Streetwear, with its branded sneakers, baggy t-shirts, and ripped jeans, has become one of the most recognizable changes in fashion over the last decade. Since the early 2010s, the streetwear industry has gone from being smaller and somewhat radical to popular and even elite in many instances.
What is Streetwear?
Oxford Languages gives the definition of “streetwear” as “casual clothing of a style worn especially by members of various urban youth subcultures,” but it’s hard to completely define what makes an article of clothing streetwear. St. Art Magazine’s Kashika Malhotra explains that “streetwear incorporates elements of Japanese street fashion, sportswear, and pop-culture, and has become a global symbol of comfortable, aesthetic fashion.”
In general, clothes being casual or comfortable is usually an important element for being considered streetwear. Other signs of streetwear include baggy shirts especially graphic tees with prominent logos, ripped jeans, and branded sneakers.
Categorization of clothing is often subjective, and streetwear is a particularly broad category with a complicated history. While the evolution of streetwear is somewhat complicated, the last decade has seen some significant changes.
Streetwear At the Start of the Decade
Although streetwear has been around for decades and became more global by the early 2010s rather than just being confined to the most urban areas of larger U.S. cities, the average American at the start of the decade likely did not have much exposure to streetwear. If anything, people knew streetwear for its oversized t-shirts with prominent labels.
Even more, the general perception of streetwear at the beginning of the decade was that it was a rebellious style of clothing chiefly for intercity young adults as a way to make a cultural statement. Streetwear was seen mainly in connection with skateboarders and hip-hop listeners.
Over the past decade, streetwear has become more generally recognized due to a number of factors including celebrity endorsement and the rise of online shopping. Streetwear is now more mainstream, but also more elite. Many of the top fashion brands have streetwear lines or collaborations, making streetwear a popular choice beyond its original associations.
As far as specific streetwear styles go, streetwear jeans are particularly popular now. Brands like Hyper Denim emphasize quality and comfort for their streetwear jeans, joggers, and pants, with a wide audience of fashion-forward younger men. Streetwear jeans are a comfortable and trendy way to get involved with this popular fashion movement.
Another big streetwear element today is wearing expensive branded sneakers. Collecting brand-name sneakers became a much more popular pastime in the past decade. “Sneakerheads,” as these collectors can be called, usually embrace other aspects of streetwear culture as well.
The Impact of Celebrities
While celebrity endorsement has always impacted the fashion industry, including the perception of streetwear, the last decade saw a specific rise in streetwear promotion from the insanely famous. Celebrities including Rihanna and Kanye West have launched streetwear lines, sponsored streetwear products, or worn streetwear in high-profile locations. The celebrity endorsement of streetwear has made this style of dressing more recognizable and way more popular than ever before.
The Rise of Online Shopping
While online shopping existed before the 2010s, this type of e-commerce only became widespread in the last decade. Online shopping really has changed our lives, becoming so widespread that it is submerged within our daily routines: all our groceries, services, and, of course, clothing can be browsed, purchased, and delivered without ever getting off the couch or stepping out of the office.
The increased convenience and options provided with online shopping definitely impacted streetwear. With widespread availability, access, and visibility, streetwear was able to become a mainstream option rather than staying confined within specific urban communities and contexts.
Considering the Pandemic
With consideration of online shopping, we have to acknowledge the increased amount of online shopping that has resulted from the pandemic. Even more broadly, will COVID change the way we dress forever? We’re already seeing some effects on the fashion industry that could become long-term or even essentially permanent, especially with many now-remote workers used to associating casual dress with work. Even with those who are or will be returning to work, some offices are allowing relaxed dress codes with the transitions and effects of the pandemic.
As with the progression of streetwear becoming more mainstream, the fashion industry may continue to prioritize comfort for clothing. The pandemic will likely continue to affect not only streetwear but also this decade’s style in general.
Looking to the Future
As we move further into the 2020s, streetwear will continue to change. As our articles have charted in the past as related to other fashion trends such as custom jewelry and accessories, the fashion industry constantly changes, with what’s “trendy” today quickly becoming “outdated” tomorrow. Streetwear may undergo even more radical transformations than it has in the last decade.