Streetwear is art and culture
“Streetwear is an art movement. It’s a way of making things” said the American fashion designer and CEO of the Off-White brand, Virgil Abloh. Today we want to dispel the myth that inhabits most of modern common thought: streetwear is just about clothing, it's just fashion. That’s not so, let’s find out why.
Cos’è lo Streetwear?
This question doesn’t have a universal answer. Bobby Hundreds, Co-Founder of the historic street brand The Hundreds, went in search of an answer by creating the first streetwear documentary of its kind: Built to Fail. People like Tommy Hilfiger, ASAP Rocky, and many others, have given their own definition and interpretation - dictated by their personal experience - of streetwear. Even though we don’t have a clear definition of the movement, we still know it has an invaluable cultural value.
Despite this, there are those who identify the founder and initiator of streetwear in Shawn Stussy, who founded the homonymous brand of clothing. Stussy had the ability to combine art, surf and hip hop in California, which hit and affected New York and Japan. Stussy certainly falls not only among the founders of the movement, but also among one of the few brands that have made it brilliantly through the years.
It is at this point that we realize how hard it is to attribute the title of Father of Streetwear to a single individual, because even though Shawn Stussy may have been influential over the years, when the movement was not yet recognized as such in the world, every nation, country, city was developing streetwear according to the cultural reality that they lived in. For example, if you lived in Japan, streetwear’s story takes from with Tokyo icons like Hiroshi Fujiwara and Nigo. On the other side if you lived in London you probably would attribute the foundation of streetwear to Michael Kopelman.
It is therefore clear the difficulty of making this cultural movement universal. It is difficult to agree on what streetwear look like, who’s responsible for it and where it came from. It is less difficult to identify the soul of the movement and those involved.
Cosa e chi rappresenta lo Streetwear?
The answer to this question is the only key that can dispel the myth that runs around streetwear. This does not make it universal or easy to transmit, but it is certainly the essential point that allowed its birth and permanence within any culture in the world.
Shawn Stussy, Bobby Hundreds, Edison Chen, Erik Brunetti, james Jebbia and many others have not started to create with the purpose of earning money, they started to create because they had a message to transmit, they had a passion that motivated them, then they realized that with those money they could have paid their rent and much more, but this is a whole other story.
So at the time those who bought their T-shirts did not buy them because they were aesthetically beautiful, because they matched very well with the jeans they had just bought or because they were trendy, rather they bought their T-shirts because wearing them would have represented a story, an ideology, a lifestyle in which they identified themselves and which they felt part of.
The reason why today this cultural movement is not commonly considered as such is because many designers have thrown their passion and forgot the reason that led them to start.They did so for the money by merging their brand to different fashion houses. Doing so they brought down streetwear’s reputation and made sure that - in part - it stopped creating authentic stuff.
At this point I will not make a judgment, rather I will embrace the idea that time inevitably passes by and brings change. We must be - you and me - good at adapting or, in case in which adaptation was not our first choice, to distinguish ourselves by remaining faithful to the one we believe in and to ourselves.