words/ EBONIE WALKER picture/ MEGAN SIBLEY modelling/ TRISHA MARTIN
Streetwear: casual clothing of a style worn especially by members of various urban youth subcultures.
Streetwear has probably been around for longer than you have. Traces of the trend have been popping up since the 90’s, but recently, there’s been a surge in its popularity; and everyone from Kylie Jenner to T-Swift is jumping on the bandwagon. If you’re out in public reading this… look around. Chances are you’ll see a pair of mom jeans or a graphic tee or a bomber or a plain oversized sweater or…… you get the idea. Streetwear’s sudden burst in popularity means super dope stores, like WLKN and NRML, found locally in Ottawa, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. But where did this trend come from and why is it so popular? Let’s talk about it.
Streetwear’s statement goes far beyond shaded colours and bold graphic tees. With the rise of streetwear comes an acceptance of differences that have kept the fashion industry divided for a long time.
Streetwear pulls a lot of its inspiration from the culture that influences hiphop music. The two are very similar and just like hiphop did once upon a time, streetwear is starting to change the game.
Hiphop has been around, and has proven through its success, that it will stay around. But before it was well known and mainstream, it was a movement. Hiphop originally stemmed from rebellion- a rebellion against what was popular and accepted at the time. A rebellion against what was played on TV and radio. An act of defiance against what was considered “cool”; a demonstration of nonconformity.
In an interview with Thought Economics on The Role of Hip Hop in Culture, Tricia Rose, an internationally respected author and scholar of black U.S culture, explained why she believes hiphop to be such a strong influence on culture. “People can put their own regional and global spin [on it]! This allows people to express their individuality, whilst being part of a collective.”
Now think about the fashion industry. Allowing individuals to express individuality while being a part of a collective is something the industry of high fashion has long struggled to allow. High fashion has been a wildly controversial subject for a while. Not only are the clothes ambiguous and often unpractical, but everything surrounding the culture of high fashion seems to be one big “you can’t sit with us” club. From the exclusivity of fashion weeks, to the lack of diversity amongst the models on the runway — it can sometimes feel that the industry of high fashion is a party that we were not invited to.
But streetwear, on the other hand, has always been rooted in surf and skate culture — the outcasts. A breath of fresh air, in a notoriously stuffy industry.
The thing that makes streetwear so unique, is its ability to reflect and define culture, pulling inspiration from different everything that’s cool or interesting. And it’s practical. It’s style with a focus on functional pieces like sweaters and sneakers- things the average person in the real world can wear.
Designers like Jerry Lorenzo, James Jebbia and Kanye West have taken the fashion world by storm with their ability to combine two seemingly opposite worlds. For the first time, we’re being introduced to brands like Fear of God and the Yeezy collections that are bridging the gap between the exclusivity of high fashion and the accessibility of streetwear.
And even though most of us could never afford those actual brands, we can look at the collections and the celebrities wearing them to pull inspiration from styles that actually reflect us. We don’t have to be millionaires or buy brand name clothes to add a graphic tee to a bomber or a duster. We don’t have to be able to afford Yeezy SZN 2 to be able to layer monochromatic colours.
So back to the question, why is streetwear so popular? Maybe because it’s built around a collective of people coming together to exist outside the realm of what has been, and what is “supposed” to be. A group of people celebrating all forms of uniqueness; people deciding to embrace all races, cultures and classes, proving that fashion can be accessible to anyone and inspiration can come from anywhere.
Just like hiphop did in the 70’s, streetwear is changing things, and it’s pretty dope.