The term streetwear has become something completely different over the last few years. Where it used to describe an exact look that pointed you to the same few companies, now it points you to a multitude of different brands with a plethora of different aesthetics. Men’s street clothing has become one of the largest industries in the fashion space and every brand that puts out this “urban streetwear” has their own take on what that really is. Is it the color of the shirt or the fit of the hoodie? Is it the placement of the graphic or the amount of distress in the fabric? The minimalist design or the vintage feel? What is it about an outfit or even a single piece of clothing that constitutes it as “drip” in 2019?
What one’s take on street style is defined by is most often the brands they identify with or feel connected to. There are the traditional brands that design, manufacture, and distribute the actual clothing itself and then there are the fashion influencers who promote their personal taste and style through a personal brand. Social media has provided a platform for these brands, both traditional and personal, to show their own take on street fashion to an enormous amount of interested eyes. It has also allowed outsiders to now have a look at the inner workings of the people in the clothing industry and allows them to develop a style based on other people’s vision.
With Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other mediums alike, the consumer now has an endless array of companies, people, and stories to relate to and feel connected by. A company that prints on Gildan blanks, an enormous fashion house with a full manufacturing department, and an influencer who buys pieces from both really aren’t separated by much in the eyes of the consumer. It could be one piece, design, Instagram post, email that someone sees which makes them fall in love with one brand and take on streetwear over another.
T Shirt Brands
T shirt brands are where street style originates from. These are the companies that paved the way for modern urban style through unique graphic design and silk screened cotton shirts. Brands from the 80s and 90s such as Stussy, LRG, Toy Machine, and Supreme mixed California skate/ surf culture with 90’s hip-hop to create a whole new aesthetic that has laid the groundwork for street fashion today.
In 2019 t shirt brands are as relevant as ever with Gnarcotic, FTP, Pleasures, Superrradical, Chinatown Market, and Dead in LA to name a few. Keeping the skate/ surf inspired look, these companies have also breathed life into the hip-hop culture that is so prevalent today.
A $30 shirt, a pair of black jeans, and some matching Vans is a look that has become universal in the streetwear scene. Artists everywhere are seen wearing this look in one way or another and has allowed for the expansion of this industry to only continue.
These brands aim to create what they think is cool and how they think people should dress and style themselves. Influenced by the owner of the company, they create and release pieces that reflect the story and meaning of the brand. Consumers who are exposed to these pieces and stories relate to the message and adopt that specific aesthetic of streetwear as their own.
The influence of these specific “T shirt brand” streetwear brands has become so strong and so prevalent in the clothing industry that huge companies and fashion houses alike have followed suit to the path that has been laid before them.
With the emergence of the street style craze, companies have been born and others transformed to follow the trend. Companies like Off-White, Vlone, Fear of God, and Vetements have become what they are today through taking the t shirt brand framework, mixing it with traditional runway fashion, and crafting something completely new and desirable. Creating pieces that look and feel like luxury, pricing them as such, but making it socially acceptable to wear them anywhere has been the recipe for success. Creating and releasing beautiful ad campaigns for these pieces and painting them in the most luxurious light as possible has revolutionized the streetwear, and really, the fashion industry as a whole. A shirt that cost $30 to produce can retail for $250 without anyone thinking twice. As a consumer this may be frustrating, but as an artist and entrepreneur it is incredible.
With these labels and the pieces they create you can see the inspiration from all things relevant in 2019. SoundCloud rap, skating, individuality, contemporary art, and capitalism are all, though vastly different from each other, brought together in the pieces that these brands and brands alike release. This trend has become so popular that Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Balenciaga, and countless other previously established fashion labels have now adopted this framework.
In many cases these fashion houses also provide the inspiration and groundwork for even more innovation in the streetwear fashion space. With Virgil Abloh, the designer who was created in and breathed life into t shirt brand culture, becoming the creative director for Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear collection and fashion icons like Ian Connor helping countless new designers break into luxury fashion with his brand Sickö, we can observe a shift in the business and design of urban fashion.
The power one individual can hold over the streetwear industry is at the highest it has ever been in history. Never before has someone been able to broadcast to hundreds of thousands, millions, even tens of millions of loyal fans their newest look or creation. With a phone in hand and a few swipes of the thumb, anyone can build a personal brand that gives them power and influence only kings and queens used to know. Names like Luka Sabbat, Ian Connor, and Virgil Abloh; Artists such as Young Thug, A$AP Rocky, Kanye West, and Tyler, the Creator; Athletes like Kelly Oubre, Bol Bol, and Russel Westbrook to list a few.
Each of these names has their own take on dressing, of creating, and of expressing themselves. They do so in a way that reflects themselves as a person and represents their aesthetic in the form of a personal brand that people can look to and draw inspiration from. One person’s take on how they think of dressing themselves can be seen by millions and set a new trend in motion. Countless individuals and businesses alike can be shaped by the vision of a single person who sees the world in their own way.
So what is it that defines mens streetwear fashion in 2019? It doesn’t seem to be the price of the piece, the fit, the color, what the graphic is, any of that. What seems to be the defining factor is the taste of an individual and the story they tell with the things they wear and create. My take on drip might be completely different than yours. I might like and wear brands that you would never be caught dead in. Or we could have the exact same taste in brands and how to dress. Really it comes down to what you yourself think is cool and then the brands you think are cool because of that. The men’s clothing industry is an ever revolving door of ideas and innovation that, coupled with technology, continuously grows and expands as new minds and outlooks collide. Your take on streetwear is what streetwear is. Who you look up to and model yourself after and look down on and avoid dressing like is what streetwear is. In 2019 mass connectivity allows for inspiration and innovation to be born from anywhere you look. Broadcast your unique individuality, express yourself in a way that only you can. Streetwear is an ever evolving term that gets molded by the innovators and freethinkers of the time.