Back in the mid 80’s and early 90’s, everyone wanted and desired a Starter jacket with their favorite team logo on the front and back. Even if you didn’t like sports, it was a must buy if you were a Hip Hop Head. Cats from New York were sporting Miami Hurricane jackets because they were worn by 2 Live Crew on their debut album “2 Live Crew Is What We Are“. At the same time, cats in Miami were wearing Oakland Raiders jackets because of groups like N.W.A and Ice-T rocking them in concert.
Growing up in Los Angeles, I was aware of my surroundings at all times. I could not wear Dodgers blue or Bulls red in certain areas of town because of the gang culture surrounding areas of South Central and East LA. My first Starter jacket was a Dodgers satin jacket that I only wore at games. I remember how shinny and blue it looked and how bright the white letters were. I also remember the zipper had the Starter logo on it. The reason I bought it was because the Dodgers were my team and by no means was it a Hip Hop thing. Not yet at least.
I then started to see them everywhere. I remember seeing LL Cool J with a New York Mets Starter jacket.
Run DMC rocked the Oakland Raiders jackets also.
One of my favorite MC’s of all time, Chuck D would always rock his Oakland Raiders jacket with his Pittsburgh Pirates cap while in concert, bringing the house down!
After that we started seeing the jackets on album covers. 2 Live Crew made the Miami Hurricanes rich when they would wear their Starter jackets on album covers, music videos, press conferences and in concerts. I remember seeing Cane jackets everywhere in Los Angeles.
As time past by, the jackets lost their satin shine and a more colorful jacket was born. Around 1989, the jackets had the team logo on the front chest and a big team logo on the back. The jacket was a pullover with a hap zipper, a kangaroo pouch and a hoodie. The jackets can be seen on display on the back cover and inserts of Jodeci’s first album “Forever My Lady” where they are wearing Chiefs, Jets, Vikings and Chargers jackets.
As soon as Starter started noticing that the jackets were showing up on Hip Hop albums covers, the decided to target that audience. The new jackets that came out around 1991 were mostly in matte black, with a full zipper and a hoodie. It became the jacket to have. The jackets that were hot at the time were the Oakland Raiders jacket, the Chicago White Sox jackets (when they moved to the Old English lettering) and the Chicago Bulls jacket. In no way did I like the Chicago White Sox, but as soon as I saw them on display at Footlocker, I had to get it! Another Bad Creation wore these jackets on their debut album, “Coolin’ at the Playground Ya Know!“.
These new jackets were all the rave and almost every team had it’s own jacket. Some came in team colors but the majority were in matte black.
To finish the outfit, we all wore the matching Starter snap backs. Of course N.W.A had the market cornered with their Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Kings caps. Why do I have a feeling that Ice Cube, Dr Dre, and Eazy E had never gone to see the Kings at the Fabulous Forum or Staples Center. Maybe they did.
I remember seeing guys wear the jackets in 90 degree weather, sweating like pig on a BBQ pit. It didn’t matter the weather, one had to wear their jacket to look tough and in some ways gangster. The hoodie became associated with gangs and gang members, so LAPD was on a hunt down for these “hoods”. Unfortunately kids like Trayvon Martin (and others) paid the price and have been wrongly categorized as gang members because of the hoodie. Hoodies were not created by Starter, but for sure they made it crazy popular!
After these jackets came out, the brand died, well at least in Hip Hop. Companies like Helly Hansen, Karl Kani, Pelle Pelle and Avirex (among others) were carrying more of a sophisticated and expensive line of jackets. Most were leather and since hip Hop was leaving the gangster mentality behind, so did they leave the Starter jackets.