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Hoodies and Haute Couture: What Is Streetwear?

Hoodies and Haute Couture: What Is Streetwear? Streetwear is a global fashion phenomenon. Even if you can't tell a hypebeast from a wildebeest, chances are you've come across a piece...

Hoodies and Haute Couture: What Is Streetwear?

Streetwear is a global fashion phenomenon. Even if you can't tell a hypebeast from a wildebeest, chances are you've come across a piece of designer streetwear in your day-to-day life. Still, what is streetwear, exactly?

Some claim it's a trend towards wearing sweatpants, hoodies, baseball caps, sneakers and other casual wear in public as fashion. That's a pretty big oversimplification. Streetwear is a movement that changed how fashion spread to the masses until it changed fashion itself.

What Is Streetwear?

Streetwear is multiple things at once. It's a category of casual clothing, an offshoot of popular culture and even a hobby for devoted fans (those fans are the "hypebeasts" from earlier — a term that came from a 2005 men's fashion blog and stuck).

Unlike general casual fashion, streetwear tends to stick to a core set of pieces and silhouettes. These include:

  • Sneakers
  • Hoodies
  • Baseball caps
  • Sweatpants
  • T-shirts

Logos and conspicuous branding are the bread and butter of streetwear. From the bright red Supreme logos that peaked in popularity a few years ago to Kanye West's Yeezys sneakers to the iconic Nike Air Jordans, streetwear is more about who you're wearing than what you're wearing.

Where Did Streetwear Originate?

Streetwear originated from a blend of countercultures in the '90s: hip-hop culture, skate and surf culture and Japanese underground nightlife. Cities such as New York, LA and Tokyo became the meeting point for these subversive styles.

Before streetwear brand names signified wealth and status, they became a way to identify with influential figures in these subcultures. Skaters would wear hats, shirts and other gear designed by their idols. Timberland boots became the footwear of choice for New York rappers and eventually rappers everywhere.

For the first time, major fashion trends weren't being decided by the Miranda Priestlys of the world. Styles weren't filtered down through runway shows to red carpet events to department stores the way they had for much of the 20th century. Instead, popular culture was directly telling the public what was in style, and the public enthusiastically agreed.

What Is Streetwear Like Today?

Today, high fashion has embraced and even absorbed streetwear. The famous Balenciaga Speed Trainer is a crystal-clear example of this fashion fusion.

Balenciaga — a high-fashion brand that dates back to 1918 — released the Speed Trainer in 2016. The sleek, minimalist sneaker design featured a black body and an oversized white sole, delighting streetwear enthusiasts.

The shoe was different, but it could be easily recognized from across the street. It cost over $800. Knock-offs lacked the contrasting white Balenciaga logo and couldn't quite get the shape right, so the genuine article became a status symbol.

Celebrity culture still has a huge influence on streetwear, even as traditional fashion houses have co-opted the concept. Cardi B rapped about Balenciaga's Speed Trainer in her 2018 smash hit "I Like It" ("I like those Balenciagas/The ones that look like socks"), and she became an official Balenciaga spokeswoman. This celebrity-designer interdependence defines modern streetwear.

How Can You Blend Fashion and Streetwear?

So, you're interested in incorporating elements of streetwear into your style, but you're not about to spend $300 on a mostly-white t-shirt. (Good call.) Here are some fashionable ways to nod to streetwear without breaking the bank on labels.

Intricate Track Jacket

As streetwear and high fashion fuse, designers are taking inspiration from the style's hip-hop roots. The track jacket is a simple and comfy athletic jacket that features stripes and a zip-up construction. These simple elements are the perfect canvas for a reinterpretation.

A track jacket with an exaggerated collar is streetwear-inspired without being strictly streetwear. It pairs well with sweatpants, cargo pants or jeans. Add a stripey crossbody bag to tie together the '90s-inspired look.

Hoodie Dress

Hooded sweatshirts are staples of streetwear. After one or two washes, though, the crisp edges and bright whites of most hoodies fade and lose their high-fashion magic.

Instead of relying on a hoodie alone to bring streetwear into your wardrobe, try hoodie-inspired items such as an athleisure hoodie dress. This spin blends the ultra-feminine little black dress with the menswear-inspired windbreaker and oversized hoodie. Have fun with streetwear influences in your clothes to get this popular style on a budget.

Not Your Basic Tee

The button-down shirt has been through the fashion wringer: turned into a dress, deconstructed, reconstructed and put back together again. The plain white t-shirt is overdue for the same reimagining.

Instead of a typical t-shirt dress, try one with a high-fashion asymmetrical hem. Since many basic streetwear looks have simple and symmetrical lines, an exaggerated feature can add drama and make the piece look more interesting.

Printed Sweatpants

Streetwear, at its heart, is about individuals dressing for their interests and culture rather than blindly following the fashion elite. Ironically, streetwear is now about blindly following the fashion elite, but put that aside for a second and embrace the ultimate wear-it-for-yourself casual piece: sweatpants.

Elevate the basic gym sweatpant by adding a print or fashion detail, such as graffiti hearts. You can incorporate this detail onto multiple pieces in the same outfit for a put-together sweatpants look.

Gigi Hadid went with the popular monochromatic theme, picking a bold pastel pink as her single shade. Other celebrities love pairing a pair of loose sweatpants with a cropped vintage sweatshirt. For more structure but the same ultra-casual feeling, go with a denim blazer instead.

Where Can You Find Fun and Fashionable Streetwear-Inspired Looks?

What is streetwear? It's no longer its own insular fashion culture. The style has bled into everyday looks and prestigious designers' runway collections. Even fashion houses that wouldn't have dreamed of sending a hoodie down a Paris runway ten years ago are embracing the trend.

Incorporate elements of streetwear into your wardrobe to reflect this paradigm shift in fashion. At Kate Hewko, we believe in being ahead of the trends rather than following along. Athletic stripes, interesting sneakers and sweatpants are all fair game, and you can reimagine them in your own unique way. Browse our latest collection for fashion inspiration.,c_limit/

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