You've probably heard the word or heck even used it yourself. However, you probably have wondered, what is streetwear? What does it really mean? Aside from its dictionary definition, which is deceptively straightforward enough: fashionable, casual clothes.
The fact is streetwear fashion is ambiguous, and its true meaning and what it stands for can be different depending on who you ask.
It can be simply a trend for some people, coming and going just like any fashion style. However, others will tell you that this multi-billion-dollar retail wonder which originated around the 1970s with numerous inspirations ranging from skate, graffiti, hip-hop, and surf, is a lifestyle.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. In order to understand streetwear, to genuinely comprehend it, it is important for us to tell you where it started, why it started and how it started.
Where It Started
If you Google "streetwear," the places that would initially pop up would be in New York, California, Japan, Chicago, and Los Angeles City.
It's because those places are long speculated to be where streetwear originated, or at least those places played a vital factor in the birth and the rise of streetwear.
Once it started gaining momentum, streetwear's popularity quickly advanced simultaneously in prominent cities and areas worldwide. It is safe to say that it has not stopped growing, and its reach has not dwindled since its starting days.
Why It Started
The 70s and 80s were an exciting period; aside from the rise of punk rock and very early hip-hop, exhilarating sports also started emerging, such as skating. The increase of those influences called for a less complicated fashion style, something simpler, in contrast to the elaborate and loud fashion sense, which was the hype at the time.
The people in the streets wanted more comfort and, at the same time, a fashion style that would allow them the freedom of self-expression. The answer to their demand was streetwear.
How it Started
As we recently tackled, the people wanted a fashion style that matches their daily needs, which is comfort and freedom of expression. That's where the movement pioneers entered, such as James Jebbia of Supreme, Shawn Stussy of Stüssy brand, Dapper Dan, who first started the luxury streetwear for influential people of color, and Rick Klotz of Freshjive. They answered the need for a new style.
That's another thing that is different with streetwear. Before and even now, most fashion trends are something that the media or the big brands marketed towards the people, but streetwear was something the people started themselves. I guess we can even call it a DIY fashion project.
Now that we have already discussed the basics of streetwear origin by answering the where, how, and why. It is time to know what qualifies as streetwear and how it influences the current generation.
What Qualifies as Streetwear?
In the 70s and 80s, where the influence and power of streetwear were just starting, it was easier to list what clothing style would be considered streetwear.
However, as time passed, streetwear has evolved as well. It is no longer just comfortable tees and sneakers.
Nowadays, you can see clothing styles and designs on the runway labeled streetwear. Expensive and luxurious designers and brands have also embraced streetwear and have made catalogs with streetwear inspiration.
Here's our list of unquestionably considered streetwear:
The biggest seller of streetwear would be its shoe products, and topping that list is sneakers. Sneakers are probably the first-ever footwear that was on the streetwear roster. The widespread attraction of sneakers helps explain the continuous success of prominent brands specializing in it, such as Nike, Adidas, World Balance, Puma, and even underground labels.
It also helps that there are various sneaker designs to choose from, the versatility it offers (you can wear sneakers on every clothing style) and a wide price range that can fit every budget.
Hoodies & Sweatshirts
Hoodies and sweatshirts are definitely something that would forever be attached to streetwear. It is a piece of clothing that can be tweaked in various ways, like depicting visuals or text to express passion, belief and personal stand freely. At the same time, it also is exceptionally comfortable and can be worn year-round in virtually all weathers and environments.
Hundreds of brands sell hoodies and sweatshirts, which generate different styles and designs. In return, it leads to general availability to almost everyone worldwide and can be bought at the most affordable prices.
Streetwear was an answer to the demand of people for a more comfortable means of fashion. So, is there a question as to why sweatpants would be a staple for streetwear wardrobe? It's probably the face of comfort clothing.
Sweatpants are something that you can comfortably wear while lounging on the sofa or doing some fantastic skating tricks. Sweatpants are practical pants and have initially been linked to sporting events. It was also a part of specific lifestyles such as gym culture or hip-hop culture, which were a massive influence behind streetwear.
As the world of streetwear fashion evolves, so do sweatpants; nowadays, even high-end and luxury fashion brands have their take or version for it. It's also something to note that the sale of sweatpants has exponentially continued to increase since 2019.
While all equally love sneakers, sweatshirts, hoodies and sweatpants, caps are also a tremendous hit for streetwear wardrobe. Caps frankly had been a part of fashion history in all ages; they just came in a different style.
Streetwear made caps trendy and convenient; all their types and designs are easy on the eyes and can easily be made to match your whole fashion. It is also an excellent way to make a simple outfit stand out quickly, and of course, it's probably the most convenient way to escape a bad hair day.
You can see caps worn by a variety of people. From the skater fans of LA, Hollywood celebrities hiding from paparazzi, New York runway models, Instagram influencers, Korean boy bands, sports enthusiasts and hip-hop legends all have at least one good streetwear cap in their closet.
So, pinpointing what is and what is not streetwear can be complex. The vital thing to remember is that, as long as your fashion preferences convey something about who you are and what you value, as long as it is a style that exudes comfort in you, then it would most likely be in the streetwear column.
After all, streetwear is all about personal choices and depends mainly on a person's unique style, location and even income level. It is all about authenticity, freedom, passion for breaking the norm, convenience and practicality with self-expression.
There is no sure guide on what is considered streetwear or no correct or incorrect way how to wear streetwear.
How It Influences The Current Generation
Streetwear flips the standard fashion norm. Its influence and fame have not dwindled as time passes and instead have grown to a more extensive fashion style. The current generation is heavily influenced by streetwear, from how it reflects in the music industry worldwide to art and even politics.
What is unique about streetwear is that it isn't just influencing consumers on their fashion style; streetwear also opened and influenced the current generation to different marketing and strategy.
For example, streetwear is more direct-to-consumer. Consumers drive trends through social media and online presence and demands. Another example is that streetwear brands usually drop in a limited quantity at a set time, boosting hype beforehand, guaranteeing scarcity and creating increased resale value after the product sells out.
They say everything has its pros and cons. So, I guess it is fair to tackle how the current streetwear can also negatively influence.
As we already mentioned, luxury products have started embracing streetwear more nowadays, plus streetwear marketing strategies drive prices higher and items more exclusive, which is fine and good until it is not. Some argue that streetwear becoming a symbol of social status can be risky and drive other consumers away.
At the same time, its growing influence creates a huge demand which is opening to a world of dupes and opportunities to take advantage of other people's ideas and hard work.
Currently, streetwear is one of the fastest-growing and most influential areas of the fashion enterprise. In 2017 the global streetwear industry was worth an estimated whopping amount of 309 billion dollars.
It is pretty remarkable, but even more impressive is its staying power. Fashion trends usually change every year, but streetwear has not stopped growing since it started in the 70s. So, whether you want it or not, the streetwear style movement or lifestyle is here to stay.
It would be amazing to watch how streetwear culture deals with the possible few negative aspects and influences and, at the same time, see it grow and develop more in the coming years.