In a general way of speaking, street fashion is a combination of casual and unconventional clothing. The history of street fashion is very interconnected with authenticity and works as a facilitator of cultural identity. This means that it does not necessarily follow a current fashion trend but emphasizes individualism more. Street fashion shows people ways of expressing themselves and having cultural influences. It helps individuals communicate with others about who they are. Let’s look further into the history of street fashion.

THE HISTORY OF STREET FASHION: A DEEPER LOOK INTO

Street fashion became known worldwide around 1990 and spread between 1970 and 1980. But if you look deeper, it goes way back to the end of the Second World War. Christian Dior, French fashion designer and the founder of one of the world´s most famous fashion houses, had a big influence on the history of street fashion when he created the “New Look,” a long circular skirt and a tailored jacket with broad shoulders and a tapered waist.

The history of street fashion has evolved from a general social practice adopted by certain socio-cultural groups into an important segment of the mass fashion industry. This process has been very long and has been accompanied by extensive social, cultural, and economic changes.

Afterward, the history of street fashion had a lot of influence. It was deeply inspired by hip-hop fashion and the Californian lifestyle, with a mix of the punk area, new wave, heavy metal, Japanese street fashion, and some elements of sportswear.

The combination of those elements formed what we know as Street Fashion or Streetwear.

Harajuku, a district in Tokyo, played a pivotal role in the development of the history of street fashion, especially in Japan. The eclectic street style became synonymous with self-expression and youth. Young people displayed their individuality through some very bold fashion choices.

In the 1970s, the punk scene took over, and world-renowned fashion designer Vivienne Westwood pioneered the punk rock style. The fashion designer opened her first store in 1971 with her partner Malcolm McLaren on the famous King’s Road in London. Regulars at the store formed the band Sex Pistols, and she took charge of the costumes, defining what would later become the punk rock style.

HISTORY OF STREET FASHION: VIVIENNE WESTWOOD

In the late 1980s, Surfboard designer Shawn Stüssy changed the history of street fashion when he started printing T-shirts with the same signature he used to customize his surfboards. The pieces turned out to be extremely popular, so he switched to very exclusive sales, introducing the product scarcity concept, which is when a product or service has limited availability, driving up the prices.

In the midst of the 1990s, sports teams, such as the notable New York Yankees, Los Angeles Riders, and Chicago Bulls, started to capitalize with their oversized jacket, cap, and shoe design by Nike, INC.

During this time, record labels became associated with hip-hop culture and began to profit from this as well. Here is a list of a few fashion designers that changed the whole scenario of Streetwear: Dapper Dan, Vivienne Westwood, Shawn Stüssy. James Jebbia and Hiroshi Fujiwara.

THE SOCIAL IMPACT CAUSED BY STREETWEAR

The idea of street style can spark the feeling of not being conformed. From the beginning of the history of street fashion, it’s clear the idea of owning your individuality and not following society’s patterns.

The Suffrage Movement, which occurred from 1840 to 1920, was extremely significant when it came to equal social rights for women, and they used fashion as a statement. During the movement, women started to wear pants, which was totally against society’s patterns at that time.

When we talk about movements like this in the history of street fashion, we can’t forget about the Black Panthers Party. In the late 60s, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton founded this movement to fight racial discrimination. They protested for Black Pride and fashion liberty by wearing a black leather jacket, black pants, dark sunglasses, and a black beret.

Jumping to a more recent time, several initiatives have marked the history of street fashion, such as the collaboration between the high luxury street fashion brand Off White and the Black Lives Matter movement in order to fundraise support for the family of George Floyd, an unarmed African American whom a white police officer murdered, Derek Chauvin, in 2020.

STREET FASHION X LUXURY

Luxury brands, often still seen as symbols of exclusivity and sophistication, have become a big part of the history of street fashion and explored collaborations with streetwear labels, creating a new market called ‘luxury streetwear.’ The difference lies in the quality of materials and craftsmanship, with a sprinkle of streetwear’s rawness. Think of it as the fusion of street style and high-end fashion quality.

