Lee Jeans has tapped iconic street photographer, Jamel Shabazz for their SS19 campaign and a forthcoming book, Back to Today.


Lee Jeans x Jamel Shabazz SS19

Personally, the single most inspiring and defining photography book in my possession is Back in the Days by Jamel Shabazz. Growing up as an English country girl in the 80s, hanging out with dairy cows in fields, I was obviously unaware of the burgeoning hip-hop scene simultaneously emerging out of Brooklyn. When I picked up Shabazz’s book in 2001, my mind was blown: the Cazals, the Adidas Superstars, the Kangol Bucket hats and the smart, rinsed jeans that these B-Boys and B-Girls rocked, showed me a world I never knew existed.


The iconic front cover of the cult classic: Back In The Days by Jamel Shabazz

One of the reasons Shabazz’s book has resonated all around the world is its authenticity: he documented the community around him in Brooklyn at a time when Hip Hop was exploding and graffiti was creeping over every street corner. A time of incredible self-expression both in art and style was taking place, and Brooklyn’s cool kids were making a style all their own. In an old interview, Shabazz tells MTV:

“Back in the 1970s, we made do with what we had. If you had a pair of Pro- Ked or Converse sneakers they were to last you until you started seeing holes, and for the most part you only had one pair. Many of us were self-styled and we took great pride in being original; never really wanting to look like the next person.”

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Lee Jeans was the denim brand of choice to style with those Cazals and Converse. RUN DMC, LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash all rapped about the iconic denim brand. They were the most coveted pair of jeans on the NY streets in the 80’s and the jackets became the canvasses of some of the first and finest air-brushed artworks.


An original shot from the 2001 book: note the Lee Jeans

Just as Lee have tapped their archives, finding pieces that resonate with that old school attitude, Shabazz has also hit up friends and creatives such as Bronx street style icon Kool-Out-K and DJ Lee Rock who live and breathe those early 80’s looks to this day, making this project more than just a new campaign, but a true celebration of a unique moment in the history of NYC’s street style and subculture.


Lee Jeans x Jamel Shabazz SS19

It’s also notable that Lee have singled out this era in history as a touch-point for inspiration, given both the recent return to nostalgia and the current importance of hip hop and street culture in fashion. We personally can’t wait to see the book when it comes out!


Lee Jeans x Jamel Shebazz SS19
Lee Jeans x Jamel Shabazz SS19
Website | + posts

Trend forecaster, denim designer, industry journalist and author of Denim Dudes.