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A man wearing streetwear in London

Streetwear is a style of casual clothing which became global in the 1990s.[1] It grew from New York hip hop fashion and Californian surf culture to encompass elements of sportswear, punk, skateboarding and Japanese street fashion. Eventually haute couture became an influence.[2] It commonly centers on "casual, comfortable pieces such as jeans, T-shirts, baseball caps, and sneakers", and exclusivity through intentional product scarcity.[3] Enthusiasts follow particular brands and try to obtain limited edition releases.[4][5]


Streetwear style is generally accepted to have been born out of the New York City hip hop culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s, with elements of Los Angeles surf culture.[6]

Early streetwear in the 1970s and 1980s also took inspiration from hip hop, the do-it-yourself aesthetic of punk, Japanese street fashion, new wave, heavy metal, and co-opting established legacy sportswear and workwear fashion brands such as Schott NYC, Dr. Martens, Kangol, Fila and Adidas.

In the late 1980s, 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.[7][8][9] Then as sales peaked, Stüssy moved into exclusive sales to create product scarcity, which firmed up the ultimate baseline definition of streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity."[3]

In the early 1990s, burgeoning record labels associated with popular hip hop acts like Tommy Boy Records, Def Jam Recordings, and Delicious Vinyl began selling branded merchandise embroidered onto letterman jackets and workwear jackets made by companies like Carhartt.[10]

In the mid to late 90s, influences included skateboarding and gangsta rap. Professional American sports franchises having a significant impact on the scene, especially the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Raiders and Chicago Bulls caps and jackets, with their production of oversized team jerseys, as well as boots from The Timberland Company and the latest shoe design releases from Nike, Inc.

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.

In the 2000s, the advent of "bling" culture saw established luxury brands make inroads into the market, with Burberry, Gucci and Fendi making appearances in hip hop videos and films. The most popular shoe of the era was the Nike Air Force 1, immortalized in the song by Nelly,[11] then the fashion clothing manufacturers began to follow the streetwear companies co-opting the idea of very limited edition capsule collections, now known as "drops", using social media and product scarcity as marketing tools.[12]

In the 2010s, some streetwear brands were now coveted as much as the most historically elite fashion brands. Complex Magazine named Stüssy, Supreme, and A Bathing Ape as the top streetwear brands,[3] and many went on to collaborate on prized high fashion capsule collections such as Supreme x Louis Vuitton, Fila x Fendi, A Bathing Ape x Commes des Garcons, and Stussy x Dior.[13]

Timberland boots are an everyday shoe in streetwear.

Contemporary streetwear has an increasing influence on haute couture, and has itself been influenced by runway shows. Designers such as Raf Simons have had a large impact on the evolution of streetwear through their influence on hip hop and popular culture.[14] Other designers such as Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Vetements and Balenciaga, championed trends such as the chunky sneaker[15] and oversized hoodie.[16]

Alexander Wang developed "luxury sportswear" in his eponymous brand.

Streetwear is one of the most inclusive styles in fashion as it is gender neutral and is often made by people of many different ethnicities and backgrounds. [17]

Hypebeast culture[edit]

"Hypebeast" (occasionally "hype beast") culture is a colloquial term that at first was considered a derogatory term until the Hong Kong journalist and businessman Kevin Ma[18] reappropriated it to be used as the name of his fashion blog, Hypebeast.[19] Even after Ma's fashion blog expanded to a world-famous website, hypebeast still had some negative connotation in the US: namely a lack of authenticity and an interest only in following existing trends.[20] In the UK, hypebeast is a pejorative for a hipster who appropriates designer streetwear and buys only the latest releases, in an ironic imitation of mainstream celebrities like Kanye West.[21] Even though many people will refer to themselves as hypebeasts, taking it as a term of endearment (much like the evolution of the term otaku in Japanese popular culture) others still respond to the negative connotation.[22]

With a growing trend of prominent brand names and logos on clothing, there has been a development of "hypebeast culture" connected to streetwear as of the mid-2000s. Hypebeasts are defined as buying clothes and accessories to impress others.[23] This trend is inspired by a 1990s fashion for clothing covered in brand names and logos.[24] Hypebeasts usually wear a variety of name brands at once to boast their affluence and display popular trends. Another negative component of "hypebeasts culture" is the link to resellers. Resellers will purchase an upcoming trending sneaker to resell it at a higher asking price later.[25] The resale market and hypebeasts can profit from brands by purchasing them for the trend rather than their cultural significance.[25]

