The Evolution of Streetwear (Street fashion)- How It Developed Through the Years
Streetwear’s nature is dynamic and ever-changing which makes it hard to pin down what exactly makes street fashion what it is. In its early days, street fashion’s versatility allowed youth to express themselves, their cultural identity and group belonging, personality and interests through their clothes. Originally rooted in cultures like hip-hop and punk, however, streetwear has grown to be so much more nowadays.
Thinking about men's streetwear will likely bring a singular image to the mind: a baggy graphic tee with a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of loose jeans, all of which the very definition of freedom. The evolution of street fashion for men began with streetwear brands ‘borrowing’ inspiration from punk which later branched out into the hip-hop cultures.
In the early 1980s, hip-hop fashion brands began to merge with sportswear which brought companies like Kangol, Adidas, and Nike to the foreground. Nike’s turning point was in the 1990s when they captured Michael Jordan from Adidas and established themselves as leaders on the streetwear sneaker market in the 90s.
America could very well be seen as the ‘craddle’ of the mens street fashion though Japan wasted no time joining in on the trend. By the late 1980s-early 1990s, Japanese brand like BAPE and Real Mad Hectic began pioneering what streetwear was to become in the next century, releasing limited edition apparel.
This led to the face of streetwear we see today: in the 2000s, the street fashion scene moved to a higher price point and a higher end look, with designers incorporating elements into almost every collection released.
One of the most illustrative examples of the evolution of men's street fashion is, without a doubt, the hoodie, the staple of streetwear. It first hit the retail scene in the 1930s and had the practical intent of helping athletes stay warm. It was quickly adopted by blue collar workers and not too long after got a reputation on the streets – it was the apparel of those who were up to no good. In the 1970s, it solidified its place in the counterculture, largely thanks to graffiti artists who roamed the streets in their hoodies, leaving their marks on the urban jungle. The skater scene and the hip crowd adopted it in the 1980s and 1990s and carried it through to today when we see it on Silicon Valley’s pioneers and recluses like Mark Zuckerberg.
Of course, part of the appeal of men's streetwear is its exclusivity so, despite its popularity, most streetwear enthusiasts resist going mainstream. Current brand leaders place an emphasis on the DIY attitude of genuine street fashion, keeping their higher price point items away from mainstream stores.