Fresh Dressed

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Fresh Dressed Movie Poster Image
Excellent docu on hip-hop fashion's rise has profanity.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 82 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Many of the people interviewed found an avenue by which to showcase their identities and attain success in the midst of trying economic circumstances in hip-hop fashion and music.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People interviewed in this movie see art, music, and fashion not only as means of self-expression and self-affirmation but also as ways to transcend the racism, crime, violence, and drugs of their surroundings. Little Richard is seen as "an iconic symbol of freedom." 

Violence

Talk of a young man who was a peacemaker in his neighborhood getting beaten to death by a gang with baseball bats. Talk of gang fights and robbery of expensive tennis shoes. 

Sex
Language

Two uses of "f--k." Reference to wanting a "gangsta bitch" hat. People of color are referred to by stores as "urban customers." Sellers of clothing in the 1970s and '80s are called "the Jewmen." A song talks of how "whitey is on the moon" while people of color suffer on Earth. 

Consumerism

Popular brands -- ranging from Ralph Lauren to Tommy Hilfiger to FUBU to Enyce and many other brands that emerged during the 1990s and beyond as hip-hop fashion took off -- are discussed at length. Consumption and materialism overall are shown as ways in which people try to attain status; even as it's provided with proper historical context, the lengths to which people go to conform in their communities or to attain pricey items such as expensive shoes are sometimes extraordinary. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some reference to crack cocaine and its impact on NYC neighborhoods in the 1980s. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fresh Dressed is a 2015 documentary about the rise of hip-hop fashion. It's as inspiring as it is properly rooted in historical context. So many of those interviewed in this movie found in hip-hop fashion and music an avenue by which to showcase their identities and attain success in the midst of trying economic circumstances. This documentary also connects hip-hop fashion to the "Sunday best" clothing worn by slaves on plantations in the 19th century. There is some discussion of violence -- a peacemaker in a gang-ravaged community is beaten to death by baseball bats in the early 1970s, and people are robbed of their expensive shoes while on the streets, for instance. "F--k" is used twice; there's talk of wanting a "gangsta bitch hat"; and some racist undertones are discussed throughout, as NYC tailors from the '70s and '80s are referred to as the "Jewmen," and retail stores didn't want to sell hip-hop clothing because they didn't want to cater to "urban customers." Overall, this documentary is a fascinating glimpse into hip-hop fashions origins and how it coincided with the rise of the music from the Bronx to the whole world. 

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What's the story?

From their earliest origins in the Bronx of the 1970s to their worldwide popularity, hip-hop music and fashion have captured the imaginations of many. FRESH DRESSED is a documentary that explores the history and ascendance of hip-hop fashion, finding direct links to the "Sunday best" clothes worn by plantation slaves of the 19th century to the attempts of Bronx gangs to fight with rap battles instead of weapons in the 1970s. Through interviews and archival footage, the emerging narrative is of a fashion that rose from the humblest of origins to become a massive worldwide industry, one that kicked down doors and penetrated every aspect of international culture. 

Is it any good?

Fresh Dressed is a detailed and engaging documentary chronicling the rise of hip-hop fashions from the streets of the Bronx to the catwalks of international fashion meccas. Tracing the origin of hip-hop to the death of an idealistic young man who tried to broker peace between rival gangs in the Bronx and the fashion itself to the "Sunday best" clothing worn by plantation slaves of the 19th century, Fresh Dressed reveals the cultural traditions and fundamentally universal desires of youth to fit in to their communities that catapulted hip-hop fashion to the enormous industry it later became in the late 1980s and onward. 

The documentary manages a near-perfect confluence of history, fashion, and music and should be required viewing for anyone interested in any or all of these three topics. Its multigenerational scope makes this a documentary that's enjoyable for teen hip-hop fans as well as those who were around when it first started to gain popularity in the late 1970s. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about historical documentaries. What are some of the ways in which the past -- recent or distant -- conveys knowledge? How can we learn from the past?

  • How did historical context -- the discussion of "Sunday best" clothing worn by plantation slaves in the 19th century and the dire poverty and crime of the Bronx in the 1970s -- provide a broader link to some of the reasons behind the ascendance of hip-hop fashion?

  • How was racism addressed in the movie? What were some of the ways in which institutional racism clearly had an impact on both the origins of hip-hop fashion and its later attempts to get into mall department stores? 

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