Streetwear’s dictionary definition is simple enough: fashionable, casual clothes. But streetwear doesn’t have a concrete definition because streetwear goes beyond fashion. It means culture, freedom, and it’s represented by young people who create their own rules when it comes to fashion. It is important to view streetwear as a cultural movement and not as a trend. As Novelship wrote on this, “Perhaps, it is this ambiguity of not belonging that makes the youth gravitate towards it, as much like themselves, they are figuring it all out.”
The movement started in the ’80s and ’90s when many brands didn’t want to dress certain celebrities and people needed to create their own clothes and styles. Streetwear that we know today has its roots in the ’90s, in the hip-hop scenes of New York, the surf-skate and graffiti culture of Los Angeles, and within the nightlife of Japan. The 90’s graphic tees, loose-fitting jeans, and statement sneakers were created to represent their consumer: the rapper, the skater, and the rebel.
“Streetwear is about culture. It’s not about clothing.“Illustrator and designer, Bobby Hundreds
The so-called pioneers of streetwear in the US are James Jebbia the founder of “Supreme” and Shawn Stussy founder of “Stüssy“. But the movement was also led across the Pacific thanks to designers such as Nigo and Hiroshi Fujiwara aka “the godfather of Harajuku” (Japanese streetwear brand). James Jebbia said in an interview that what influenced him as a designer in the first place “was definitely the young skaters in New York. Also traveling to Japan and seeing their great style. Traveling to London. It was a combination of that.”
Streetwear is an ever-growing movement that in the last decades become more and more visible in mainstream fashion. That also means that more and more designers started to create collections with more “fashionable and casual clothes” and promote them by exclusivity in the form of capsule collections, limited editions, and artistic collaborations rather than their usual high price ranges.
Brands like Off-White, Nike, Balenciaga, and Palace have promoted this kind of marketing among the traditional fashion brands and that is one of the reasons why we see streetwear-inspired collections more and more often. “It’s a sort of camaraderie, it’s a collective, it’s a community … It’s a collective consciousness. We’re a world of young people, no longer just a niche culture”, said Virgil Abloh, the creator of Off-White in conversation with street-culture commentator Hypebeast. Off-white it’s a luxury streetwear brand that not only captured the attention of streetwear lovers but has also solidified a place for streetwear on the runway at Milan Fashion Week.
As high-end brands started doing collaborations with streetwear fashion designers some of the most interesting collections started to be born and this trend is growing more and more in the latest years. In 2017 the collaboration Louis Vuitton x Supreme was released and GQ called Kim Jones’ collection “one of the collaborations of the century”. This year, the designer amazed the fashion enthusiasts with another collaboration this time with Dior. Dior x Jordan sneakers were “the most-wanted trainers of all time” according to the British Vogue.
As years passed, the streetwear movement evolved, and the consumer-based has grown. That is one of the reasons why streetwear’s definition is always changing. If in the beginnings of the fashion movement the clothes were worn mostly by men and they were created also by them, more and more women started wearing and designing streetwear and that is why the clothes have a unisex feeling and why streetwear is more than fashion.
Streetwear established itself in the mainstream fashion market and unlike most other fashion genres, the growth of it was not pushed by brands, but rather brands were sought out by consumers who wanted the exclusivity of other fashion styles to be also reflected in the streetwear industry.
“Streetwear is the absence of rules when it comes to clothes. It is rebelling against the traditions of clothing“Designer Sthembiso Mchunu
In a time when judgment and segregation are more powerful than ever, it’s no wonder that streetwear became more than just appeal. Streetwear derives from individualism and independence and that is what made it an important cultural movement over the years that gives people the freedom to express their own self and their communities through their clothes. That is why it’s a cultural phenomenon that continuously evolves and it’s gained more and more popularity in recent years.
Here’s some more inspiration for your streetstyle: