History of Streetwear
Streetwear is a clothing style that became known worldwide in the 1990s. It originated from a combination of New York hip-hop fashion, California surf cat culture and elements of sportswear, punk and Japanese street fashion.
Eventually haute couture became an influence. It usually revolves around “casual, comfortable pieces such as jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps and sneakers”, and exclusivity through deliberate product scarcity. Enthusiasts follow certain brands and try to obtain limited edition releases.
Culture, History & Style
It has already been described from which elements of clothing streetwear originated. Now is the time to delve deeper into the history and origins of the style.
Streetwear in the 1970s and 1980s was inspired by hip hop, the DIY aesthetic of punk, Japanese street fashion, new wave, heavy metal and collaborations of major sportswear and workwear fashion brands such as Schott NYC, Dr. Martens, Kangol, Fila and Adidas.
In the late 1980s, surfboard designer Shawn Stüssy began selling printed T-shirts with the same signature he placed on his custom surfboards. Initially, Stüssy sold the items from his own car, but he expanded sales to stores as the popularity increased. When sales peaked, Stüssy switched to exclusive sales to create product scarcity, confirming the ultimate basic definition of streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity.
In the early 1990s, major record labels associated with popular hip-hop acts such as Tommy Boy Records, Def Jam Recordings and Delicious Vinyl began selling branded items embroidered on letterman jackets and workwear jackets by companies such as Carhartt.
In the mid-1990s, influences included skating and gangster rap. Professional American sports franchises capitalized on this. They had a great impact in the scene. Notably New York Yankees, Los Angeles Raiders, and Chicago Bulls. With their production of oversized team jerseys, caps and jackets as well as boots from The Timberland Company and the latest shoe design releases from Nike, Inc.
Brand launches by record label bosses followed, with Def Jam's Russell Simmons launching his Phat Farm label, Sean Combs of Bad Boy with Sean John, and Jay-Z and Damon Dash of Roc-a-Fella Records launching Rocawear. Rap superstar 50 Cent launched his G-Unit clothing label a few years later, with the sneaker rights to Reebok.
In the 2000s, the rise of the "bling" culture saw established luxury brands enter the market, with Burberry, Gucci and Fendi appearing in hip-hop videos and films. The most popular shoe of the time was the Nike Air Force 1, immortalized in Nelly's song, Then the fashion clothing manufacturers began to follow the streetwear companies co-opting the idea of very limited-edition capsule collections, now known as "drops", where social media and product scarcity are used as marketing tools.
In 2010s, Complex Magazine named Stüssy, Supreme and A Bathing Ape the best streetwear brands and many subsequently collaborated on acclaimed high-fashion capsule collections such as Supreme x Louis Vuitton, Fila x Fendi, A Bathing Ape x Commes des Garçons, and Stüssy x Dior.
Characteristics of Streetwear Style
Although streetwear consists of a wide variety of fashion styles, streetwear looks often focus on four basic elements:
Comfort: Streetwear clothing consists of casual clothing and athleisure staples like sweatshirts and joggers. If you can't skate in it, it's probably not streetwear.
Scarcity: Hypebeast culture is all about limited-edition items. This perceived scarcity can make sought-after items seem more fashionable. It's the same principle that underlies to haute couture, but streetwear is more accessible.
Menswear styles: Although streetwear is popular among people of all genders, it is closely tied to menswear and traditionally masculine items such as bomber jackets and workwear.
Contemporary art: Some of the most successful graphic tees and streetwear logos borrow from the work of contemporary artists or poke fun at classic pieces. Sometimes these are sanctioned collaborations, and sometimes they're not.
Sneakers have been an important part of the streetwear culture (primarily Pumas, Nike, Adidas, Converse, Vans) since the 1970s. Hip hop artists sign million dollar deals with major brands such as Nike, Adidas, or Puma to promote their shoes. Sneaker collectors, called "sneakerheads" or “sneakerfreakers”, regard sneakers as fashionable items. Sneaker companies encourage this trend by producing rare sneakers in limited numbers, often at very high retail prices. Due to product scarcity, the popularity rose and therefore the sneakers became very important for streetwear.
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Tips for Styling Streetwear
A big part of streetwear fashion is buying and selling limited-edition items. While that may not be feasible for everyone, there are still ways to incorporate streetwear fashion into your look.
Invest in sneakers. Sneakers are often the most important (and most expensive) part of a hypebeast's look. If you want to make a big style impact with just one clothing item, sneakers are the move.
Mostly, stick to a single logo. Brand loyalty is an important part of streetwear culture, so it's rare to see a true fan layering different streetwear brands in a single look. If you have a limited number of items from different streetwear labels, try showing off one logo at a time, and supplement the rest of your look with workwear and athletic clothing.
Play with proportions. One of streetwear's biggest fashion wins was bringing sweatshirts into the realm of high fashion. Streetwear aficionados often wear baggy denim, oversize sweatshirts, and other loose-fitting garments, breaking the rules of proportion to fashionable effect.
Be yourself. Streetwear's origins lie in counterculture and DIY. While it may seem full of rules right now, true streetwear is about being yourself. Don't be afraid to put together unexpected combinations — you may find yourself ahead of the curve.