Streetwear’s a term more jumped on than a pair of Air Jordans. Is it varsity jackets and Japanese jeans? Or longline tees and jersey joggers? Or both? We hit up streetwear PR and Fcknyh blogger Gregk Foley to help us navigate the asphalt.
If there’s one common misconception about streetwear, it’s that it’s easy. Granted, when confronted with some of high-end menswear’s more complex designs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that street-level dressing is a simple case of jeans, T-shirt, hoodie, trainers and done.
But then consider the number of high fashion designers taking their cue from streetwear culture right now – from Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE, to Riccardo Tisci’s output at Givenchy, to every luxury player pushing their own take on iconic sneaker designs for the past few seasons. The truth is that putting together a strong outfit – streetwear or no – calls for smart judgement, as well as a solid selection of staples that you can build upon as your wardrobe grows.
But before we dig into the specifics of what those staples are, here are a few signposts to get you started on the streetwear path:
On Fabrics: Above any other material, cotton is king. You’re looking for classic cotton textiles – jersey, Oxford cloth, chambray, twill and one more essential that we’ll cover in more depth shortly. Some of the more ‘decorative’ fabrics like herringbone and seersucker are nice, but they technically skew more #menswear than straight-up streetwear if you ask me.
On Shape: See me, I’m a classicist. I’m enamoured of that early 1990s Ralph Lauren-led interpretation of streetwear: slightly loose-fitting chinos, baggy shirts, beanies, you know the look. But if you want something more contemporary, then longline cuts and dropped crotches should be your go-tos.
On Consistency: As you’ll have gleaned from the points above, definitions of ‘streetwear’ are several and, despite my own preferences, all of them are perfectly valid. But once you’ve made your choice, stick with it. Mixing styles can be a winning combo, but trust me when I say your double-layered street Goth shorts won’t work with those Wallabees. Just here to help.
Now we’ve covered off the basics, let’s survey that list, shall we?
‘A Good Pair of Dark Blues’
Frank Ocean knows what’s up. If your streetwear wardrobe doesn’t start with a decent pair of jeans, then someone’s led you astray. This is the very guts of any solid streetwear line-up, and the piece you’ll likely bolt everything else onto. While selvedge isn’t vital, the tell-tale strip running up the leg has become commonplace in the streetwear landscape, and is generally a mark of superior quality and durability when it comes to denim.
Then it’s a question of wash. And in most circles, it isn’t even a question: raw denim all the way. Menswear mythology has turned the gradual fading and distressing of denim into a personal journey of self-discovery which you may or may not entirely endorse (cough), but I’ll at least admit that wearing my first pair almost daily and refusing to wash them (until a dog came up to me on the bus and started licking the stale sweat, food stains and god knows what else off my leg – true story, feel my shame) was something of an experience.
For cost-per-wear, my money’s on Edwin ED-55s or A.P.C. New Standards – if you’re plumping for the former, consider buying 2 inches under your normal waist size to allow for stretch.
Selected Homme Jeans 2014
While menswear pieces have been lifted from other areas of life, few have endured in the same way as those pulled from military ranks. Whether it’s the cultural ties of the clothes, the classically masculine cut and fit of the garments or how versatile they are when it comes to creating ‘fits, there’s something about a good military jacket that just puts the cherry on any ensemble.
There’s a platoon’s worth of choice, too: the MA-1 flight jacket is a sturdy, winter-ready piece you’ve, at this stage, got no excuse to be without; the M-51, a lesser-known predecessor of the iconic M-65, offers a clean silhouette that’s easily layered; and, finally, the element-deflecting M-65, also known as the fishtail parka, is ideal for when you watch to switch out your overcoat for something more rugged.
Carhartt always comes correct in this field, otherwise scout out Alpha Industries – they started out as contractors to the US military, and it doesn’t really get more legit than that.
It’s not every day a jeans and chinos thing. Some days, take it easy. Some days, enjoy some soft cotton fleece against your legs. Once considered the very antithesis of style, the humble sweatpant is now practically a status symbol in certain fashion circles, with designers like Thom Browne, Gosha Rubchinskiy and Alexander Wang all offering luxe versions that riff on the gym leisurewear staple.
Thing is, sweatpants have only just found acceptance in fashion beyond sportswear at all, so there’s always going to be part of me that gets really purist about which brands to buy in the sweats game: and that’s three-stripes, swoosh, conversation over.
In streetwear terms, if you’re going to broaden your horizons, then keep it in the ballpark: Billionaire Boys Club always delivers a solid range of jersey sweats in its roster if you’re hunting for something slightly more premium. Otherwise, stay close to the roots and trust your cash with the sportswear authorities. And please, heather grey or black all day.
H&M Divided Fall 2015
When urban subcultures happened on screen-printing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it opened up a world of possibilities. Name any of the streetwear heavyweights – Stussy, Fuct, SSUR, Obey, even Supreme – none of these brands would have made it out of the woods without their cornerstone printed tees.
If you’re finding your feet in the graphic game, then stick to the certified classics. For me, that’s the Fuct logo tee, Palace’s Tri-Ferg and the timeless Stussy tee. Or, if it’s niche vibes you’re feeling: check out the punk and graffiti references from Stray Rats, Well Fed and Burma MFG. You can thank me later.
Stussy at ASOS 2016
In The Hood
The hoodie is to streetwear what Snapchat is to DJ Khaled. It’s the one garment that has captured the essence of street.
If you want to go back to the roots, then opt for a Champion Reverse Weave and size up. Short body, big hood, tight cuffs, it’s the original fit – there’s a reason Supreme keeps collaborating with them, guys.
Otherwise you might want to go a bit more branded. All the labels name-checked above are a good bet, but if you like something a bit more exclusive you should check out FPAR – Japanese-made sweats, big bold graphics, beautiful quality. If you want to go really niche, see if someone can source you a Pigalle hoodie. Good luck.
Filling Pieces AW15
Kicks Are Crucial
Come on man, like I was going to leave this one out? We should all be pretty familiar with the classics already – Air Max 1, Jordans, Sk8-Hi and the like – so we won’t go over old ground.
In my opinion the sneaker trend is moving from basketball and tennis towards running styles right now, and leading the pack is adidas Originals – the ZX Flux has been steadily killing it, and the new NMD model has been breaking hearts with instant sell-outs around the world. We all know how sneaker culture works when the hype takes hold, so I won’t get too specific here to avoid disappointment.
Start by picking up a solid pair of everyday court trainers – adidas Samba/Gazelle/Stan Smith or Puma Suede – follow that up with a decent running model – any of the adidas Boosts will change your life for the better (just ask your mate who beat you to getting a pair) – and round it out with something bold and brash. I’m talking Nike TNs. School bully trainers.
Put those three together, you’ve got the calm, the contemporary and the outright crass. Your sneaker rotation will grow with time, but this is a pretty solid base to build on.
Now you have the inside track on starting out in the culturally enriching and financially crippling world of streetwear. But if I could give you one last piece of advice, it’s this: learn the difference between passing hype and timeless product.
It takes a while, and you might lose a few bills along the way, but trust me when I say I’ve got years-old pieces in my wardrobe that I can still rock every day, and crazy purchases that barely make it out of the house. I know which ones are more valuable in the long run.
What are your must-cop streetwear pieces? Any iconic styles we left out above?
Let us know below.