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October 27 2016
Written By Emile K - October 27 2016
In recent years, we have watched 'luxury streetwear' rise in popularity. High fashion labels have their claws hooked into the original genre and have merged exclusivity with expense. Meanwhile, brands such as Supreme seem to have divorced themselves entirely from the true essence of streetwear; no creativity, individuality, integrity... just a logo on, well, anything really. This, for us, creates an oxymoron. Sure, the brands are still worn on the streets, but used as a status of wealth rather than identity. Demand for these brands is huge among the kids who are keen to style themselves like Kanye or to emulate an equally apotheosised celebrity and their inordinate wealth, rather than celebrate their own individuality or creativity.
God forbid we stand in the way of progress, perhaps this phase should be accepted as another arm of the social movement that is streetwear but we are also keen to protect the original premise and as well as promote a credible alternative.
Streetwear's origins are steeped in DIY, and grew from the British punk scene of both and American hip hop. Some of the originals still trade today, such as Stussy, founded in the 1980's, the brand started out with Shawn Stussy selling T-Shirts from the back of his car. Back then Streetwear was worn by the surfers and skaters, those that dropped out from mainstream fashion and created their own trends. Wearing a logo was a badge of honour, like wearing a T-shirt by your favourite band. Sometimes, obscurity was better, proving your originality. Other times, you pledged your allegiance to a certain club, like rocking a Metallica tee.
It's important to note that Streetwear became a staple of the hip hop genre with its rise in the 80's. Hip hop was always about the struggle on the streets. It was an early diversification of streetwear but one that actually unified both ends with brands such as Carhartt appealing to both skaters and rappers. However with the rise of bling culture in the 2000's, (cheers MTV), exclusivity became important again, but for all the wrong reasons.
All of a sudden, price was a driving force in streetwear. It was no longer important to be wearing your favourite brand like a badge of honour, now it was all about monetary success. If you can afford a $100 T-Shirt then you must be successful and thus, a market divorced from real value was born, how convenient for the fat cats at the top. Quality was no longer important, nor was creative endeavour. Instead, it was all about having a certain person photographed wearing your brand, I mean, G-Unit made clothes. For all their hype, they weren't exactly cutting edge were they?
It could be argued that this is when streetwear forgot its roots. The big sporting labels jumped on the bandwagon, as did the biggest sporting organisations in the world, such as Major League Baseball who revolutionised the fitted cap... But even through this time, streetwear continued to be popular within the skate and surf scene. Some brands even managed to bridge the gap like Obey which appealed to both skaters and hip hoppers.
So yeah, Streetwear has changed quite a lot since it's inception, and yes luxury streetwear is an oxymoron when comparing it to its roots. However, Stussy still lives on, as do the hundreds of T-Shirt brands following in Shawn's footsteps.
Streetwear will change again to follow the social trends of the world, and we will probably have the same debate then too. Perhaps the real message is just to stay true to what you believe in. If that's celebrity and dollars then so be it. If its artist integrity and quality then Jutah Studios has your number.