Once upon a time, streetwear was a type of fashion attire that was seen as far removed from luxury, but today, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As some of the world’s leading fashion houses – from Gucci to Prada – look to appeal to a younger generation of shoppers with more disposable income to spend, embracing this popular style and concept has perhaps been inevitable.
Starting life as a decidedly urban trend alluded to by a pair of stylish trainers or a chunky chain necklace, streetwear has come a long way since its early days, when the term itself had yet to be coined. By definition, it refers to ‘casual clothing of a style worn especially by members of various urban youth subcultures’ – but gone are the days when that meant tracksuit bottoms and beanie hats, and today, it can just as easily apply to an expensive designer handbag.
The streetwear model has, by all accounts, subverted the traditional fashion system and today, it’s associated with exclusivity above all else. While not all streetwear is considered to be ‘luxury’, the trend is continuing to gather momentum amongst a high-end market, as increasingly being seen as a cultural status symbol that Generations Y and Z just can’t seem to get enough of.
While exclusivity is usually something associated with expensive items that not everyone can afford, streetwear has gone about this in a different way. In its early days, few people knew how or where to find the coolest threads, and it was this that sparked the initial demand. For those for whom style is intrinsic and dressing well is important, laying their hands on unique attire has always been one of the biggest thrills, and the sense of individuality it has long afforded wearers has been a huge part of its appeal. Now that it has gone more mainstream, luxury designer fashion houses have seen a window of opportunity, pouncing with high-priced, unique and exclusive garments and accessories that have meant they still aren’t available to just anyone.
Today, streetwear remains an alternative choice to wider fashion trends, and continues to draw influences from skate, surf and hip hop subcultures. Once upon a time, casual attire would never have been seen as exclusive or luxurious, but today, this perception has been well and truly turned on its head.
Men, in particular, have been entranced by the arrival of streetwear onto the fashion scene, and have followed its rise with interest. As a demographic that, for years, felt excluded from the latest fashion trends and drew little inspiration from luxury fashion houses, streetwear is a concept many finally feel they can connect with. In 2022, men are taking more interest in the way they dress than ever before, as we continue to break down boundaries and eliminate the stigma associated with doing so, and streetwear has played a pivotal role in the process.
For many, the appeal of streetwear goes beyond exclusivity alone, and to the contrary, offers a sense of belonging. The almost cult-like relationship between wearers, as well as between brands and consumers, is something that is looked upon with great interest, and is a code that major high-street stores could likely never hope to crack.
But for underground and luxury streetwear brands alike, it has proved to be their key to success in engaging the younger generations. Fat Buddha Store – one of the most popular men’s streetwear stores – has reported a dramatic surge in the number of people following its social media accounts and perusing its stores over recent years, and it’s easy to see why.
Perhaps one of the most interesting trends to emerge within the streetwear sphere is the realisation amongst buyers that purchasing exclusive, luxury pieces is a savvy investment for the future. Now, not everyone is splurging on the latest trainers and jackets because they want to look good, but because they’ve spotted an opportunity, and with the most coveted streetwear pieces remaining in limited supply and difficult to lay hands on, resell prices have been driven skywards.
As leading brands continue to capitalise on influencer marketing and collaborate with celebrities in a bid to up-level their status and covetability even further, it seems that streetwear’s place in the fashion world has been cemented. And mainstream brands and traditional luxury fashion houses could learn a lot from some of the biggest urban brands on the block, who have proved that they know exactly how to appeal to the younger consumer while others continue to struggle to adapt.