Jade and Malia Haakonsen, 17-year-old entrepreneurs, created Ethereal Tendencies, a clothing business inspiring deep thought in the next generation. (Photo courtesy of Jade Haakonsen)
Oaks Christian High School

Opinion: The societal impacts of streetwear

Ever heard of the brands Supreme, Off-White and Anti Social Social Club? How about Bape, Nike and Stüssy? Despite their luxurious appeal, what truly makes these brands so popular? Their branch of clothing relates to the youth as it embraces a stylistic, streetwear fit for all to represent. Micro Macro Magazine describes streetwear as casual attire generally worn by an urban or skate audience. Most people overlook the impacts it has on society. More than just a trend, streetwear holds a cultural meaning with historical background — which is necessary to learn about.


Streetwear’s History

According to an article from Who What Wear in 2017, the idea of a trending fashion brand dates back to Los Angeles in the 1980s, making it around 40 years old in the fashion world. Shawn Stüssy started out manufacturing surfboards and soon used his iconic logo to make apparel — shirts, caps and shorts. This clothing brand has since been marked as the beginning of traditional, modern streetwear. With a vintage edge and dark design, it began to skyrocket in popularity among hip-hop, skater, and surfer audiences.

As the 1990s progressed in America, vintage apparel and hip hop were a major part of the culture. It soon fled to the rest of the globe as a Japanese clothing company started in 1993 known as A Bathing Ape. Additionally, New York’s streets opened the first Supreme store in 1994. Flash forward to 2007 and today and we have Kanye West’s Yeezy brand and collaborations with athletic companies.

A streetwear impact report from Hypebeast Limited reflects that 54% of consumers spend $100-$500 on streetwear each month, whereas 18% spend over $500.

Streetwear has propelled into the hands of celebrities and influencers that spark the youth and younger generations to rep the same brands. It adapts a “drop schedule” that keeps the customers on edge. Specific clothing brands have been able to gain a massive following and sell out within the same day as a result of finite production and limited items. With limited edition pop-up stores and products, brands have become a priority in the streetwear community, forming a new branch of hypebeasts and faithful customers.


Societal Impacts

Streetwear psychologically induces conformity. It increases the need to belong to the certain subgroup that wears the expensive brand for validation and praise. However, streetwear and sneakers do not have to be costly. They can range from clothing that allows for self-expression to shirts that evoke deeper meaning. My perspective is that streetwear is defined by the way it affects the user and other people. When one dons a bright neon shirt or a crewneck with thought-provoking quotes, society starts to reflect and ruminate on these ideas as they pertain to the bigger picture of life.

What stands out about streetwear is its ability to unify a group under a common purpose, meaning, goal, or message. It stands as a public proclamation that we belong to the values and fellow customers of the brand. Brands have successfully stayed relevant as a result of this common goal, as Quartz Media notes. Diverging from the regular mall shops or department stores, unique brands like these use iconic designs and inspirational words that begin a subconscious movement.


Future of Streetwear

Like many things in the universe, all good things come to an end. Or do they? Streetwear continues to evolve and shape the next generation’s likes, dislikes, styles, and outlooks. When looking at the trends from years ago, we often believe they were not as cool as today. But that is the beauty of streetwear.

With the wonders of the future ahead, fashion can move in such diverse directions. Will the oversized hoodie and word “Supreme” hold the same meaning 10 years from today? Perhaps. One thing that will remain is the indelible feelings and beliefs these brands represent. As more streetwear brands emerge, it becomes a way for many artists and entrepreneurs to express their inner thoughts to the world. The fashion revolution since the birth of streetwear in the 1980s seems to only keep growing. As I look for ways to permeate my own brand, Ethereal Tendencies, with deep thought and hype styles, I stand excited to see how it will unfold in the next era of the fashion world.