Casual streetwear origins

Casual streetwear origins

Streetwear is a style of fashion rooted in the Californian surf culture and hip hop music. Although having existed for the past 25+ years, it's only in last decade that streetwear has cemented itself as a retail force in the fashion world. In 2018, the Supreme brand sold its stake at $1 billion - a shocking ROI for a company mostly known for selling hoodies and t-shirts.

But how did a somewhat disruptive movement followed by surfers and hip hop heads end up influencing the whole of the fashion industry?

The evolution of streetwear is a reflection of its dynamic and changeable history, which makes it hard to pinpoint its exact definition. Looking back in time, we can get an idea of how and where it all started to what it's become more recently. Since culture and lifestyle evolve over time, geographical location becomes a major factor. The Bay area or New York’s understanding of streetwear is totally different from Paris. Amsterdam, London, Melbourne, Tokyo and Berlin all have their unique history as well.

Style-icons are not the same today as they were 20 years ago. As Virgil Abloh is a pioneer in the streetwear scene today, LL Cool J was in the 90s and Dapper Dan was number one in the 80s. Clothes across the spectrum are getting more casual and drawing inspiration from sports - driving the popularity of items such as sneakers and sweatshirts. Hip-hop has grown from a subculture into the dominant musical form globally, surpassing rock.

The Bronx was infested with gang-culture, police brutality, violence, inequality and poverty in the 70s. From fights and riots, a new cultural movement towards peace and freedom started to emerge, which led to the birth of hip-hop. Where the people earlier used physical violence as an outlet for their anger – they now battled through music, street art and dancing.

The diverse population in the Bronx back then – Latino, Indian and Afro-American, added to a rich mix of culture, making youth proud of their ethnicity and background. It was about youth expressing themselves, being free and liberated from the masses that controlled the system. This movement supported a certain style - the B-boy look. B- boys were break-dancers and their style was characterized by Lee-jeans, tank tops or polo’s and Kangol-hats together with fat-laced Puma sneakers. The main aim was to break the rules and norms of fashion, just like they did with hip-hop music.

Streetwear was not about having money; but rather about rising above the social injustice of the time and showing pride and integrity in who you were as an individual expressed in fashion style. In the 80s, streetwear began to merge with sportswear like Adidas, Nike and Reebok. High fashion came into the picture together with Harlem bootlegger Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day. He redefined luxury designs for the streets by using the pattern and logos of high fashion brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Fendi and putting them on leather tracksuits, baseball caps and bomber jackets. With clients like Run DMC and Salt-N-Peppa, he paved the way for hip-hop and street culture. In 1992, Dan was forced to close down his shop and go underground after being sued by several luxury brands.

More than two decades later, Louis Vuitton and Kith are initiating collaborations with Supreme. Dapper Dan is partnering up with Gucci, despite being sued by the luxury brands for using their logo seventeen years ago - they are now united as one.

Supreme currently makes some of the best streetwear clothes at the moment. Though still looked at as a niche - its signatures - logo on clothes like hoodies and tees, ties to hip-hop, and a shared sense of culture - line up neatly with those wider shifts in the way younger generations of shoppers live and dress today.

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