Tuesday, August 31, 2004

THEY'RE putting the hip back into hip-hop.

Andre 3000-chic elegance, but not a Republican.

The thug look is officially out - and urban music's trend-setting peacocks are ushering in a new era of chic elegance.

Usher, P. Diddy, Jay-Z and OutKast's Andre 3000, among others, cruised the red carpet at MTV's Video Music Awards Sunday night in an attention-grabbing array of raffish, tailored suits - and there wasn't a throwback sports jersey in sight.

"The game has changed," says Usher, who distinguished himself in pale blue.

"The classic look is coming back. Every time I step out the door, I try and make sure that I look as stylish and classic as possible."

In a surprising twist, female stars at the awards show struggled to keep up - but, frankly, were outclassed on the red carpet by their nattily dressed male counterparts.

Three-time award winner Usher, whose wardrobe is crafted by his personal tailor, Edgar Palmer Roy, told The Post a bright new era in hip-hop fashion is just dawning.

"Obviously it's important to be as classic as possible," Usher says.

"I am not afraid to wear light shades," he boasts, noting, "all the real gangsters wore pastel colors."

Vibe magazine accessories editor Rajni Jacques says "Rap is moving away from the down homeboy look.

"These guys are starting to grow up, and their sense of style is maturing. But also, they're no longer just rap artists, they're businessmen - and many of them want to work in the world of fashion."

P. Diddy (sporting a new Mohawk) and his pal Mase made quite an entrance dressing in perfectly contrasting black-on-white suits.

Soon, Diddy's fans may be able to dress like him too. Word is, the dapper rapper is bringing out a line of ready-to-wear suits before the end of the year.

Others who looked more like Rat Packers than rappers on Sunday night included Kanye West, who sexed up a natty black suit with a pink striped shirt and fat pink tie, and OutKast's Big Boi, who accessorized his black suit with a silver tie and diamond medallion.

White suits were everywhere - on new Miami Heat superstar Shaquille O'Neal, on Jay-Z (with a zesty orange tie) and on Ludacris (with a spashy tangerine shirt under his white suit).

Usher also wore white early in the evening, when he arrived at the awards in what he called a "simply sexy" suit with a fedora and canary-diamond earrings.

"He's great at pulling it all together," says Jacques. "The hat, the earrings, the chains - he knows how to glam it up without making himself look silly."

Andre 3000 - named the world's best-dressed man in the current issue of Esquire magazine - is typical of the new sophistication.

Esquire magazine fashion director Nick Sullivan, who oversaw the magazine's list - which also includes the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams - says the new hip-hop look is "flashy in a quiet way."

"The more sophisticated stylemakers are more about hand-tailored quality than the 'bling' luxury sportswear look," he says.

"Of course, this aesthetic has been around for hundreds of years. In a way, the quality of a handmade Savile Row suit from London is the original bling."

Source: New York Post

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