The term streetwear is common place in today’s fashion world. It is used to describe high quality clothing that draws influence from its surroundings. These influences tend to be from “the street” taking in everything that surrounds them, such as graffiti and much like graffiti sometimes express political and social issues of the here and now.
So where and when did streetwear originate? Many people speculate as to the when and how of the styles origins but it is clear that it started at the end of the 1970’s and the early 1980’s. It was an exciting time with the emergence of punk and what would become hip hop. Both of these musical styles embraced a do-it-yourself ethic brought about by the mainstreams refusal to except them and both styles had strong roots with in the skate and surf scenes.
Influenced by the punk and rap scene whose acts would produce their own records, mix tapes and t-shirts to sell to their fans many surfers and skaters started to follow suit. Often surfers and skaters would produce their own branded boards and t-shirts with their own unique styles. The first of these to make an impact on the scene was Shawn Stussy who placed his tag like signature on his boards and t-shirts. As his cult status as a surfer rose, so did the popularity of his boards and clothing.
Streetwear primarily started in the California surf and skate scene and was originally it was known as skatewear and surfwear depending on what particular scene the clothing came from. With the rise of Stussy others soon began to follow suit and the two styles became more closely interlinked. By the mid 80’s more brands had begun to appear and become common place as they spread across the USA. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the world caught on.
Japan was the next market to catch on to the streetwear ideal and as always they brought their own unique styles to the table. Japanese designers drew on influences from anime, toys and gadgets as well as their own style of Japanese street art. This in turn influenced streetwear as a whole and the different types of styles and designs were soon adopted worldwide.
By the mid 90’s streetwear had firmly established itself within the world market with Europe being the last to catch on. Now it seemed that almost anyone could start a streetwear brand but while many brands such as Volcom, Fly53, Obey, 55dsl and WESC became more popular those lesser brands began to fall by the wayside.
Streetwear was now big business with the high street and designer fashion brands taking on many of the ideas and innovations that the original brands brought to the fashion world. However neither could match the quality and the originality of the independent streetwear companies apart from the newer independent brands like Addict and Supremebeing.
Today streetwear is crossing boundaries moving into different areas of the fashion industry. Sunglasses and bags are becoming evermore present within the style with brands such as Eastpak producing high quality and original bags and Blackflyz making some of the most original shades around.
So what is next for streetwear? While the bright and innovative designs on t-shirts, hoodys and jeans remain prominent many brands are now beginning to cross styles by mixing casual wear with smart wear. This has resulted in brands like MbyM, Volcom and Hurley producing evening wear such as suits and dresses that look smart yet individual.
As time has gone on streetwear has also become more prominent in the female market with more brands like MbyM and Gentle Fawn producing clothes for women where as in the beginning most brands primarily catered for the male market.