Menswear Is Not The New Streetwear

Despite Jake's nightmares that guys in double monks will line up around the block for the latest double-breasted sportcoat at Epaulet or wool flannel trousers from Ovadia & Sons, that is never going to happen. Menswear is not the new streetwear, because streetwear was never the “new” anything. Streetwear just was. It was more than clothes, it was a hodgepodge of subcultures and mutual friends—street artists, skaters, stoners, whoever, trying to turn a dime into a dollar. Much in the same way the term “hipster” is now a pejorative for anything deemed “too cool for school”—whether a Brooks Brothers quilted blazer, trucker hats, or not showering—streetwear culture never claimed that word, rather it was a blanket term applied to an already existing thing in an attempt for society-at-large to classify something they didn’t quite understand.

Streetwear, for the most part, all boils down to Shawn Stussy. Sometime in the early 80's, he started making surfboards and signing them with his own name. Stussy’s signature logo was literally that—Shawn’s signature. He was never trying to market an aesthetic, he was simply maintaining his integrity, expanding on it in a logical way and trying to get paid for it. It was never about clothes. In a 1992 interview with The New York Times, he said, “Me and my friends don't put much money into clothes. We don't want to look like we're trying too hard, you know, to be garish and trendy.”

Menswear, or rather, #menswear is driven by trends disguised as authenticity and classicism—the “timeless” navy blue blazer, the “last pair of shoes” you’ll need. It’s marketing disguised as realness, exacerbated by nerds (like myself, admittedly) fawning over details such as working buttonholes, canvassing and soft shoulders. #Menswear has clearly discernible boundaries between what it is and what it isn’t. T-shirts? Not menswear. Streetwear, on the other hand, is not as clearly defined. Is buzzed-about line En Noir streetwear? Is Nepenthes streetwear? How about Ale et Ange, BWGH or Hood By Air? To what allegiance does my Rodarte x Opening Ceremony sweatshirt owe itself? Streetwear’s culture of “real-recognize-real” acceptance easily trumps #menswear’s social media hegemony.

It’s this same self-awareness that keeps streetwear culture ten times more accessible than menswear.

Streetwear has always been self-aware and organically tied to urban culture. Whereas Fuck Yeah Menswear’s ribbing of Boglioli and The Sartorialist led to reblogs and a book deal, blogs like Don’t Believe The Hypebeast and Old Jeezy policed street culture as early as 2006. It was never about turning a buck on the Internet as much as it was calling out all sorts of fuckery, whether it was clothing, sneakers or music. In fact, Fuck Yeah Menswear drew some of its inspiration from Chris Ryan's similar parodic hip-hop blog, Gabe Said We’re Into Movements.

It’s this same self-awareness that keeps streetwear culture ten times more accessible than menswear. That’s why so much of streetwear is about parody, whether riffing on fashion tropes like Versace and Polo, or pop culture like Planet Of The Apes or Jaws. And frankly, it’s cheaper. What do menswear dudes and “their friends that dress like shit” have in common? T-shirts and jeans in their closets. As Stussy called it in the aforementioned NYT article, "I just make basic clothes that a 10-year-old can wear and my dad can wear."

While the modern streetwear market is driven by fresh-out-of-puberty tweens and their desire to a.) be down with urban culture or b.) turn a quick buck from a limited-edition drop, it remains as relevant as ever. It’s a gateway drug into giving a shit about how you look—the same way smoking weed might eventually lead you to swallowing tissues full of Molly. There is always going to be a fresh crop of high schoolers who want to look fresh on their first day of school.

  • Geoffrey

    i agree