What is streetwear?
noun : casual clothing of a style worn especially by members of various urban youth subcultures.
(Image Source: @ndjolijean)
Streetwear is said to have been born in the California surf culture and New York hip hop culture of the late 1970s and the early 1980s. It eventually went global a decade later.
A once fiercely protected subculture has stealthily skyrocketed from the underground into the mainstream and has gained momentum to become the ‘in-thing’ in fashion, the world over.
For decades you could draw a clear line between mainstream fashion and streetwear. Mainstream included designs created in studios and worn as popular or exclusive trends. Streetwear, on the other hand, was born from grassroots culture, often meshing numerous elements beyond just clothing like skateboards, backpacks, sports gear and many other accessories and elements of cities and streets.
It is therefore clear to see, that there is more to casual and comfortable clothing when talking about streetwear. The history and culture this fashion facet has curved on stone will go on to influence the direction of future designs and moods.
High-end designers have had no choice but to embrace this fast-growing streetwear culture. This is why we are now seeing the marriage of high fashion and streetwear, that has infiltrated the runways and haute couture scenes to change the protocol of what is known as stylish.
Street style is now a fixture in many fashion magazines, the social media spectrum and even the red carpets are becoming a playground.
Many of the powerful and expressive looks today, are grounded in designs that emerged from streetwear culture.
What is smart dress?
(Image Source: @rikkekrefting)
Smart dress is a pretty relative term especially in the current state of affairs in fashion. A few years back, dressing smart was a code of etiquette that many had to adhere to especially in certain social circles.
Today, smartly dressed is diverting away from the dictated aristocratic tendencies and is taking the form of ‘the expression of oneself ‘, if you like.
The older generation might still struggle with this new wave, but a few bold fashionistas in this bracket are seen rocking street style with charm and glamour. A perfect example being the 98-year-old, Iris Apfel, who is the world’s oldest fashion icon known for her eccentric sense of style. She wears it smart and rocks it.
This eccentric attitude of dressing is not showing signs of slowing down any time soon.
Can streetwear be smart?
From New York to LA, London to Paris, Japan to Hongkong, and even Italy where traditional studio fashion is still prominent, streetwear has undergone a significant revolution since growing into a global phenomenon over the last five decades.
(Image Source: @charlotteemilysanders)
Traditionally, streetwear has been seen as clothing that is oversized or loose-fitting, paired with denim jeans. However, smart-looking streetwear can be achieved with a few tweaks here and there.
By layering the pieces of clothing like t-shirts, shirts and baggy jackets, the look can go from sloppy to sophisticated and smart.
Many are tempted to overload a streetwear look with an uncoordinated choice of many clothing pieces together. This is not a great idea. It is better to wear just one brand or combine just a couple, for a great finished look.
(Image Source: @josefinehj)
There are good brands one can combine to carve out a unique streetwear look. Supreme, A Bathing Ape, Veterement, Adidas are just a few in a sea of many.
Celebrities like Rihanna even go ahead and combine their streetwear looks with couture pieces and apparel. She has earned a fan base that is ready to mimic her style, every time she steps out.
The latest men’s fashion weeks were adorned with streetwear elements by many haute couture houses. Looks that were fresh, smart and meticulous, gave this genre yet another push into the limelight.
(Image Source: @mvb)
There is yet an added element of streetwear that gets less attention than is due and that is the footwear. A well-chosen pair of sports shoes, can provide a nice counterpoint to a layered streetwear look. These Prada and Nike sneakers are a good choice in a myriad of a selection.
Haute-couture houses hooking up with sneaker brands is symptomatic of a larger, overarching trend. It’s yet another step towards streetwear becoming fashion’s new normal – something which has been quietly taking place for some time now.
There are many sceptics out there, who are convinced that this is just a flash in the pan but this broadening inclusivity in the fashion industry, should serve as further proof of streetwear’s staying power in the fashion arena.
The streetwear impact has caught the attention of some of the most iconic, established brands in the retail and luxury goods sectors and fashion industry generally.
Streetwear players come from various parts of the fashion industry.
There are the pure streetwear brands, old and new.
Sportswear brands are developing their traditional portfolio of sports equipment into a growing streetwear portfolio with the concept of cool hip sneakers and hoodies.
(Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration)
And in addition, there are luxury brands that are also working to gain a significant stake in the streetwear market.
To reach this rich and hungry consumer base, streetwear players are making collaboration with the big names of the mainstream fashion. These are collaborations that were unimaginable in the past, are now a reality and in the making.
