Clothing and music go together like peas and carrots in today's fashion world.
Pop singers and rappers are style icons, and stars like Paris Hilton, 50 Cent and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs are setting today's trends.
Urban, hip-hop styles aren't just limited to big cities such as Los Angeles and Atlanta.
There are about half a dozen urban retail stores in the Sandusky area.
"I stay up on a lot of new fashion," CR Music Exchange owner Johnny Reed said about today's urban trends. "It's changing everyday."
Reed said he stays up-to-date on all the latest urban styles browsing through magazines, watching music videos and surfing the Internet. Right now, urban is a mix of three types of styles, Reed said. Rock 'n' roll T-shirts, skull accents and jeans make up the latest trend. Baggy khaki pants, oversized polo shirts and V-neck sweaters are the more traditional urban elements.
Reed began carrying urban apparel in his store about four months ago.
"People were begging me to do it," he said. "It was a customer-demand type thing."
Other things sold at CR Music Exchange, 1030 Cleveland Rd., are compact discs, DVDs, hats and jewelry. Most recently Reed started to carry school uniforms for the start of the school year.
Reed said business has doubled since he started carrying urban apparel.
Alfonz Clinton opened his urban retail store, Voguish, in the spring at 705 Hancock St. Having spent his entire life in the area, Clinton said he knew Hancock Street was the ideal place to open his own business. The bright blue walls and contrasting white accents inside the store mimic the vibrant colors that are currently considered trendy with urban attire.
"It's still a work in progress," Clinton said. Since his store opened about five months ago, Clinton said his store has slowly grown.
Polo shirts, T-shirts, capris, plaid shorts and hats are just a few of the items Clinton sells inside his store. Although he is one of several hip-hop stores open in the Sandusky area, Clinton said he enjoys what he does and is determined to continue offering the unique style to the Sandusky community.
"I keep this place going because I want to be successful," he said.
John Donald owns The Attic at 1001 W. Monroe St. He opened his clothing store in 2002, and business has been growing ever since. When he introduced his store five years ago, Donald said he was the only urban retailer in the area. In a matter of a few years, a handful of other hip-hop clothing stores opened up in the area.
Except for a store in the Sandusky Mall that is now closed, Donald said his store, as well as the other local stores, were the only places people could find urban clothing in the area. Driving to cities such as Toledo and Cleveland to go shopping wasn't convenient for Sandusky residents.
"If I don't have it, I'll send them to someone (in the city) who does," Donald said. "I'm not the last to catch on. I'm usually the first."
Donald said he also takes on the role as a style consultant whenever people visit his store.
"Guys will come in looking for what's trendy," he said. "If you're not fresh and fly as (the customers) want to be, why would they buy from you?"
Donald said he stocks his store with items that are "trendy -- clothes the community will accept." A small TV mounted up on the wall is tuned to music channels to keep customers in the hip-hop mood while they shop.
All three store owners said they get their clothing from distributors in big cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami -- where fashion is always up-to-date.
Clinton said he chooses clothes he believes are current with the trends as well as items that catch his eye.
Roca Wear and Sean John are just a few of the brand names sold at the three stores. Although selling urban-style menswear is difficult in a smaller city, many of the stores offer off-brand name apparel that imitates the same style at more affordable prices.
"People don't care about the brand names anymore," Donald said.
Although a few urban clothing stores have closed down recently, others are fighting to keep their businesses open.
"I keep this place going because I want to be successful," Clinton said.
At the stores, customers will request certain items, and the owners try their best to get the items for their loyal customers.
Clinton said he always tries to get the requested items for his customers. However, some items are a bit more difficult to obtain.
Reed said he constantly keeps his store stocked with new items, bringing in different shirts, pants and other items on a weekly basis.
"Longevity is all about customer service," he said.