a blazer and of course a veil.
BAPE would collaborate with Cudi in 2021, releasing their largest artist collaboration yet, with 20 pieces from graphic hoodies to cardigans to leather varsity jackets. The relationship he fostered with the brand consistently proves to be profitable.
Members of the RAGE, a street-fashion clothing line Cudi launched, had its first piece released earlier this year, a T-shirt made in collaboration with Japanese fashion designer Nigo. Cudi has come a long way, from several collaborations that replicated his style for his audience to now having a line he could truly call his own.
Think Cudi’s fashion style only operates in the physical world? Think again, with Entergalatic, an animated film which also acts as a visual for his album which goes by the same name. In the film, Cudi’s character, Jabari, modelled after the musician, embodies Cudi’s style, from his red CLOSURE hoodie to the denim jacket with emojis on the sleeves. The characters change attire throughout the film, to give it a sense of realism and time changes.
The experimentations, the evolutions and the extravagances of Cudi’s fashion are unique as an outsider looking in, with his discography being an inspiration to so many; his fashion sense is also no stranger to this.
Kid Cudi is fashion’s understated star. His ability to effortlessly merge styles in ways most people do not think about is engrossing. How one manages to be so audacious in his choices, whether as simple as teddy bear slippers or intricate as a lace ensemble, finds a way to draw one in, and with Cudi and his authentic style, you can be sure you will always get a front row seat.