What is the History of Street Style?

We often come across the term “street style” in fashion. It became a lot popular in the past few years, and it has become the ultimate fashion trend that doesn’t seem to die down. What is it exactly, and how did it develop over the years? Read on to find out.

What is Street Style?

By definition, a street style is an approach to fashion that is often based on individualism rather than focusing on a specific fashion trend. Using street style methods, people demonstrate their identities and show a little bit about their inner persona. Besides using subcultural and intersecting fashion trends, a street style is more of a performance, where identities can be explored through dressing up. Everybody can always put on a little show that suits their mood with the clothes they wear.

Combining different styles like elegance and sports at the same time, street style has become an attractive tool for expressing and representing oneself. It’s a viral and addictive facet of fashion that has changed a lot of ways in which fashion is made and consumed.

The History of Street Style

Street style has always been a part of human culture, but it was only considered a phenomenon in the 20th century, primarily after World War II. Mass marketing, suburbanization, franchising of retail chains, the spread of television – and later on, social media – all had something to do with the increased appeal of alternative lifestyles for people searching for authenticity.

The street style also consists of fashion tastes originating from economically disfavored, marginal groups and subcultures and the whole range of metropolitan tribes.

The term “street style” was first linked to British fashion culture during the fifties to the sixties. Icons like Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain contributed to the freedom of exploration when it comes to fashion. After the war, the society became more affluent as a whole, enabling them to purchase high-fashion products. During that time, the looks of “street style” icons consisted of a single, high-fashion brand. Women donned the “New Look” designed by Christian Dior, which often included a long skirt, a tailored jacket with broad shoulders, and a tapered waist. This look emphasized the female figure that replaced the utility look of the wartime period.

In England, this kind of phenomenon has been studied and revealed the importance of young people’s street styles in the post-war period, which may be linked to the generation of baby boomer who has money to spend. It was a period when people want to make a change from the already-known ordinary style. One widespread inference is that street style appeared in England during the period of post-war rehabilitation when the first disagreements with the governmental policy further developed into the acute contradictions between the old and new generation.

The history of clothing and the history of representing identity run on two parallel rails. In this connection, street style works as a facilitator of subcultural cohesion and group identity. After the war, Western culture has seen a decline in adhering to the traditional socio-cultural divisions. The need for a change became as strong as the need for making a statement.

In the ‘50s, there have become tribe groupings such as Teddy boys, bikers, and beats; and in the ‘60s, mods, hippies, and skinheads. If you want to learn more about the iconic 60s fashion scene, read here. https://didyouknowfashion.com/interesting-facts-about-the-iconic-1960s-fashion-scene/

In the ‘70s, there are punks, b-boys, and headbangers; and in the ‘80s, there were goths, ravers, and new age travelers. Some of these groups still exist today. People got dressed as an expression to create their sense of identity.

Along with the creation of different subcultures, a new trend of handwork or DIY emerged. Young people started to sew their own clothes and remake their clothing to reflect their musical, political, or sartorial preferences.

The second huge wave of street style appeared in Japan during the ‘80s to ‘90s. The main initiator of street style was not Japanese designers but fashion-obsessed high school girls. It’s not an exaggeration to say that those youths were the agents of fashion in Japan, and they had a huge role in disseminating street style. It emerged from social networks among different fashion institutions and various street subcultures – each with an original look. These youths relied on a distinctive appearance to proclaim their subcultural identity, which is neither political or ideological, but simply innovative fashion. This outlook for streetwear is still common today, not just in Japan but in the whole world.

Since then, all fashionable youth trends have inspired designers and stylists, producing new styles of clothes. Along with it, different subcultures emerged, like hip-hop and sports like skateboarding and BMX.

Hip Hop and Street Style History

Hip hop is a mainstream music genre that has a significant relationship with street style. As hip hop arose from the streets with an outsider status, a distinct fashion style and aesthetic has developed along with it. Hip hop had its roots from the breakdancing b-boys of the 70s to the late 80s. Artists of the genre at the time began popularizing tracksuits, chains, and Kangol hats – all fashion elements that hip-hop fashion is known for. Run-DMC was the group most responsible for defining hip hop’s trademark street look, with Adidas tracksuits and shell-toed sneakers as their signature uniform. Soon, rappers like LL Cool J began to adopt the trends set by Run-DMC.

Towards the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, hip-hop culture began to reflect African heritage. Artists like Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, and KRS-One adopted more militarist looks, deadlocks, and bright colors associated with black nationalist movements. By the mid-’90s, hip hop shifted to a more lavish, designer style. Artists like P. Diddy, 2Pac, and Notorious B.I.G. began sporting looks inspired by old-school gangsters and dubbed it “ghetto fabulous.” These luxurious looks consisted of double-breasted designer suits, alligator-skin shoes, bowler hats and fedoras, and designer sunglasses.

Late ‘90s hip hop fashion was defined by baggier, less-designer looks. Outfits from this period were marked by sports jerseys, baggy jeans, flat bill baseball caps, boots, and sneakers. This style was also adopted by ‘gangster rappers like Snoop Dogg. This style spilled over to the early 2000s. In the late 2000s, hip hop became the new focus of pop music, making it one of the biggest influences on street style and the fashion world as a whole.

Nowadays, lyrics about designer brands and high fashion are more common in hip hop than before. Hip-hop artists became some of the most prominent and influential fashion icons. Artists like Kanye West, Pharrell, and Tyler, the Creator, have become successful designers themselves. Others like Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Young Thug have their own signature collections or have modeled for elite designer brands.

The influence of hip hop on fashion is most evident in fashion’s obsession with streetwear. For instance, the streetwear brand Supreme is currently one of the most popular and highly-coveted clothing brands in the world.

Hip hop’s street fashion is not uncommon – it is highly accessible for the common people, and it has even influenced luxury fashion. It’s not uncommon to see sneakers, hoodies, sweatpants, baggy pants, and chains on people walking down the street or even in the runways.

Sneaker Culture and Street Style

Sneakers have been part of streetwear ever since the late 1970s. Skateboarding is a sport that has largely influenced street style as well. Skateboarding sneakers with special soles that keep the feet from slipping on the board have become part of street style and are found in many wardrobes of non-skaters.

During the late ‘80s, collecting sneakers has become a significant part of the streetwear subculture primarily due to the signature shoes of basketball icon Michael Jordan.