A Potted History of Streetwear

Streetwear, Baseball & Snapback Caps

The roots of modern streetwear come from long enough ago that one can be forgiven for not being able to track down a definitive history. The culture of streetwear and urban fashion has not only risen to join the mainstream fashion styles but it has also risen anew, over and over, in the last 30 years. The desire amongst youth culture to have its own style has constantly driven this broad style genre to sub-divide and re-invent itself.

So rewind to the streets of the 80’s where skating and punks were, to the older generations, outcasts and slightly scary. The general youth attitude, to all that has gone before it, has always been one of rebellion and rejection. The style of clothing required by those pioneering youth was the catalyst for 30 years of urban and streetwear clothing. When Shawn Stussy started to print his board tag onto t-shirts to supplement the income from his handmade boards – which he could only produce at one per day – he had stumbled upon the start of a growing need for branded, cool and perhaps more importantly, hard to get streetwear.

Over the next 10 years the streetwear and urban clothing market grew and grew. Major labels such as Le Coq Sportif and Adidas joined the rush toward this new and growing market. The next ten years saw the influences from Japan take the whole thing to another level. Music was always a part of the deal and the whole Hip-Hop scene lent more exposure to the many and varied types of trending clothing styles within the streetwear scene; music videos giving far-away admirers the chance to see a slice of what was available and a chance to see how this look might work for them in the provinces of the US and the UK.

The fads and labels came and went but the core idea continued for the next Streetwear clothing. The involvement of record studios and their CEOs’ launches saw some success. When the worldwide market exploded in the late 1990’s to 2000 the plethora of ‘new’ labels arrived that basically offered nothing other than very thinly disguised copies; there was a street backlash and the core went back to the past. With people searching for retro and vintage sneakers; pushing the sales of these items up to previously un-imaginable prices. The internet was growing exponentially and the time of the gadget arrived. As the story races through the 2000’s the links between sub-culture and mainstream grow stronger and as streetwear arrives at the modern day. The sub-division of each sub-culture is as diverse as the individuals that inhabit it.

Streetwear is and always has been a form of expression and one that, in essence, is the same as when it all started. The anarchic roots and the anti-establishment attitudes are there for all to see, if one can look past the facade and appreciate the real point of it all. Being young is about experimenting and pushing the boundaries – it always has been and probably will always be – as we get older and settle in our ways the nostalgia for what once was is just as important as having been there, it is the next stage of growing up. The many and varied forms of expression within street art and streetwear will become included in the ever expanding total of previous explorations of what it is to be different whilst growing up to become ourselves.


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