Picture this: I’m standing in line to get into Supreme’s New York flagship. In front of me are three Chinese international kids sporting Yeezys, Anti Social Social Club hoodies and fuckboi fades. Behind me is a 12-year-old, three inches shorter than me, draped in head-to-toe Bape topped off with a Supreme shoulder sling fanny pack.
Record scratch. Freeze frame. “Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I ended up here.”
In 1994, Supreme founder James Jebbia took over an old office space on Lafayette Street. and began churning out T-shirts, hoodies and backpacks. At first, it was just a store for skateboarders that blasted music and played Muhammad Ali fight videos to lure in customers. Twenty-five years later, Supreme is a global giant, and customers fight over its drops using automated checkout bots. Streetwear is now ubiquitous, having infiltrated the fashion world and worming its way into popular culture.
Just how dominant is streetwear? In an era of faltering retail, sneakerhead favorites Adidas and Nike show no signs of slowing down. Luxury brands that produce coveted streetwear staples, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, are among the fastest growing brands in the luxury sector. Status symbols, once represented by Chanel tweed jackets and high-heeled Louboutins, are being replaced by Supreme hoodies and chunky Balenciaga Triple-S sneakers.
It’s impossible for me to cover the breadth and depth of streetwear in a single column, and that’s not my intention. What I’m doing is setting up the context for why I — someone who has no idea how to skateboard — found myself sandwiched in between hypebeasts.
I’d heard about Supreme (I mean, who hasn’t?), but I’d dismissed it as out of my purview. I assumed that the average Supreme fan was white, male and rich, all of which I certainly am not. Also, I don’t skate. Multiple people have tried to teach me, and it always ended with me gripping onto their arm, whimpering, “I want to get off! I want to get off!”
But O.K., I’ll admit it. I’m unduly susceptible to hype. I eat at restaurants that Bon Appetit has gushed over (Konbi); I watch the TV shows that everyone talks about on my Twitter timeline (“Fleabag,” “Succession”). I can’t help it — I have intense, deep-seated FOMO, and I want to see what all the fuss is about.
It started with just browsing through “r/streetwear” on Reddit, seeing what kind of fits people posted. Then it graduated to watching streetwear YouTubers like Christian Villanueva of Frugal Aesthetic and Blake Linder of Bsneak. I bookmarked websites like Complex, Highsnobiety and Hypebae, the female equivalent of Hypebeast. I didn’t buy tickets to ComplexCon, thankfully, but oh man, I was thinking about it.
I bought a Richardson jacket that ended up being way too big around the shoulders. I bought an OBEY sweater and caught a kid whose voice hadn’t yet cracked giving me the once-over. I bought a pair of Nikes from Naked, a female-focused sneaker supplier, and ended up paying half the total amount in shipping costs because it’s based in Copenhagen.
For a time, I thought I was happy with all of this. I was certainly happy when my packages arrived. But after a while, when I went to get dressed in the morning, I found myself skipping over the streetwear and reaching for pieces like a rainbow-hued sweater or red and white striped overalls.
Here’s the thing: Streetwear is cool, sure. But it’s low-key. It’s chill. It sticks to a pretty drab color palette: white, black, gray, blue (excluding that god-awful Bape purple camo). It likes to play it safe with boring basics — it doesn’t try too hard.
As a result, the people who wear it don’t have to try too hard. It’s all a rotation of hoodies and jeans and T-shirts and sneakers. Outfits are thrown together for the clout, regardless of whether or not the pieces go together, if the proportions match and if the look is balanced and cohesive. You’re not stunting if the cuffs of your Off-White sweatpants are dragging on the ground. Honestly? Most hypebeasts don’t know how to dress. Yeah, I said it.
When did I finally come to my senses? Good question; I’m not too sure myself. Maybe it was when I had my “What the fuck am I doing here?” moment in the Supreme line. Maybe it was when I realized I had three identical black hoodies hanging in my closet and I wasn’t excited to wear any of them. Or maybe it was when I was scrolling through the comments of a Bsneak video at 2 a.m. which were all about “Un-DS”ing the girl in the video. (DS stands for Deadstock, which is brand new, unopened, untouched …You get the idea.)
I don’t regret my brief dalliance with streetwear — when figuring out your style, it’s just as important to know what you don’t like as what you do. It showed me that covering yourself in logos from head-to-toe is no substitute for personal style and that hype can so easily cloud your judgment. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go get a fit-off.
Kitty Guo is a senior writing about fashion. Her column “Tongue in Chic” runs every other Wednesday.