Words By David D.
I still remember the commercial. LL Cool J. White Background. Mr. Todd spittin’ like it was ’88. The subject: FUBU.
FUBU came to the south at a pivotal time for me. It was 98′. I was twelve and about to partake in that very important Mother-Son discussion (second only to the Birds and the Bees) in which I meekly request to stop hittin’ up Wal-Mart to get fly for school.
Before FUBU came to us in the South, we could always tell a person from up North. They were the cats rockin Timbs and some sort of shirt with a name brand we’d never heard before and could barely sound out. FUBU was the precursor to the eventual LRG, Ecko. Enyce, etc. most of us have been wearing for years. It was the first urban designer brand that we really saw in southern department stores. Prior to the FUBU explosion, Starter jackets and sports jerseys were the barometers for flyness. The psychological effects of this change cannot be overstated. Instead of wearing reminders that the only way out was being skilled with a Basketball or Football- we began wearing symbols of Black entrepreneurship by wearing clothes developed and marketed by a group of hard working and young African American men. The acronym, For Us By Us, is a unifying and positive statement for youths to have on their chests.
And the style was fresh. I remember my first shirt ( I still have it): all white with the all lowercase “FUBU” stitched on with a blue outline. On the left sleeve is that ever-important black and red “L” that let you know that this was the real product. Cuz lord knows that there were enough little vendors on every corner selling all kinds of counterfeits.
In a fickle fashion industry where top fads have Leprechaun height reigns at the top, FUBU had a strong grip on the top spot for about four years. When the fad started to die down, FUBU was able to adapt and create the Fat Albert line (starting a trend of nostalgia based clothing lines like Sedgwick & Cedar) and elongating their reign as a top clothing company amongst the rising number of competitors.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a FUBU shirt on a sales rack and I don’t really know what happened to the company. But like a classic album, we have to acknowledge the company’s impact on the all-encompassing Hip-Hop lifestyle. Just a few guys pulled themselves together and created a movement that has helped to define our culture. Currently, if I’m not rockin the POLO, you can catch me in an LRG shirt or sweatshirt. About ten years ago, the LRG acronym would have been replaced by the big FUBU on the chest with a red L.