In the Summer of 2016, I was in Frisco, Texas waiting in line for Kanye West merchandise. I was the 543rd buyer at Mr. West’s “The Life of Pablo” pop-up store hosted by Stonebriar Center, and I was stoked. The woman in front of me took a road trip from Houston to get her hands on the Dallas-exclusive military green apparel. Everyone in line felt like Pablo.
As streetwear culture has steadily made its way into the mainstream, feeding off the popularity of hip hop and R&B music and a social-media obsessed youth, more and more consumers are falling into the trap of fast fashion. It’s time to address this problem: streetwear brands are not worth their current price points.
Taking off from the internet, hip hop and skateboard culture, streetwear has since found a loyal crowd in other groups such as young rich white boys and millennials. Stemming from “sneakerheads” in the late 90s and early 2000s, the streetwear culture witnessed its evolution as sneaker enthusiast Kevin Ma created Hypebeast, a website that started out by simply documenting the newest sneaker releases. The website has since gained popularity and streetwear enthusiasts now deem themselves “Hypebeasts.” Ironically, the name rings true. As the price of streetwear becomes increasingly and ridiculously high, its proponents are indeed unthinking “beasts” who are chasing after the hype instead of real quality and design.
I eventually left the Kanye line for Pacsun, and I overheard the conversation of two guys my age standing behind me at the checkout line. “What’s your Supreme collection?” “I own a few shirts, I need to buy more.” Think: If the guy really knows what he’s talking about, then his response would be so much more than ‘I own a few shirts’, it should at least include which season or collection those shirts came from. The truth is, he epitomizes the majority of Hypebeasts mindsets that scream nothing but hype and buy.
Streetwear nowadays is driven by the hype. Brands like Anti Social Social Club still sells out in minutes every time they restock although the entire brand only uses one design: their logo. This sort of effort-lacking design in streetwear is not new (think FUBU in the 90s), but it’s been significantly amplified through the internet. Let’s admit it, hype is just a boatload of peer pressure, of which a boatload of it is delivered through social media. Popularized by celebrities and fashion bloggers, streetwear is just another way to buy yourself into the cool kids.
Looking like a cookie cutter doesn’t instantly make you “fashion goals.” Style is not so easy to buy. Fashion is not about what you wear, but how you wear it, it’s about fitting different pieces of clothing together like puzzles and creating a collective outfit. Streetwear becomes a problem because the need to show off single ‘what you’re wearing’ doesn’t quite give anyone creative room for anything else. Trust me, you can replace your overpriced logo shirt, sweatshirt and hat for a few dollars’ worth of deliberately thrifted pieces that will not only get your more compliments but also better test and showcase your styling efforts.
Speaking from experience, streetwear leaves little styling fun for the common consumer. Although I didn’t end up with any Pablo shirts, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have gotten any more kicks out of it than the guy’s simple “I own a few shirts.” I would have soon realized that they’re are awfully inflexible in terms of styling. For example, it is painfully hard to layer with streetwear because layering defeats the purpose of flashy back designs or any logo on the front. Often your styling options boil down to only include the bottom half, and you can only wear them so many times before your friends start to joke that you always wear the same shirt.
Even so, today’s young generations will still cash in on streetwear for one last reason: the name. How rich must you be with a closet full of the latest collections of Stussy, Supreme and every piece of clothing from Anti Social Social Club? How dedicated to Kanye West must you be to own his exclusive Pablo merchandise? I mean, with all of that, you must be a cool gal, right? Please, please, please, satisfy your own inflated ego in another way and don’t use overpriced clothing to boast your wealth and reiterate your superficiality. The real tasteful ones will look at you with disdain and the rest of us will roll our eyes at you.
So let’s break it down: What are you really buying with your money when you cash in on streetwear?
- A cookie cutter style
- A chance to advertise your shallowness
- A broken promise of “popularity”
- An empty wallet
Photo and Story by Michelle Chen – Asst. Web Editor