In a November 2018 episode of his Netflix series “Patriot Act,” comedian Hasan Minhaj expounds on the importance of streetwear, exploring the phenomenon that is the Supreme streetwear brand, how streetwear is central to immigrant fashion and experience, and how the politics of scarcity influence even mainstream products. For the average American, though, streetwear is something much more casual, as its appearance would suggest. And, of course, it’s also a top trend.
Streetwear encompasses a variety of comfortable items, including t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants and joggers, and even hats, and part of what makes the clothing distinctive is its regional influences. Many streetwear styles are linked to hip-hop and rap musicians and, from an international perspective, the clothing has been exported along with the music; hence its importance to immigrant culture – streetwear, as represented by popular musicians, is an international touchstone.
One breakthrough musician who recently released his own streetwear brand RahTwoFive, a rapper who also studied at The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. RaH’s streetwear is influenced by Egyptian styles and colors, as well as themes from mythology, giving it a global flare that’s relatively new to streetwear. These styling choices are an exciting contribution to an already strong marketplace, transforming a historically American sector of the fashion market.
Closer to home, brands like California Dressed are taking their cues from streetwear’s tendency to represent regional communities. Their California Republic clothes represent state themes with bold graphic design and a simplicity typical of streetwear. By expanding their style to represent the whole state, though, California Dressed offers a more accessible version of streetwear to those who aren’t from urban areas.
Not only is streetwear actively evolving, but it may even be displacing high fashion to take center stage. This is due to both the influence of musicians who carry the style with them with their music as well as the work of designers doing exciting collaborative work. Chris Gibbs and Beth Birkett of the L.A. upscale streetwear brand Union, for example, have collaborated on a Jordan shoe design and their work can even take t-shirts to the next level.
Part of what makes Union’s work so remarkable is its location in the heart of Los Angeles; the couple has access to the newest and most exciting work happening in fashion, as well as one of the cities that has been most influential in streetwear’s development, historically. With that being said, streetwear can come from anywhere, and new global influences underscore that fact. Additionally, the style has started to take on more feminine influences. Traditionally sported by men, designers like Aries are representing women in the streetwear industry. While the styles are frequently gender-free and worn by men and women, the Aries brand, which includes bras and some other more feminine pieces, demonstrate the extent of streetwear’s crossover appeal.
Streetwear isn’t just on the sidewalks today – it’s on runways and billboards, in music videos and on the racks of big-name stores. And while trends come and go, streetwear has stood the test of time. Decades after its emergence, the style is more relevant than ever, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.