Streetwear: What Is It and Where Did It Come From?
When the word streetwear pops into your mind, do you picture oversized t-shirts and baggy pants, maybe throwing in some cool athletic sweats, topped off with a slick baseball cap?
If so, you’re partly right: that is the essence of authentic streetwear. It’s more than that, however. This fashion craze called streetwear started as a symbol of a few subcultures who wanted to create their style statement.
Streetwear has roots in skateboarding, hip-hop, and surf culture from the 1980s and 1990s. It’s marked by comfort with a mix of athleticism. In its attitude, streetwear is a direct counter to suits and stiff attire, a 180 from the rules and confines of work clothing.
Streetwear has evolved from an “out there” subculture style to one of the most powerful forces in fashion today. So, how did streetwear go from fringe outsider to mainstream? And how did the term “streetwear” fall out of favor with the communities that invented it?
We’ll take a closer look in this blog.
Surfboards, Skateboards, and Hip Hop – The Beginning of Streetwear
In the late 1970s, California streetwear emerged as surfers, punk rockers, and early hip-hop artists embraced the style. On the West Coast—the cool kids’ hand-printed their t-shirts to spotlight their custom surfboard and skate deck designs. As the surfers made tees with graffiti script, which catapulted the style on the West Coast, the Hip Hop culture in the 1980s took root on the East Coast and gave their own bold statement to the streetwear style.
Media stars and celebrities loved the irreverent, bold style made popular by surf, hip-hop, and skateboard culture, and the streetwear trend exploded as we know it today. This is where unity in diversity and our belief that Heaven Utilizes All Shades is displayed, with different cultures embracing their own authentic and artistic forms of streetwear.
A Departure from True Streetwear
In the early beginning, streetwear had a definite anti-establishment edge. Young people in the 1980s wanted sweats and tees that repped their interests and diverse identities and passions. After the success of small surf and skate brands of that era, big sportswear brands got the message and spun off their own versions of streetwear, with millions behind mass production and top-dollar marketing campaigns. That began the transformation of streetwear to what it’s become today.
Eventually, high-end designers wanted to get in on the cash behind the t-shirt and sweats craze, so they took streetwear’s casual aesthetic and added luxury finishing and exclusivity. Style icons and influencers began wearing hoodies and sneakers with five-figure price tags, transforming streetwear from a scrappy symbol to an elite, out-of-reach fashion aspiration.
Streetwear: How it Left the Streets
The HUES BOA collection consists of laid-back, street/urban wear, with core pieces like signature tees, hoodies, jackets, jeans, and hats in bold shades and neutrals that complement all skin tones. The brand spotlights beauty by intentionally showcasing a diverse range of models across the Black and Brown spectrum.
HUES BOA messaging is all about bringing us together. It reminds us of our common ground: “Many Shades, One People.” The brand says we can be united in our shared hopes, struggles, victories, and humanity. With street cred and social conscience, HUES BOA wearers will make a bold statement through everyday casual wear.
OGs & Streetwear’s Lost Authenticity
After the intense commercialization of this casual fashion style, the OGs feel streetwear may have lost its authenticity. After all, when major global fashion houses and retailers co-opt a style as a trend, it loses its appeal to those who invented it. Furthermore, retailers continue to deny any brands they deem as true “streetwear” unworthy of being represented in their stores. Thus, you see the trend of new online platforms and direct-to-consumer sales via the brand’s e-commerce websites rather than being oppressed by retailers and denied access to the customer base they service. This has led many streetwear brands to desire to distance themselves from the term streetwear.
Aside from that, many people, including minorities, may feel that the term “streetwear” has become a buzzword used by mainstream fashion without giving due credit to the diverse communities who created it in the first place. There is the commodification of clothing styles, but only by ripping off those styles from the inventors, and that earns no respect from those “on the street” in real life.
Streetwear and Stereotyping
Then, you take a look at the more fundamental issues. There is the notion that streetwear has been linked with stereotypes associated with a particular fashion look, especially when it comes to racial profiling. And it is worth asking: does using the word “streetwear” lend credit to biases and assumptions about people, their intentions, and their worth? And are those assumptions all based on outward appearance and style?
Of course, it’s still fashion, so styling and terms are up for individual interpretation. Anyone can have their perspective on authentic streetwear or what they want to call it. And though there are no real rules in streetwear, staples like oversized tees and sweats, baggy jeans, hoodies, and cool sneakers will always be the hallmarks of the look.
The Evolution of Streetwear: Style Your Own Streetwear Look
For a modern edge that echoes the original streetwear, you can pair recognizable brands (or no-name brands) with DIY items, like an artistic t-shirt or jean jacket. If you love logos, wear your favorite logo shoes but with sweats from the HUES BOA brand.
Be one of the first to wear a logo tee from a cool newly launched brand ( HUES BOA , for example) mixed with your own oversized jeans or baggy cargo pants.
Make a statement with your look, and carry it all with confidence. Streetwear is about creative freedom and being yourself without apology.
Be sure to amplify Black-owned brands you love on social media. Share their story and write reviews. Please talk about the products you like from them.
Gilbert Martinez, Vuhlandes & Angel Pham
Your Spin on Streetwear
From the grassroots origins of the beach, skate parks, and the urban scene to the pop culture machine of today, streetwear continually reinvents itself.
We’d like to believe there are ways streetwear can retain its soul of creativity and counter-culturalism mixed with cool. We’ll leave that to you.
So, we at HUES BOA would love to see how you spin your own streetwear. Please show us your style and tag us @hueboa on your socials!