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Streetwear Culture: The Evolution of Urban Fashion

Streetwear is a cultural phenomenon that has evolved over the years, continuing to dominate mainstream fashion and be one of the most popular fashion trends in the world. The combination of style and comfort is what has encapsulated the market for so long and it will likely stay at the peak of the market for many years to come.


The growth of streetwear began in the 1980s with logo printed t-shirts starting to rise in popularity. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that streetwear really started to skyrocket in the market and become mainstream. This coincided with the popularity of hip-hop during this time, as they adopted streetwear as their look. Graphic t-shirts, loose-fitting jeans, tracksuits and sneakers became a staple of hip-hop and started a streetwear revolution across the globe.


With that being said, we will look at streetwear culture as a whole and how urban fashion has adapted over the years to stay relevant. We will also look at how embracing urban fashion can make you instantly look more fashionable.


Definition and Evolution of Urban Fashion

Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, streetwear and urban fashion were more than just style as it was a way to rebel and voice distinctiveness. Various subcultures have influenced this rise of streetwear with hip-hop, punk and skateboard culture all playing their part throughout the years. It has been an eye-catching fashion trend that blends both high and low fashion. The constant evolution of urban fashion shows how versatile it is and how it can be adapted to any time period.


Over the past couple of decades, streetwear has transcended subcultural roots to become mainstream worldwide. It has reshaped the fashion industry, with more brands looking to jump on the bandwagon and stock streetwear options.


There are so many different clothing items that can now be labeled as street fashion, as it refuses to be compartmentalized. This means that the possibilities are endless as to what urban fashion can become and adapt to.

Cultural Phenomenon

Streetwear’s journey from the streets to high-end fashion truly demonstrates the cultural impact and how much of a phenomenon it has become. Wearing clothing such as tracksuits, baggy trousers and caps was once seen to be solely of urban culture. However, it is now worn by everyone, even millionaires who prefer comfortable clothing over aesthetically pleasing suits. This has led to many celebrities and influencers rethinking their wardrobe.


Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Balenciaga have collaborated with streetwear labels as they begin to blend streetwear and luxury wear. This has evolved further by having streetwear featured on mainstream runway shows, which has blurred the lines on streetwear  still considered to be urban fashion or if it has shifted to high street fashion. 


This shows just how much streetwear has become a cultural phenomenon, as every culture and brand has adopted streetwear due to its evolutionary capabilities.

Modern Fashion Influence

Today, streetwear and urban fashion are at the forefront of the industry, as it continues to influence designers, brands and consumers. It has managed to evolve while still staying true to its humble beginnings, which makes it key to why it’s so appealing to the modern generation. It has proven that anything can happen in the fashion industry and it shows that any trend could turn into the next fashion mainstream.


Gen Z has become a big advocate of the rise of streetwear. They have managed to mix classic streetwear with a more modern and luxurious style of streetwear. It has embraced the evolution of full streetwear, such as men’s full tracksuit options, rather than combining small streetwear elements with other non-urban fashion pieces.

The Resurgence of Vintage Clothing

Vintage clothing has taken the fashion industry by storm over the past half-decade. This has taken streetwear to a whole new level, as Gen Z shoppers in particular are opting for classic takes on urban fashion to maintain an edgy and retro appearance. The nostalgia factor is definitely at play in this trend, but it goes to show how impactful streetwear has been culturally throughout the years that it is still inspiring people to dress a certain way.


Unique and bold designs have come back into the mainstream recently with the vintage wave, which is what made streetwear so popular in the 1980s and 1990s. This increased demand has only pushed streetwear further up the fashion food chain with more brands now creating vintage lines to create streetwear that looks as though it would be from years gone by.


For example, Primark has recently included their own vintage section in some of their stores, which is unique for a fast-fashion-orientated business.

Rise of Branded Streetwear

There has been a slew of brands that initially formed around skate and streetwear that have taken off since their founding. This was likely due to their distinct aesthetic that was different from other retailers in their area. 


A prime example of this is Supreme, which initially started as a skate shop in New York City but has evolved into a juggernaut due to collaborations with high-end brands like Louis Vuitton. This has combined both the worlds of streetwear and luxury fashion worlds.


Although these brands have surpassed the streetwear-exclusive culture, they mostly still remain culturally relevant to their roots but with the addition of mainstream appeal. Off-White, BAPE and Stüssy are examples of other brands that have done something similar to Supreme, but all are now more associated with the hype beast trend rather than streetwear. However, at their core, they do remain in the streetwear bracket.

Future of Streetwear

Streetwear will likely continue to evolve along the continuum of art, music and fashion culture to further transform the industry. At the same time, we expect streetwear to further embrace sustainability, digital influence and a return to urban fashion roots.


In the next few years, streetwear can be made into a vehicle for social change. It could be a platform for raising awareness, driving conversation and inspiring action if worn in a certain way. Just like the 1990s wore streetwear as a token of rebellion, it could be used similarly in today’s world.


Streetwear manages to have the ability to always bounce back into fashion and adapt to different eras. The incorporation of more streetwear in the mainstream and high-street stores should ensure that it remains at the focal front of fashion and increases in market size as the years progress. No matter whether it stays in fashion or not, it will continue to be associated with its hip-hop origin and remain a cultural phenomenon in the world of fashion.

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