Sneaker culture[edit]

Sneakers have been a part of streetwear since the late 1970s.[26] By the late 1980s, sneaker collecting had become a major part of the streetwear subculture, due in large part to the signature shoes of basketballer Michael Jordan.[27] Although styles of shoes have changed, the link between sneaker culture and streetwear remains strong. The sneaker market is approximately valued at $79 billion USD in 2020 and is predicted to reach $120 billion by 2026.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laux, Cameron (9 January 2019). "Who decides what is cool?". BBC designed. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  2. ^ Yotka, Steff (12 January 2019). "Think Streetwear Is a New Phenomenon? Meet Luca Benini, Who Started the Hype 30 Years Ago". Vogue. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Hundreds, Bobby (21 June 2011). "50 Greatest Streetwear Brands of All Time". Complex Magazine.
  4. ^ Baggs, Michael (10 December 2018). "Rental fashion: How luxury streetwear is changing the industry". BBC Newsbeat. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  5. ^ "What is Street Wear?". Wisegeek.
  6. ^ "How Hip-Hop Left a Lasting Influence on Streetwear & Fashion". Highsnobiety. 2 October 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  7. ^ Sande, Steve (6 November 2005). "Street Threads". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  8. ^ "Style: Where Surf Meets Rap". Time. 11 February 1991. Archived from the original on 16 February 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  9. ^ Breinholt, Jacob (5 August 2009). "Throwback Comeback: Stussy". SoJones. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  10. ^ The Carhartt Jacket by Michel Marriott, 29 November 1992.
  11. ^ Warnett, Gary (25 January 2017). "The Forgotten History of the White on White Air Force 1, Nike's Perfect Sneaker". Complex. Retrieved 31 January 2019.
  12. ^ Fowler, Damian (5 February 2018). "The hype machine: Streetwear and the business of scarcity". BBC Capital. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  13. ^ Dior x Stussy Fall 2020 by Jonathan Sawyer, Highsnobiety, 4 December 2019.
  14. ^ Coretti, Valerio (1 June 2017). "Why is streetwear obsessed with Raf Simons?". nss magazine.
  15. ^ Caramanica, Jon (25 July 2018). "My 8-Month Search for $900 Sneakers". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Fumo, Nicola (2 March 2016). "What Is Vetements and Why Is Everyone Freaking Out?". Racked.
  17. ^ "What is Streetwear? The 411 on Fashion's Biggest Buzzword".
  18. ^ Kevin Ma Forbes.
  19. ^ Bain, Marc. "Streetwear is what happens to fashion when consumers start dictating the terms". Quartzy. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  20. ^ Weissburg, Josie. "Hypebeast Culture". The Register Forum. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  21. ^ Hipster hypebeast Vice.
  22. ^ "The Evolution of the Hypebeast: An Illustrated Guide". Complex. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  23. ^ "All Your Questios About Hypebeasts, Answered". Bustle. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  24. ^ Groce, Nia (15 March 2018). "Will the '90s Logo Trend Last? Here's What the Experts Have to Say". Footwear News. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  25. ^ a b Le, Nicholas (11 October 2018). "Streetwear resale culture on rise, becomes source of profit for students". The Campanile. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  26. ^ Matthews, Delisia; Cryer-Coupet, Qiana; Degirmencioglu, Nimet (5 January 2021). "I wear, therefore I am: investigating sneakerhead culture, social identity, and brand preference among men". Fashion and Textiles. 8 (1). doi:10.1186/s40691-020-00228-3. ISSN 2198-0802.
  27. ^ Denny, Iain (17 March 2020). "The sneaker – marketplace icon". Consumption Markets & Culture. 24 (5): 456–467. doi:10.1080/10253866.2020.1741357. ISSN 1025-3866.
  28. ^ Braithwaite, Naomi (17 May 2021). "The history of sneakers: from commodity to cultural icon". The Conversation. Retrieved 7 March 2022.