Virgil Abloh of Louis Vuitton with Supreme, Air Jordan and Dior, The Japanese brand Sacai and Nike, the list goes on and on.
(Nike x Dior collaboration)
The collaboration trend is only going to get even bigger. Who knows, how big this could get, with even three or more staging a fashion-fusion-extravaganza for all parties.
Celebrities Wearing Stylish Streetwear
The biggest trendsetters of this genre are the famous celebrities. They are seen displaying streetwear in unexpected ways and places. The red carpet that was dominated by smartly dressed looks only, has gradually accepted the style of the masses.
The meaning of fashion expression has literally and confidently taken a new leaf. It is one for the books.
While her prodigious musical talent may have put her on the map, teen pop star Billie Eilish is becoming just as well known for her out-there sense of style.
In an industry famous for its glitz and glamour, the 17-year-old stands apart with her punky, tomboy take on fashion. Her always-surprising looks — which often include hugely oversized sweatshirts and pants, clashing colours and patterns, bold accessories and rare-edition sneakers. She is inspiring fellow teen girls to embrace streetwear in a fresh and edgy new way. She is showing that streetwear isn’t just for the boys and that comfortable, loose-fitting clothes can still have plenty of swag.
Rihanna is not the first star to marry high fashion with the streets. She has set a precedence in tailoring a high fashion line to the sidewalks. The queen of streetwear combines pieces like mink sandals with an all-white Louis Vuitton sweatsuit and makes an appearance of class and ease. It is this demeanour of ease and comfortability, that makes her ensembles so stylish.
Stepping out in New York here, Rihanna looked typically idiosyncratic in her layered streetwear. A Vetement jacket, MM6 Maison Margiela crop top, Dries Van Noten Denim, Gucci headscarf and her own Fenty X Puma boots.
We do not need an excuse to celebrate Rihanna’s fashion choices. While her onstage outfits are dazzling, it’s her glamorous street style that has us on constant Rihanna watch. Whether you love it or hate it, the star has mastered, if not invented, the art of grunge glamour and punk-rock realness with unparalleled avant-garde combinations.
The very stylish NBA star, Russell Wesbrook wears bold streetwear with ease, making a Gucci pink sweatsuit and pulled up socks make an all high fashion statement of comfortable is stylish. The colour in itself adds a splash of ‘anything is wearable’ if it makes you feel good in your skin.
The super talented Pharrell Williams is a highly influential style icon in streetwear and fashion. He created Billionaires Boys Club and Ice Cream with the streetwear designer NIGO who is the founder of BAPE. He has launched several collaborations with names like Adidas Originals, Timberland and Parisian retailer Colette. He makes streetwear look so good.
At 22, Bella Hadid has already landed multiple Vogue covers, walked on runways for everyone from Dior to Alexander Wang, and cemented her status as one of the most sought-after models in fashion today. In her short but already illustrious career, Hadid has also made a name for herself as a style icon, also known for her bold stylish streetwear. She magically makes it look like high fashion.
It's safe to say that Kendall Jenner has quickly proven herself to be a supermodel-in-the-making. Not only has she made waves on the runway, but her street style game has won her major points in our book. Jenner can make a head-to-toe black outfit feel fresh again, she can work a formal ball skirt effortlessly on the streets of Cannes, and she makes matching sweats look like the chicest haute couture we've ever seen.
Justin Bieber, is known as the master of oversized streetwear. He is a big fan of the streetwear brand Supreme. Fans of the brand are willing to wait in ridiculously long lines wrapped around the block so they can get inside to shop for a limited-edition gear.
Hailey Baldwin Bieber has a way of sporting some of the coolest looks, most of which have a touch of athleisure and streetwear aesthetic, all the while maintaining an undeniable level of polish. The Biebers love their streetwear game.
Gigi Hadid who has become an America’s sweetheart of the modelling world, is super stylish and knows how to dress her curves. The top model makes a white t-shirt and jeans look grand. She is known to wear streetstyle with a sophisticated ease.
We can truly conclude that smartly dressed is a phrase that might have to get a new definition.
It is no longer dependent on set dress codes, neither is it conformed to a specific demographic.
The founders of streetwear definitely did not anticipate such grand outcomes of their creativity a few decades on. What started as humble and sometimes rebellious, is now shaping a new frontier in design and consumer choices in one.
The shape streetwear will take in the coming decades, will carry the notion of style more than anything else.
And yes, streetwear is a style!