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  • Giacobbi Nealo

Streetwear: From Post-Modern Counterculture to Mainstream.


Streetwear has long been a symbol of rebellion against the status quo. Tracing it's roots to early surf culture and brands such as Stussy, streetwear has been a uniform for the counterculture. The anti-establishment mindset of silk screening your own shirt to represent your own individual brand and your crew, has made streetwear an inseparable part of skate, punk and hip hop cultures. Streetwear blended the coolness of Greasers with the gritty realities faced by urban youth. The rise in streetwear also represented a larger shift from modernist to post-modernist art movements in a post World War II America. The cynical nature of post-modernism was the driving force behind the rebellious youth movements of skateboarding, punk and hip hop. A distrust of the establishment and a deconstruction of the status quo defined all three and gave them their authenticity.


What happens when the rebellion against the status quo occurs in a world that is increasingly becoming more global with the rise of mass media? The culture created by urban youth in America was now available to everyone most notably with the rise of MTV. The counterculture was becoming pop culture. Corporations began co-opting urban youth movements into their own strategies in order to reach new customers and gain authenticity. The rebellion became the new status quo and the the cynicism of the the anti-establishment movements began to disappear. The world was entering a post-post-modernist movement that saw unprecedented levels of globalization with the rise of the internet. The exclusivity of streetwear brands combined with increase demand would drive up prices leading to secondary reseller markets and hypebeast culture.


The increase in demand and profitability allowed streetwear brands to transition from simple silk screening into cut and sew production techniques. Luxury streetwear was on the rise and streetwear brands were becoming fashion houses in their own right. With brands such as Public School NYC, Alexander Wang and Off-White occupying the same spaces as traditional fashion houses the conversation was shifting. Young designers that had been influenced by streetwear were coming into their own and dictating fashion. Haute couture began to borrow elements from streetwear and the lines began to blur. Designers such as Virgil Abloh who got their start in streetwear would find themselves in roles as creative directors at traditional fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton. Streetwear has permeated mainstream pop culture, not only becoming household names but also reaching the level of high fashion.

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