It is not often that I write about such an unrefined subject, yet streetwear – a more casual alternative to menswear – fascinates me in a way no other trend-led topic does. Streetwear’s best feature is how it encourages personal style, indeed there is no other style than one created by one’s self. Streetwear’s roots can be traced back to the 1960s here in Britain and as far as the West Coast in the 1980s, but it is still a relevant style in its own right as has no pretences about what it is not, in fact that absence of something is exactly what it is. Shawn Stussy, considered the pioneer of streetwear for many, said in a 1992 interview with The New York Times, “Me and my friends don't put much money into clothes. We don't want to look like we're trying too hard, you know, to be garish and trendy.”
What I am focusing on in this article, is the new type of streetwear. Some might even say, the new type of menswear as this style is making waves across the oceans as it announces its arrival with a splash of foppishness, and a breeze of coolness. Streetwear is different to street style in the simple sense that street style represents what style we see on the streets. It is not influenced by high fashion – its nature is an amalgamation of popular art, music and politics. For example, in the infamous 60s, the evolution of ‘Mod,’ ‘Rocker’ and ‘Hippie’ were reactions to these components of society which developed all in one decade.
So what is streetwear and who came up with the term? Well you are not going to find a one-line dictionary definition if that is what you are expecting. There are those of the opinion that streetwear is simply a by-word for ‘one of the gang’ who finally felt they could channel their inner fashionisto, but away from the girly world of fashion with a more macho label. Conversely, those who are a part of the streetwear culture dismiss such a notion and believe it was a blanket term applied to an already existing ‘thing’ in an attempt for society to classify to put themselves at ease, as the unknown is far more terrifying.
I argue that the new streetwear is a combination of streetwear with its original connotations from new ideas in the 60s, and skaters in the 80s, to the recently burgeoning menswear whose focus on lasting quality and style means that the younger generation are combining the two with the latest unlined, soft-shouldered, DB jacket from Reiss and Limited Edition suede Nike Dunk High Tops. Browsing through the latest blogs, tumblrs and our very own street style edit, confirms this.
Considering the boundaries of all those definition are wider than Lords Cricket Ground, it is imperative to distinguish the differences between streetwear and menswear. Menswear according to Jian DeLeon “is driven by trends disguised as authenticity and classicism… its marketing disguised as realness”. Here, DeLeon drives at a very real point that many catwalk shows are directed towards editorials and represent another form of art that is to be held in awe at their ethereal beauty. This ties into DeLeon first descriptive about trends lacking realism, as it has become public knowledge that a number of menswear fashion houses reuse each other’s patterns like crazy. It would be a sweeping statement to say that menswear is becoming more and more predictable, but as the menswear game habitually looks to the past, it is the men on the street that could be the future of menswear.
Now I am not belittling the international shows, as I look forward to them as much as the next sartorial gent, but I am referencing the almost ignorant power streetwear has at its disposal on men’s fashion. Its organic nature gives it the opportunity to flourish into a hegemonic power, not dissimilar to the ostensive power media has over menswear, but without the obvious restrictions. And that is the beauty of something so outside the usual spheres of influence: it is constantly exposed to introspection.
There is so much opinion visually apparent on the street; there is a kinetic sense of frenzied motion, and its restless nature means that it is constantly evolving but in a totally disordered manner that can only be controlled by ones personal style. It is this self-awareness that keeps streetwear culture far more accessible than menswear, and thus holds a distinct fascination for many of us because it has such an impulsive nature, where personal taste dictates one’s uniform as they set out onto the street ready to take on the world.
If thought out with an affectation of meticulous nonchalance, a synthesis of menswear and streetwear is a peerless combination. With that in mind, I have come up with outfit ideas that hopefully all of you can take something from and be inspired to come up with your own spin on a streetwear outfit.
You’ll have noticed contradictions in the article; such was the internal debate I was having about two very important facets of twenty-first fashion. It is now time for you to get involved and tell me whether you think menswear in high fashion and streetwear can mix successfully and stylishly, or whether this conflicting fusion of style will, or perhaps has never materialised.