Streetwear, a more casual alternative to menswear, fascinates me in a way no other trend-led topic does. Streetwear’s best feature is how it encourages personal style – there is, after all, no better style than one created by one’s self. Streetwear’s roots can be traced back to the 1960s here in Britain and as far as the West Coast of America in the 1980s, but these days it is still a relevant style in its own right.
Streetwear has no pretences about what it is not, in fact that absence of something is exactly what it is. Shawn Stussy, considered the pioneer of streetwear for many, said in a 1992 interview with The New York Times, “Me and my friends don’t put much money into clothes. We don’t want to look like we’re trying too hard, you know, to be garish and trendy.”
The focus of this article is the evolution of a new type of streetwear. Some might even say a new type of menswear, as this is a style and ethos that is making waves across the oceans as it announces its arrival with a splash of foppishness, and a breeze of coolness.
Streetwear is different to street style in the simple sense that street style represents what style we see on the streets. Streetwear is not influenced by high fashion – its nature is an amalgamation of popular art, music and politics. For example, in the infamous 60s, the evolution of ‘Mod’, ‘Rocker’ and ‘Hippie’ were reactions to these components of society which developed all in one decade.
So what is streetwear and who came up with the term? Well you are not going to find a one-line dictionary definition if that is what you are expecting. There are those of the opinion that streetwear is simply a by-word for ‘one of the gang’, those who finally felt they could channel their inner fashionisto but away from the girly world of fashion, complete with a more macho label.
Conversely, those who are a part of the streetwear culture dismiss such a notion and believe it was just a blanket term applied to an already existing ‘thing’. An attempt for society to classify in order to put themselves at ease – as the unknown is far more terrifying.
I argue that the new streetwear look we are seeing these days is an amalgamation of its history to this point – combing the original ideas and ethos laid down in the 60s, with the prominent skater influence of the 80s and the current menswear focus on lasting quality and timeless style. The new generation are managing to effortlessly blend all three influences together, combining smart cuts and tailoring with classic streetwear pieces. Browsing through the latest blogs, tumblrs and our very own street style edit, confirms this:
With the term ‘streetwear’ being so hard to define, it is imperative to distinguish the differences between streetwear and menswear. Menswear, according to Jian DeLeon, “is driven by trends disguised as authenticity and classicism… its marketing disguised as realness”.
Here, DeLeon drives at a very real point that many catwalk shows are directed towards editorials and represent another form of art that is to be held in awe at their ethereal beauty. This ties into DeLeon’s first descriptive about trends lacking realism, as it has become public knowledge that a number of menswear fashion houses reuse each other’s patterns (and sometimes even designs) like crazy.
It would be a sweeping statement to say that menswear is becoming more and more predictable, but as the menswear game habitually looks to the past, it is the men on the street that could be the future of the industry.
Now I am not belittling the international shows, as I look forward to them as much as the next sartorial gent, but I am referencing the almost ignorant influence streetwear has at its disposal on men’s fashion. Its organic nature gives it the opportunity to flourish into a dominant power, not dissimilar to the control media has over menswear, but without the obvious restrictions.
And that is the beauty of something so outside the usual spheres of influence: it is constantly exposed to introspection. There is so much opinion visually apparent on the street; its restless nature means that it is constantly evolving but in a totally disordered manner that can only be controlled by ones personal style.
This self-awareness keeps streetwear culture far more accessible than the grandeur and theatrics of menswear, and it is for this reason that many of us are fascinated with it. Its impulsive nature means that personal taste dictates one’s uniform, and we are eager to see what each other comes up with next.
One website that epitomises streetwear’s appeal is StreetEtiquette.com. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs are the founders of the site and have been showcasing their unique personal style to the world since 2008 through a collection of well put together photo shoots and articles. They have an almost cult following within the industry, being featured in the likes of GQ, Details and Esquire.
