After discovering Coogi at the club, The Notorious B.I.G. made it a staple in his repertoire — Andscape
A look at some of the notable fashion items in the history of hip-hop and their legacy in the culture.
When The Notorious B.I.G. rapped “Heartthrob never, Black and ugly as ever /
However, I stay Coogi down to the socks / Rings and watch filled with rocks” on “One More Chance,” he was making it known that despite what you may have thought about his physical appearance, there was no denying the rapper was fly.
The Brooklyn, New York, rapper became acquainted with the Australian knitwear brand Coogi after running into Walt G, a stylish gentleman from Mount Vernon, New York, at a Manhattan nightclub.
“We used to go to the Grand on Sundays,” stylist Groovey Lew told MTV News in 2009. “And my man had all the Coogis and the Kangols. And I got the pictures where G got his Kangol on and his Coogi, but Big had on Army jackets and Timberlands. So [The Notorious B.I.G.] fell in love with this kid’s style right there — just took it to the next level for the world to see.
“If you weren’t Bill Cosby or just a rich motherf—er from Australia playing golf, nobody knew about [Coogi]. Big homie started running around with it, and that’s what opened the ‘hood up to it.”
In 1995, photographer Dana Lixenberg took the famous photograph of The Notorious B.I.G wearing a Coogi sweater and Versace sunglasses while counting a stack of $50 bills behind the scenes at a shoot for Vibe magazine’s September 1996 cover: East vs. West — Biggie and Puffy Break Their Silence. Except The Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t styled for the shoot when the picture was taken: That’s how he showed up to set.
If The Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t being photographed wearing Coogi, he was performing in it, or shouting it out on a song: However, livin’ better now / Coogi sweater now (“Big Poppa”); every cutie with a booty bought a Coogi (“Hypnotize”); and got the Coogi sweater with the bubble Fubu (“Would You Die For Me”), cementing the knitwear as a status item.
“Hip-hop christens brands and not necessarily the other way around,” said Elena Romero, assistant chair, marketing communications, at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and the author of Free Stylin’: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry.
“With the reemergence of 1990s fashion, Coogi is having a comeback with Gen Z who have an affinity towards classic hip-hop styles as they connect with hip-hop their way,” said Romero. “The brand synonymous with Biggie, inspired a number of fly guys including Drake, who wore Coogi for a skit on NBC’s Saturday Night Live” in 2011.
Two years later, A$AP Ferg gave a nod to The Notorious B.I.G, rapping, “Coogi down to the socks like I’m Biggie Poppa” in the 2013 song “Work (Remix)” and Christian hip-hop rappers Social Club Misfits released the song “Coogi Sweater” in 2014 for their album Misfits 2.
Earlier this year, when the Fresh, Fly, Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style exhibition was on view at the Museum at FIT, it showcased a Coogi sweater as a nod to The Notorious B.I.G.’s impact with the brand.
“Coogi, like Versace and Karl Kani, were brands that helped shape Biggie Smalls’ personal and iconic style,” Romero said. “Wearing brands he wore is one of the ways hip-hop fans can pay homage to one of hip-hop greats.”