Streetwear OG’s and Hyped Kids: A Cultural Discussion

Monday mornings are anything but stress-free for the ‘Hypebeast’. Instead of reaching for a coffee, the Hypebeast reaches for their iPhone X and immediately checks their emails. The Hypebeast does not have to think about what to wear from their impeccably well-edited wardrobe, as everything is branded and photo-ready. Rushing to BaySixty6 Skate Park in West London, the Hypebeasts’ fingers are crossed in the hope they secure a good spot in line for this week’s Supreme drop.

On Thursdays, streetwear fanatics gather in flocks of fourteen-year-olds, dressed in their very best ‘garms’, dripping in the latest Yeezy’s to £4000 collaborative jumpers by Louis Vuitton and Supreme, Balenciaga bags, Off-White belts, Goyard phone cases and Gucci rings.

“We are living in an age of heavy streetwear trends, where people are more invested in ideas of personifying false representations of themselves, submitting themselves to timely brands in the direction of the streetwear culture.”

Controversially, streetwear is a wash of kids jumping on the bandwagon, “The hype for my generation is looking at the major influencers and wanting to be like them, more specifically certain musicians [read A$AP Rocky] and social media personalities. The influence of being able to flex [show off] on everyone by just posting on social media drives up hype, when we’re trying to make ourselves look the best for the world to see,” said Timi Babafemi, 17, from Kent.

Streetwear kids acknowledge the unpopular opinions surrounding the bandwagoning youth, as Josh Allen, 17, said, “Some kids tarnish streetwear, you’ve got kids who are spending mummy and daddy’s money on the most ill-suiting outfits, with no thoughts into styling or coordination.”

Duncan McGuire, 15, from Toronto, adds: “Streetwear culture was richer in 2016 and 2017 before the mass knowledge of Box Logos in December, but now it’s more of a clusterfuck [as Barbara Kruger once said of Supreme] where kids either try to gain clout or resellers try to make a buck.”

Barbara Kruger
Barbara Kruger’s response to the Supreme New York lawsuit.

“Some people feel more superior because they have clothes that others can’t get. It’s more a bragging game to some rather than an interest”

Reselling is a global business in the streetwear community. Because of the exclusivity and demand, £42 t-shirts can returns hundreds, if not thousands of pounds overnight. From Hypebeast to Buzzfeed, countless articles have been written on the multimillion-pound global industry of reselling. Their protagonists? Kids.

McGuire added: “I’ve probably collectively bought tens of thousands worth of sneakers and streetwear, but in the long run most of my purchases have turned a profit – not even including the ones I get at retail – random Supreme Box Logos and The North Face jackets I can sell to kids for much more than I paid for them.”

As much as streetwear is big business, it is also an image and a culture. Phrases fly around such as “it’s more of a lifestyle”, but others see it as a competitive bragging match between one Hypebeast and another.

“Some people feel more superior because they have clothes that others can’t get. It’s more a bragging game to some rather than an interest,” said Baillie McCrindle, 16, from Scotland. He added, “Wear something because you like the style or look, not to look better than someone.”

“There was always this sort of one-upmanship going on… In the 90s, the whole hip-hop thing meant people had to dress really, really on point, and everyone never wore what the other person wore.”

However, the streetwear scene is not completely controlled by non-street kids. The London DJ Kish Kash, a sneakerhead with thousands of kicks, has an extensive knowledge and appreciation for the humble beginnings of the streetwear and skate brands that are more popular today than ever.  

Kish Kash
Find Kish Kash on Instagram @KishKash1

Kish’s eclectic street-inspired look harks back to buying Waffle trousers from the market and scouring London for hidden gems. “There’s a lot more money being thrown around at their age than there was at mine,” says Kish, “The idea of buying something to get a snapshot of you wearing it, never popping the tags and then flipping it, then buying something else, on the way retaining a few bits… that’s the difference.”

“There was always this sort of one-upmanship going on,” said Kish. “In the 90s, the whole hip-hop thing meant people had to dress really, really on point, and everyone never wore what the other person wore. You always had to have an individual style.”

“You can just tell when somebody measures their cool with what’s trending on Instagram, and when a somebody simply dresses for themselves.”

Today, streetwear is less about individual style and more about what you wear at face value of branding, rarity and its price point, inevitably setting you apart from the rest – but not in the way the streetwear culture asked you to back in the 90s. Max Album, 16, from New York, said: “I feel like streetwear at one point was a cohesive culture, but now it’s devolved into a sort of poser fest.”

Kish argues that “a lot of people just wear it and they look terrible, they haven’t thought about it, they haven’t put anything to it, they’ve just got a load of money and they’ve gone ‘that’s the cool brand, that’s the hype piece, I’m putting it with this piece, boom,’ it’s all hype, hype, hype. But at the end of the day what have you got there, what is the ethos behind it?”

Within the streetwear community, there is an understanding that attitude is as important as style, in the sense of how you carry yourself, wearing the clothes and not letting the clothes wear you.

Yeezy Season brand influencer Theodore Chambers, 26, is at the forefront of London’s Hypebeast scene. Theodore says: “You can just tell when somebody measures their cool with what’s trending on Instagram, and when a somebody simply dresses for themselves.

Theodore Chambers, wearing Guess Jeans x A$AP Rocky Denim Jacket, Sweater and his own chains.
Theodore Chambers, wearing Guess Jeans x A$AP Rocky Denim Jacket, Sweater and his own chains.

“We are living in an age of heavy streetwear trends, where people are more invested in ideas of personifying false representations of themselves, submitting themselves to timely brands in the direction of the streetwear culture.”

There is a consensus that the meaning of streetwear has been Chinese whispered in a mist of hype, diluting its message. Kish argued “a lot of people who are into streetwear aren’t from the street, it’s a bit ironic,” later adding, “if anything is growing then the middle-classes have to get involved.”

And perhaps that is why major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga joined the streetwear scene, along with high-end street brands such as Vetements, Raf Simons and Gosha Rubchinskiy, all adopted by pre-teens who look up to influencers and celebrities who will do whatever it takes to be up on the latest Instagrammable trends.

Eric Brain

Eric Brain is a menswear journalist from London. He currently studies at Kingston University and has previously worked for Esquire Magazine, Hearst LIVE, JUNGLE Magazine, Sabotage Times and more. To contact Eric, email him at ericb96@hotmail.co.uk.

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