With the rise of urban artists within the luxury fashion industry, such as Pharrell Williams at Louis Vuitton or Nigo at Kenzo, the influence of streetwear fashion over luxury brands became evident.
However, to talk about Street luxury, we need to mention Dapper Dan, a North American fashion designer from Harlem, New York. Dapper Dan can be considered the godfather of street luxury and definitely the king of “knockoffs.”

After returning from a trip to Africa, he became interested in fashion and founded his 24-hour store in 1982. He gained a lot of recognition in the late 1980s, crafting his signature with gangster-inspired style. He had a unique made-to-order customization model and had clients that included rap stars, athletes, and gamblers such as LL Cool J, Mike Tyson, and James Jackson.

The blastoff of street luxury culture welcomed established luxury brands like Burberry, Gucci, and Fendi into the market. These brands made appearances in Hip-Hop music videos. A product that was immortalized during this period was the Nike Air Force 1, which emerged as the iconic footwear of the era, as shown in Nelly’s video.

Another notorious fashion designer who elevated the concept of street luxury fashion is Virgil Abloh.

He was known for his work as Menswear Creative Director at Louis Vuitton and Chief Executive Officer of his own luxury streetwear brand, Off White. Unfortunately, he died of cancer at 41 after privately battling the disease for several years.

If you want to know more about Virgil Abloh and his luxury street brand Off-White, check out this article: Off-White: The Story of a Luxury Streetwear Pioneer – Fashinnovation

The combination of streetwear and luxury has produced exceptional results in the industry. Luxury companies can maintain their exclusivity but reach a more broad-ranging audience.

the history of street fashion
According to the website Disco, here are the TOP 26 Luxury Street Fashion Brands: Supreme, Heron Preston, Balenciaga, Off-White, A-COLD-WALL, Aimé Leon Dore, Vetements, Auralee, Fear of God, Acne Studios, Yohji Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons, Raf Simons, Alyx, Junya Watanabe, 1017 ALYX 9SM, Helmut Lang, Issey Miyake, Undercover, Dries Van Noten, Jacquemus, Martine Rose, Bally.

The fusion of these two-way perspectives continues to captivate fashion enthusiasts, redefining the parameters of what fashion can look like. There is a constant, ever-evolving dynamic between street fashion and luxury.

A “GREENER” WAY OF STREET FASHION

While becoming a global phenomenon, streetwear faces an issue that can not be overlooked, especially nowadays: environmental degradation.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and, consequently, street fashion as well. From the production processes to the final product, this industry is a major leaguer in environmental degradation, resulting in water pollution, chemical waste, and a huge carbon footprint.

This need for a more sustainable way of making fashion has led to a new breakthrough in the history of street fashion, represented by the buildout of eco-friendly streetwear brands. Brands are migrating to eco-consciousness textile options, such as recycled plastic, organic cotton, and bamboo.

As a fashion designer, think about how you can contribute to making the industry environmentally friendly. So, to clarify this process, here is a list of eco-friendly fabrics:

FAST FORWARD TO THE FUTURE OF STREET STYLE

The future of street style is exciting and full of possibilities. From up-and-coming designers to established brands, the potential to explore is huge. It lies in nurturing collaboration and community to create a more vibrant and diverse fashion industry.

Editor Nav Gill of Hyperbae’s words were fresher than ever when he said:

“Streetwear has always been of the moment. Will there continue to be a burst of high-end brands producing massive oversized hoodies? Maybe. At the end of the day, fashion has its moments with what they think is cool at the time. Of course, it might get oversaturated and then not cool anymore. It might then go back to the streets, and people might start their small streetwear brands again. And it’ll come back around again.”

NAV GILL – HYPERBAE

If there is one thing we can all learn from the history of street fashion, it is that adaptability is a huge part of it.

Whether buying from a luxury brand, browsing thrift stores, or getting crafty by yourself, street fashion has the power to communicate, and the story behind it will continue to echo throughout history and pass on to the next generations of street fashion lovers.


TEXT BY GABRIEL PEREIR FASHINNOVATION, under the coordination of Marcelo and Jordana Guimaraes, is global platform that bridges the gap between the fashion industry and intersecting industries, through our four main pillars: entrepreneurship, sustainability, technology & innovation, diversity & inclusion. / @fashinnovation.nyc – www.fashinnovation.nyc