The Domination of Streetwear

Gone were the days of streetwear being affiliated with RnB artists, rappers and the culturally-driven individuals. Nowadays, if it has appeared on social media or a celebrity is wearing it – it’s deemed mainstream and everyone wants their hands on it.

Supreme, Huf, Palace, North Face, Golf Le Fleur – the list of brands could go on. Streetstyle in 2018 is one of the most popular fashions styles out there currently. Developing in the 1970s, streetwear has been a part of the fashion world for years. Stussy was one major brand that developed the overall feel and looks of the style, developing brand printed t-shirts and hats. The development of Stussy resulted in the definition of what streetwear means in today’s society:

“A multi-faceted, subculturally diverse, Southern California lifestyle-based T-shirt brand and [mimicking] the limited feel of a high-end luxury brand…. those are the two most integral components of what makes a brand streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity.” 

Adidas and Nike soon caught on with the trend in the 80s, being associated with sportswear mostly but soon affiliated to the hip-hop/street stereotype. In those days, streetwear was a subculture, a division from everyday clothing items that you would find on the high street. Then came the whereabouts of Supreme, starting up in 1994, the brand became known for their skateboard and authentic designs that were different to others out there. Supreme’s popularity soon became apparent, with their frequent social media posting, Thursday ‘drop days’ (new clothing releases) and collaborations with other brands such as North Face, Huf, Nike and Fila.

I spoke to an individual who is deeply involved in the streetwear scene. Luke Rowe, 23, has been collecting/wearing streetwear for the past eight years:

“I don’t feel that streetwear is a trend, it’s more of a category. People have been buying branded items for a long time but they have always been referred to something. For example, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, have all been classed as high-end fashion, items that you’re more likely to see at fashion week. Streetwear is unique in itself, you could put on your basic Carhartt t-shirt and jeans and class it as streetwear, others will have their opinion and think the whole outfit has got to be street to refer to it as streetwear, but it’s all down to what you make it.

The domination of social media, in turn, has resulted in there being no apparent ‘underground’ styles in society anymore, therefore rejecting subcultures as a whole. Theorist Dick Hebdige inferred back in 1979, the existence of style, whether that be fashion or music, in the media results in the style losing its ‘exclusivity’, no longer belonging to a particular subculture/group of individuals.

Stylist Lottie Volkova stated, “There are no subcultures anymore” when talking to The Guardian, inferring how the use of social media, in turn, has provided users with access to shoes, bags, hats, t-shirts, at the comfort of their home with a swipe and a tap of a button.

Luke added, “Social media is huge within the fashion industry, whether their famous or have a lot of followers if they’re posting the latest items, a lot more people will want it. Drake has been wearing a lot more Stone Island and because of that, it’s becoming a lot harder and more expensive to buy and get your hands on their products.”

High Snobiety, a leading online streetwear, lifestyle and media blog, wrote an insightful article regarding streetwear’s turn to the mainstream –

“Let’s get things straight: there’s absolutely nothing underground, niche, or counter-cultural about limited-edition sneakers, tees and hoodies anymore. If the Biebs is doing it, it’s mainstream.”

‘Drop Days’ are an inevitable part of streetwear. Brands like Supreme, for example, drop their latest items in store and online every Thursday, causing havoc worldwide. On the Supreme website, site traffic increases by 16,800%, with items selling out in a matter of seconds. Selling out seems to clarify the overall popularity of the streetwear brand, especially in Supreme’s case. Individuals queue outside stores to get their hands on the latest items, queuing for days in order to be the first ones in.

However, with the constant demand for wanting the best items, for some, getting your hands on an exclusive item and selling it on for hundreds of pounds more, has become a successful business. Luke’s obsession with brands such as Supreme is no more due to the popularity of the brand:

 “I remember buying online and in-store around 5/6 years ago and it was totally different. Now, you’ll be lucky to cop what you want due to how hyped the brand has come, to some people it’s become a business, people are picking up a jacket for £350 but can flip it for £900 due to the high demand. I stopped buying supreme because of how in-demand their items were, it was impossible to get your size and preference. I personally like Patta, Norse Projects, Our Legacy, they’re more low-key.”

High fashion has even jumped on board with the street style take over, with Louis Vuitton collaborating with Supreme in their Fall/Winter 2017 collection. The collaboration has created items such as a bag, trainers and a jacket (all for extortionate prices, however.) It seems that high brands are wanting to become involved with the next big thing in fashion to remain ‘current’ and trendy with young people.

When putting a poll out on my twitter account, I asked my followers what their favourite streetwear brand is to find out what is considered the most ‘popular’. With 37 votes, 46% voted for Supreme, 30% voted for Golf le Fleur (rapper Tyler the Creator’s clothing range,) 21% for Palace and only 3% for Huf. One user messaged me, stating that Carhartt, in their opinion, is considered another streetwear brand.

Streetwear always has and always will be a ‘mainstream’ fashion style. It’s a culture that most individuals are a part of yet some do not realise, even wearing a tracksuit, you could be classed as wearing streetwear. With that, social media is a key feature of the domination of streetwear, it seems that without the frequent use, streetwear wouldn’t be half as successful as it is currently.

By Eliza Rawson

18 July 2018

Image Credit: Eliza Rawson