In light of one of SS2014’s biggest trends, athletic inspired pieces fit for everyday wear, I decided to explore a topic that has always been a source of personal intrigue. As a movement encompassing various elements of surf, skate, and hip-hop culture, the true origins of what is considered the modern-day “streetwear craze” is debatable. “Streetwear” is as much a distinct fashion movement as it is a lifestyle, a culture promoting a sense of individuality, freedom of expression, and an anti-authority outlook. However, a general consensus of what would be considered the first major influence in the established culture that is prevalent around the world today will all point to Shawn Stussy and his “International Tribe.”
In the 1980s, when Los Angeles surfboard designer Shawn Stussy began transferring his custom board designs to printed tees, the muted palette of Stussy’s apparel instantly stood out amongst the mass of vibrant surf apparel available at the time. Fully embodying the hustle, what first began as an “out of the car” business turned into a full-blown global affair. While his local success meant an opportunity to travel the world, traveling itself is what afforded Stussy a chance to extend his “streetwear” aesthetic outside of the North American West Coast. Meetings with future streetwear taste-makers in Japan and Italy aided in the cementing of “streetwear” as an international phenomenon in both fashion and culture. Since, a slew of happenings has aided in the mainstream trickle of modern-day streetwear culture, from the opening of Stussy’s flagship store in the SoHo District, New York, to the popularization of various “streetwear” apparel in skateboarding videos (think Zoo York’s mixtape), the founding of Nigo’s A Bathing Ape, the establishment of e-commerce retailers toting the latest and greatest in streetwear, and even major hip-hop circle celebrity endorsers (now we’re talking the era of Jordan, Pharrell, and even eBay).
Although niche circle publications such as Hypebeast, Highsnobiety, and Complex Magazine may serve as the “insiders” guide to anything and everything “street,” with major style icons such as Pharrell and Kanye topping the charts and the tabloids, and even venturing into the realm of fashion themselves, fairly soon, the idea of keeping an anti-commercialism movement anything BUT commercial proved to be impossible. If Kanye West’s $900 Maison Martin Margiela hightops from his 2013 Yeezus tour isn’t proof enough of the fashion industry’s interest in cashing in (and thus commercializing) on a once grassroots movement, then I don’t know what is.
As an individual who grew up on the Canadian West Coast, surrounded by Vancouver’s street-dance scene, the “streetwear” aesthetic is anything but new to me. Although some cultural originators and insiders alike may lament the mainstream turn that streetwear has taken, I welcome this new acceptance which marks the retail of pieces sporting both form and function (from a simple fashion lover’s standpoint). Having never truly understood the rich history of the now “trend,” I can only say that I’ve merely scratched the surface of an all immersive culture that is so much more than just the clothing. Even now, I will never wear any piece advertising a team, band, musician, etc. that I know nothing about simply for the sake of style or hype (this is not my personal condemnation of any “hypebeasts” out there); and that may be the silver lining in all of this. So whether you are a self-proclaimed streetwear insider, or a tried and true veteran, rejoice in knowing the stories behind the brands that you support and all that they stand for in attitude and lifestyle. I do believe that is the true spirit of streetwear, which cannot be so easily imitated by fashion giants or otherwise.