10 Feb

Is the Foundation of Streetwear Really Collapsing in 2019?

“Streetwear” has become an overused word these days, in which the meaning of the term got lost in a world of mass-marketing and Instagram celebrities. The term and clothing, have been around for over 30 years and have changed a lot in the past era. Where brands used to just stick to their DNA, they now have a bigger budget for their marketing campaign on social media than the actual cost of the pieces they are designing.

A big part of the streetwear community started buying pieces for the brand, instead of buying it because it’s their ‘thang’. And if we go on like this, the acceptance of a style we’ve worked so hard for might just go down with the style.

“We didn’t want to look like we had money. This was really important: we wanted to look clever, and make new things out of old. Mix things up.” Lucille Lewin, from clothing boutique Whistles, explains what streetwear used to be about. And she’s right, back in the days the style developed out of sportswear. Advanced fabrics such as jersey, fleece, Gore-Tex and Neoprene were used to make pieces which had as main focus being functional. The term goes back to 1976, used for the first time by gay African-American designer Willi Smith. It described the oversize casual silhouettes he created. It later became a ‘fashion trend’, which changed the retail- and fashionworld drastically.

Street Style Looks from Paris Men’s Fashion Week Fall Winter 2019

Gully Guy Leo

Power to the people

Streetwear essentially started with people combining clothing items from different subcultures. Workwear such as Carhartt combined with Doc Martens boots and an old Nike shirt from your dad’s closet was the look back in the ’80s. The concept was born out of the wounds of growing up in the urban environment. Poverty, gender issues, religion and ethnicity were some of the reasons why young people started wearing streetwear. The type of clothing gave them the feeling they were free, and showed off a not-giving-a-fuck mentality. Streetwear was simply a way to make sure everyone knew society’s rules didn’t count for them.

Certain pieces of clothing grew with streetwear, such as the Levi’s jeans or the basic Doctor Martens boots. It was the aftereffect of the culture which served a major influence on public perceptions of particular items of clothing. These perceptions came from the confluence of subcultures in streetwear. Back then, items were purchased because they felt like something for me. There was no such thing as copying, people just immersed themselves in the culture they believed in. It used to be a cultural movement instead of just a fashion statement.

“Insert logo here”

Right now, streetwear and high-end fashion go hand in hand. Big names such as Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga have found their way to the streets, and that’s not a bad thing per se. The fashion trend grew with its time and became accepted by many. The thin line between high-end and streetwear became almost unrecognizable, and for many it became a game of combining both. But the game has escalated to a point where it doesn’t matter which pieces you combine, as long as there’s a brand name on it.

Branding is what seems to be the most essential thing in streetwear and fashion in general these days. Big names are spending a lot of money on a marketing team, Instagram and commercials specifically made for social media. Influencers get free pieces for posts and hashtags, but influencers also have a big thing to do with what becomes a trend and what not. How Gucci became bigger than ever by mumble rappers is just one of many examples. The brand has never  made as many logo items as they are doing now, and they haven’t sold as many Gucci flip flops as they did in the past year.

Street Style Looks from Paris Men’s Fashion Week Fall Winter 2019

Playboi Carti in Off-White

Personality over logos

The fast fashion industry is what’s at the base of an overuse of branded clothes without a meaning. Social media and celebrity brands have served us so many items, the streetwear game just ended up being a game of copying and showing off. We’re not aware of where streetwear came from anymore. We forgot how it used to be rather a movement than a statement. Due to the overuse of branded items, 2019’s fashion weeks showed off many brands taking a step back from streetwear influenced items. Classic suits, knitwear and coats without logos are back as a reaction to what streetwear has become the past two years. Because a good brand should have a personality rather than a big printed logo.

But it’s not all bad news. First, streetwear has had an incredible influence on the fashion industry too. Streetwear embodies a lifestyle formed by the cross-influence of races, black models have taken over catwalks and streetwear is the most gender-crossing fashion trend there has ever been. Cross-gender clothing is what made streetwear. And the high-end luxury brands have observed this enough to use it for their own pieces. Secondly, we shouldn’t forget the love streetwear fans have for brands. They often feel a connection with a certain brands. Dutch brand Patta calls its fans the Patta family and Daily Paper organized a contest to give opportunities to young creatives. It’s an emotional connection with brands that serve us identity and what makes streetwear a beautiful and inclusive world.

Street Style Looks from Paris Men’s Fashion Week Fall Winter 2019

Authenticity stays key

Streetwear has had sub-names through the years, with different styles at the same time and different types of people rocking different types of outfits. Punk, ’80s hip hop and ’90s skate are just a few of them. What scares many people in fashion the most is to think of the fact that in 2030, they will refer to 2017 and 2018 as the years of Hypebeasts. Years in which everyone owned a Supreme waistbag, a pair of Balenciaga Triple S and a Gucci logo shirt. The time where the most boring items from streetwear brands became the most popular ones because they had a big box-logo all over the place.

“The influence of streetwear is growing and growing. It’s prevalent from the lowliest, cheapest brands to the highest-end luxury labels,” explained King ADZ and Wilma Stone. We could thank mumble rappers for making Gucci bigger than ever, or thank Tyshawn for showing off Supreme still is a skate brand. But to keep streetwear alive, we should go back to cultural authenticity. From the beginning, the key to streetwear was authenticity and showing our inner identity on the outside. And if we lose that, we might just lose streetwear itself.

A style we fought over thirty years for to be accepted.

Photos by Jonathan Zegbe for Enfnts Terribles

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