This is my article from issue #4 of 2017 in Cupertino High School’s newspaper, The Prospector
A pair of Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “Zebras” and a Supreme box logo hoodie will cost you approximately $515 and $800, respectively. Some fans even bought a red brick with the Supreme logo stamped on it for $200. Big name brands, such as Bape and Off-white, sell clothing at seemingly ridiculous price points. Nonetheless, many teenagers chase after these pieces, paying hundreds of dollars for products that sell out within seconds. To understand this trend, it is necessary to take a step back and learn about the humble beginnings of streetwear culture.
Contemporary streetwear goes hand-in-hand with hip hop and skateboarding, and it often takes design inspiration from different cultures, sportswear, the military and pop culture. Supreme, Thrasher and Stussy originated as exclusive lifestyle brands for the skateboarding community; however, in recent years, they have evolved to attract a broader global audience. Some fans attribute the recent rise in streetwear to its exclusivity, comfort, long-lasting quality, funky style and appealing aesthetic. Others attribute the recent success of streetwear brands to the widespread influence of celebrities.
Said streetwear enthusiast and sophomore Nathan Ju, “Personally, I believe that the big hype of streetwear comes from the celebrities who wear ‘hypebeast’ clothing. Cultural icons such as Kanye West, Kate Moss, Travis Scott, are often seen wearing brands such as Supreme, Bape and Palace and are responsible for starting trends overnight. With that being said, many children, teens and even adults idolize these celebrities, and in attempt to portray their wealth or to achieve a social status, try to dress like them.”
Ju also believes social media is a primary reason for the quick burst of popularity that these brands have embraced over the past few years.
Said Ju, “I believe that it is currently a highly trending topic because of how relevant social media is in the lives of people of all ages. Now, with new ways to spread your pictures and ideas to others, the concept of streetwear has branched out to an audience of all ages.”
Streetwear brands maintain exclusivity and “hype” by ensuring that the supply is significantly less than the demand. For example, Supreme’s famous basketball sleeve retails for $38, but third-party vendors upsell it for $140. For many, the resale of streetwear is a suitable venue for business with substantial profit margins. Said Ju, “Supreme was the first brand that really caught my eye as a moneymaker. I wanted to buy a simple hoodie that said ‘Supreme’ across the chest. After searching it up on eBay, I was shocked to see that this simple hoodie was worth $700, whereas in retail, it was a mere $150. Ever since then, I have been waking up early on Thursday mornings [when Supreme drops their newest goods] to purchase Supreme items for retail and flipping them for profit.”
Some individuals are drawn to the streetwear community due to its tendency to form close, tight-knit connections with those who have similar interests.
Said junior Akshay Prabhu, “When I first started getting into shoes and hyped clothing I would go on Facebook groups where many people sold shoes at [reasonable] prices in order to make friendships and bonds.”
Prabhu ultimately chose to forego streetwear when people began to unfairly purchase sought-after branded clothes using the help of technology. Recently, the ‘hypebeast’ industry has been infiltrated by bots — computer programs that automatically purchase an item as soon as it drops. Said Prabhu, “[As] the years pass on, more people have started using bots in order to get more items and sell those items at a much higher rate, with a goal of making money, not bonds.” While many see the purchase and sale of clothing as an appealing reason to get into street fashion, others view the collection of streetwear as a valuable pastime.
Said junior Jo Elston, “For me, [wearing streetwear] is more of a collecting hobby. When I get a new hoodie, it makes me feel good because I am collecting [something].”
Ultimately, the culture and underlying motives behind streetwear are much more than meet the eye. It’s not just about looks and fashion; it’s about the hobby, friends, connections and entrepreneurship. Said Ju, “In a way, I didn’t get into streetwear for the clothing, but for the money and the culture that comes with it.”