What keeps their popularity so high (apart from their superb outfits) is that these are real looks, created by real individuals, which represent their thoughts, personalities, the environment they live in and cultures surrounding them. Their style is constantly evolving and it keeps you riveted as to what they will come up with next:
See more at: http://streetetiquette.com
High street retailers have cottoned on to the fact that their audience is becoming more and more influenced by what they see around them. Those with a traditionally younger target market – think Topman, River Island, ASOS and AllSaints in particular – are continually adapting their visuals to adhere to a more ‘street’ aesthetic. Many have produced lookbooks during 2012 that have an underlying streetwear influence, whether the outfits relate to the ideals, the construction techniques or simply feature typical streetwear pieces or associated fabrics.
However, there is one high street retailer that seems to continuously adapt to current streetwear trends and influences, and that is Urban Outfitters. They have almost become synonymous with streetwear, stocking all major brands on the market and producing gritty, down-to-earth styling in each and every campaign they produce.
The collection of Urban Outfitter images shown below proves that staged editorial can capture essence and feel of current streetwear movements:
With all the above in mind, it seems a synthesis of menswear and streetwear is a peerless combination, so I have come up with a couple of looks that hopefully all of you can take something from and/or be inspired to come up with your own spin on a typical streetwear outfit:
This first look appears to be a popular idea amongst many style savvy gents, and it really can be worn by men of all ages.
Outfits should be formed from the ground up, which is why we always advocate a quality pair of shoes if you want to look and feel good. With this outfit, you can choose from your entire collection of footwear, it is up to you to decide how casual or formal you would like the outfit – shoes more often than not dictate your whole looks’ attitude.
To dress down, Nike hi-tops (specifically blazers) are popular with the younger generation, providing a bit of extravagance that the exuberance of youth can pull off quite easily. On the other hand, a stunning pair of double monk straps or colourful Oxfords will lean towards a more formal aesthetic.
A quality pair of selvedge jeans or Levi 501s communicates a sophisticated casualness; perhaps more appropriate for those a little more mature in age. Turning up the hem of the jeans adds a bit of interest to otherwise standard attire. The same goes for chinos, but in a slim fit and a colourful cotton (in streetwear culture, clashing colours are fair game, so pick any colour you fancy); this is more suited to the younger male.
A double breasted jacket shows that you have an interest in fashion, but it is also something that evokes the classicism found in menswear. However, to retain that youthful edginess, pushing up the sleeves will create a livelier aesthetic. A patterned tee under the blazer is a necessary casual garment, while a statement watch, piece of jewellery or pocket square channels the streetwear aesthetic.
Skinny jeans and vans are very much the vogue where I live, and little do most of them know that they are in a guise very much reminiscent of the West Coast culture from the 80s, and the street culture here in England a decade later.
I have decided to advocate Supras instead, as they are just that bit different, showing people you are trying to stay away from trend-driven attire like Shawn Stussy advocated. Beaten up casual plimsolls provide an underlying streetwear influence, and a more authentic look, and this outfit is much more traditionally streetwear than the previous.
Colourful denim has been around for a while now, and there is no need for the hues to be anything less than effervescent and vibrant. Muted mustard yellow or burgundy does not give off the impression of bashful confidence that ties right in with this casual look. A muted rolled sleeve tee on top, with a hoody as an extra layer if necessary, plays on the accent of the trousers and gives the outfit an unruly balance.
Accessorising with a rucksack and a snap-back cap adds up to a simple casual look, with the individuality of the outfit really coming from small things like hair style, accessories and of course, attitude.
The clothing below is just a small sample of pieces that could easily be integrated into a modern capsule wardrobe, but will help offer a slightly more streetwear aesthetic. You don’t have to wear traditional streetwear brand to get the look, a lot is about your attitude and the way you combine colours, prints and pieces together to create something unique to you:
You may well have noticed some contradictions in this article; such was the internal debate I was having about two very important facets of twenty-first century fashion.
It is now time for you to get involved and tell me whether you think menswear in high fashion and streetwear can mix successfully and stylishly, or whether this conflicting fusion of style will ever materialise.