By Noah Wali
Supreme, Off-White, Bape, Comme De Garcons, Stussy. Chances are you’ve heard of these brands within the last few years.
The chances are even higher than you’ve heard about the tremendous overkill of these brands and you were advised to avoid these overpriced streetwear labels. Yet they all seem to run the world of fashion. Last year, Off-White, a popular high-end streetwear brand, earned the title “hottest streetwear brand in the world” (Lyst Index), but has streetwear gotten to a breaking point? Is fashion similar to the likes of the Economic Cycle? How did streetwear become the new thing, and what’s next?
To fully understand the sequence of streetwear, let’s briefly take it back to the beginning of streetwear. It is widely believed by the fashion community that Shawn Stussy, founder of Stussy clothing, is the founding father of streetwear. In the ’70s, Stussy was making surfboards and decided to use his surfboard logo on a T-shirt, which was extensively popular among surfers and skaters, mostly in California. As the movement spread across the country, fashion designers such as James Jebbia began to realize the true fashion movement taking place among the youth trend-curators. When Jebbia founded the first Supreme skateboard and clothing shop in NYC, skateboarding and hip-hop culture began to cross paths. Supreme continued to garner success as they dropped new clothing every Thursday, creating endless lines outside their store every Thursday morning. Supreme became like a cult in that those associated with the brand created communities to share and sell clothing, separate from mainstream society.
According to Alec Leach, a fashion expert at High Snobiety, streetwear became mainstream when society’s dress codes relaxed. As people began to dress up less and less, society began to look for a way to dress stylishly wearing only a T-shirt and pants. Brands like Supreme priced their clothing at reasonable prices, causing all of society to turn to the iconic white and red box logo. Once celebrities caught wind of the new trend, it turned into a complete streetwear frenzy. By the late ’00s all the way into this decade, new brands have been popping up by the month, especially as social media is beginning to play a huge role in the dilution of streetwear.
From my perspective, there are two main factors contributing to the downfall of streetwear. As Instagram began to take off in the mid-2010s, social media influencers and rap artists began to wear their favorite streetwear brands, scoring streetwear a top spot on the list of most popular culture. According to a study done by Mammoth research, the main reason youth buyers dropped tons of money on clothing was because of the “ability to own a status symbol and the sense that, by wearing streetwear, they can easily identify themselves as part of a community” (i-D). The second reason for the comedown of streetwear has to do with the number of fake replicas that have entered into the fashion community recently. As street brands begin to collaborate with all different of fashion such as athletic fashion (Nike), high-end fashion (Gucci), and even industrial fashion (Carhartt), clothing has become highly coveted due to low supply numbers. In foreign countries, almost identical looking fakes have entered the market at sometimes three quarters the price of the true clothing item. While the supposedly “rare” clothing items begin to be worn universally, the unique aspect of streetwear begins to get lost in the mix. When resellers attempt to gain sometimes 7 times the price they originally paid for a rare sneaker drop, for example, only the richest of the rich could afford the luxury of spending upwards of a grand on sneakers. So, society turns to counterfeit items. As of 2017, the value of the global counterfeit market sits at around 450 billion dollars.
So, what’s next? Popular designer Jeff Staples said it best: “I see streetwear as a parasite that is infecting all aspects of society. I’ve said this for well over five years now. If you look at past subcultures of society — hip-hop culture, skate culture, punk culture — these sort of ‘isms’ that existed, and they each sort of had their falling out. What street culture is doing is melting all of these things into one big melting pot. The beautiful thing about that is now high-fashion, couture fashion is falling into the trappings of that melting pot, and it’s getting infected. When I say that, I mean we are getting in their systems, and they’re buying into us. In the near future, street culture will have infected all aspects of society, and it will get to the point where there’s not even a differentiation between high fashion and street culture anymore. If everything goes right, and the youth continue to do what they should be doing, which is anti-establishment, they should be able to build something that will be anti-street culture, and that will be the new cool thing” (Glossy). As streetwear becomes oversaturated, I predict that a few years we will get the return of older fashion, from the ‘60s and ‘70s with a modern twist. My hope is that classy fashion makes its return with a mix of some other sort of fashion. As for now, no matter who disagrees, streetwear still runs the fashion industry.
“Designer Jeff Staple: ‘Streetwear Is a Parasite That Is Infecting All Aspects of Society’ – Glossy.” Glossy, 11 Apr. 2019, http://www.glossy.co/podcasts/jeff-staple-streetwear. Lanigan, Roisin. “Streetwear Isn’t Dead but Influencers Are.” i-D, VICE, 22 May 2019, i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/7xg4ya/streetwear-impact-report-hypebeast.
Image taken from: Hypebeast.com