Nowadays, it’s hard to pin down and define exactly what ‘streetwear’ is
. It’s so dynamic and changeable due to its influences from skate, hip-hop and surf cultures. The style initially emerged in the late 70s in California and it’s been said that American surfer-turned-designer, Shawn Stussy, invented streetwear by expressing himself and his personal culture through his clothing. He founded the ‘streetwear’ brand Stussy back in 1980 and the focus was originally surfer-style which used surfboard graphics which were then transferred and printed onto tees and shorts
. The style combined everything the culture was about – namely self-expression, art and communicating what he was all about. The movements were driven by avoiding the mainstream, even still today people who are heavily into the culture find brands which are not marketed – the enthusiasts aim to maintain the D.I.Y. and exclusivity of honest streetwear
Soon after, the brand became a huge influence on hip-hop fashion also. As a result, hip-hop fashion industries collaborated and merged with sportswear brands
which highlighted the rise of Adidas, Nike and Kangol. It didn’t take long for the industry to take on the population internationally, especially in Japan where their streetwear has become an iconic mix casual streetwear and smart clothing for an extremely unique style.
Nike’s collaboration with basketball star Michael Jordan from their rival Adidas in the mid-90s created a massive point in the evolution of the industry. Nike completely dominated the ‘streetwear’ industry
and also the trainer market. Brands such as Timberland, Carhartt and Champion became closely associated with the style and this increased the popularity with East Coast based hip-hop artists like Wu-Tang Clan. American sports teams began utilising this, teams such as Chicago bulls created caps and jackets.
As hip-hop music evolved and ‘bling’ culture began, high-end and luxury designer brands began to pop up in music videos and films, namely Burberry and Gucci. It didn’t take long for the artists to get involved, a prime example is Jay-Z and Damon Dash of Roc-a-Fella Records launched Rocawear and famously 50 Cent’s G-Unit clothing label, with trainer rights given to Reebok.
Thanks to streetwear countries such as Japan saw a huge business boom in their economy and have developed trademark styles.
However, sadly due to its popularity, certain markets have abused this and now charge near-on designer prices and the clothing is no longer ‘affordable’ for the average person who encompass the culture genuinely – which leads to subcultures within the culture. Those who can afford the top price points, and those who can afford knock-offs and copies. Many mainstream companies find it so hard to keep creating new and exciting clothing now that the industry is so popular, therefore the edge it once had may be wearing thin. Is the culture behind the style being lost to money-hungry corporations and a filter on an iPhone? (I’ll save the ‘blurring of reality via Instagram’ discussion for another day...)
However, the ‘streetwear’ style is still going strong
; the youths are taking over the catwalks in high-end, designer fashion and the sidewalks of our cities. They express their urban culture identities via their clothing, emphasising their individuality, creativity and social status. Their views are expressed by the most-effect form – visually.