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Streetwear is a style of street fashion rooted in Californian surf and skate culture. It has grown to encompass elements of hip hop fashion, Japanese street fashion, and modern haute couture fashion. In 2011 Complex Magazine named Stüssy, Supreme and A Bathing Ape as the top streetwear brands.[1]


Streetwear commonly centers on "casual, comfortable pieces such as jeans, t-shirts, baseball caps, and sneakers".[1]

The movement is generally accepted to have been born out of the Los Angeles surf culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brands included BlauGrun, Ocean Pacific, Hobie, Off Shore, Gotcha and Life's a Beach. Local surfboard designer Shawn Stussy began selling printed T-shirts featuring the same trademark signature he placed on his custom surfboards. Initially selling the items from his own car, Stussy expanded sales to boutiques once popularity increased.[2][3][4]

Stüssy's move into exclusive sales firmed up the baseline definition of streetwear: taking "a multi-faceted, subculturally diverse, Southern California lifestyle-based T-shirt brand and [mimicking] the limited feel of a high-end luxury brand....those are the two most integral components of what makes a brand streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity."[5]

Early streetwear brands took inspiration from the DIY aesthetic of punk, new wave, heavy metal and later hip hop cultures. Established sportswear and fashion brands attached themselves to the emerging early 1980s hip hop scene such as Kangol and Adidas.

Nike's capture of soon-to-be basketball superstar Michael Jordan from rival Adidas in 1984 proved to be a huge turning point, as Nike dominated the urban streetwear sneaker market in the late 80's and early 90's.[citation needed] Other clothing brands such as Champion, Carhartt and Timberland were very closely associated with the scene, particularly on the East coast with hip hop acts such as Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep sporting the look.[citation needed]

The mid to late 90's saw the professional American sports franchises have a huge impact on the look of the scene, from the Los Angeles Raiders and Chicago Bulls caps and jackets in the early to the oversized team jerseys.

With the advent of "bling" culture, the turn of the century saw an increase in established luxury brands beginning to make in roads into the market such as Burberry, Gucci and Fendi all making appearances in hip hop videos and films. The most popular shoe of the era was the Nike Air Force One, immortalized in the song by Nelly.[citation needed]

Brand launches by the chief executives of record companies followed, with Russell Simmons of Def Jam launching his Phat Farm label, Sean Combs of Bad Boy with Sean John, and Jay-Z and Damon Dash of Roc-a-Fella Records launching Rocawear. Rap superstar 50 Cent a few years later launched his G-Unit clothing label, with the sneaker rights given to Reebok.

During the early 2000’s, enthusiasts and especially collectors of streetwear aswell as sneakers began being labelled as ‘Hypebeasts’. This term originated as a derogatory term for materialistic, obnoxious youth who were often very competitive within the streetwear community. Kevin Ma founded the website in 2005 based off of this term. Awareness for hypebeasts grew heavily during the 2010’s after streetwear brands became very trendy to the general public.


Timberland boots are a common shoe in streetwear

Sportswear fashion is a fashion trend which mixes the high and low, formal and active style in one look. They emphasize being casual and comfortable. Contemporary people can go directly from gym to shopping, without a change of their looks. Sporty outfits have transformed into street style, they no longer just emphasize on the garment’s functionality. Instead, the trend has an increasing diversified style, which may allow people to dress trendily even in sportswear. Common sportswear worn in contemporary street styles are like hoodies, bomber jackets, tennis-style skirts, luxe track pants, leggings, and sneakers, etc. Sportswear in trend can be seen as revival from the 1990s hip-hop fashion, which also contain elements such as the bomber jacket and baseball cap.

Contemporary streetwear is usually influenced by the generic sporty twists and sleek athletic lines. In earlier stages of sportswear fashion, femininity was usually expressed with the lines becoming cleaner, and silhouettes becoming minimal. Later, bold volumes in sportswear started to develop, hi-tech fabrics and old-school approaches were used in styling. In general, relaxed silhouettes, clean shapes, little embellishments, and an overall sophisticated feel would be observed in the looks of the trend.

Luxury sportswear[edit]

Alexander Wang developed “luxury sportswear” in his eponymous brand

The decline of formal wear led to the rise of streetwear fashion. High-end and luxury brands are starting to develop “luxury sportswear”, for example Alexander Wang, Gucci, and DKNY. Among this type of “luxury sportswear”, luxe fabrics were used to produce their sportswear fashion for a high contrast on the sporty silhouette. Fabrics like silk organza, washed satin, leather, neoprene, and wool crepe were used to produce the “luxury sportswear”. These types of fabrics may help experiment a garment with texture, and may assist in capturing a modern-sports spirit of the season. Details of the designs in “luxury sportswear” looks are pulled directly from actual active wear. The two words, “luxury” and “minimalism” were first used together for sportswear in fashion, to interpret a fresh sports look which is sleek and clean, but bearing recognizable athletic influences. Common mix-and-match combination of “luxury sportswear” on streetwear are track pants under basketball shorts, with bold patterns and sumptuous fabrics for men; And light colored pencil skirts, with bomber jackets and sleek tops, which is cut in satin or tweed for women.

Seasonal sportswear[edit]

Sportswear in streetwear designs also change according to season. For example, with the drop of temperature, sports silhouette tends to turn slouchier, volumes become more exaggerated. Solid fabrics such as fur, velvet, wool and leather would become predominant, and quilted detailing on windbreakers, sporty skirts and vests may sometimes be seen in winter. Typical winter look can be voluminous sweatshirt with satin boxer shorts, or a brocade bomber worn on top of a laid-back dress featuring mesh detailing. In contrast, sportswear in summer usually look more light-weighted and simple. The summer look can be a combination of easy crop tops, sleek dresses and gym-shorts.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bobby Hundreds' 50 Greatest Streetwear Brands of All Time Complex Magazine June 21, 2011
  2. ^ Sande, Steve (2005-11-06). "Street Threads". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  3. ^ "Style: Where Surf Meets Rap". Time. 1991-02-11. Retrieved 2009-09-10.
  4. ^ Breinholt, Jacob (2009-08-05). "Throwback Comeback: Stussy". SoJones. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  5. ^ Hundreds, Bobby (2011-06-21). "The 50 Greatest Streetwear Brands". Complex. Retrieved 2013-02-02.

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