90’s pop culture inspired new waves of style by blending different genres: multi-colored jeans and neon windbreakers are iconic moments in style history. Tupac redeemed the bandana, Kurt Cobain refused to buy a new pair of unripped jeans, overalls made an epic comeback, and denim on denim went from Halloween costumes to runways of some of the biggest events in fashion. Logos took over, in ads and on apparel—and people started to associate themselves with certain brands. Those associations quickly became their own subcultures; the brands you chose and identified with defined who you were in society.
Today’s street culture is largely defined by two categories. The “hypebeast”; a person who follows trends in fashion that are “hyped up,” usually streetwear and sneakers, with the purpose of making a social statement. And the “sneakerhead,” one who is knowledgeable of all shoes and often collects many pairs. These two together make up the modern street fashionista, one who is devoted to their brand, while understanding the history and story of what they wear. But what is streetwear exactly? No two people agree on what streetwear looks like, who is responsible for it, and where it came from; it’s a culture more than a product. Despite a rise in logos, this culture represents the lack of being tied to a specific style. It’s about the expression, hustle and independence of the artists behind the clothes.
When you hear of hype clothing and streetwear, some names require more space on the list: Supreme, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. There are hundreds of brands that don’t share the global spotlight, but are still similar and have their own fame like Calvin Klein or Michael Kors. Driven by social media, the fan base for most hyped clothing starts with someone seeing their favorite social media influencer wearing the latest drop and deciding they must have it too. The brand’s influence grows when it’s seen draped on top fashion influencers, musicians, and movie stars, all helping secure its position amongst the pantheon of elite designers.
In January of 2017, the internet raved over the confirmed rumors of a collaboration between Louis Vuitton, the world’s most valuable luxury brand, and the streetwear company Supreme. The collaboration presented Louis Vuitton with an opportunity to stay relevant, particularly among millennials—the demographic with which every brand is consistently hoping to find favor. With this in mind, it seemed that Louis Vuitton had identified a potential goldmine in its collaboration. A lot of people get excited by collabs not just for representing their favorite brand, but for the “limited” factor of the product. Even if they don’t like the item personally, people buy them based on the fact that there aren’t a lot of it out on the market.
This definition of hype clothing seems almost unfair to one’s personal idea of it. “People will say a shoe is trash, when it’s not in my opinion, and to each their own. You should buy what you like, what you want to wear,” says Franklin teacher and sneakerhead Rachael Draper. “Now, people want to be a sneakerhead to say they have all these brands but they don’t wear them or they’re just out there reselling, which I kinda think moves a little bit away from the initial intent of sneaker culture.” Before the rise in hype, one would buy a shoe because they liked the style and whose name was on it, for example Michael Jordan. The intent was to collect and wear the shoe, not to make a profit. Intense collectors of shoe sets are a rare find today but are still out there, keeping sneaker history alive.
“Fakes have always been around, I wouldn’t say they’re anything new. There were fakes of Jordans back in the 80’s or knock offs of the shoes,” says Draper. “But I think now people are trying to profit like big amounts of money on fakes.” If you’re not buying your shoes directly from Nike or Champs or Footlocker, you have to be careful about if you’re getting the real product. There are stores like Index PDX in downtown that will do a legitimate check on any shoe you bring in. They will likely have the same pair and have a trained person on that type of shoe, compare the shoes and determine whether they’re fake or not. “Even if you’re wearing a knockoff you’re still wanting to have what would be considered hype clothing so you’re still kinda feeding into that,” Draper concludes.
This age of fashion may be focused on representing your brand, but as we’ve seen from history, the next trend could be right around the corner. No matter what society pushes onto your personal agenda, wear what you like and don’t worry about the brand behind it.