Streetwear was born out of the hyper-specific locations and hobbies of American bi-coastal youthcultures, practical-but-cool clothes for skaters and surfers in Cali and NYC in the 70s and 80s. It evolved as a DIY reaction to the ideals of the luxury fashion industry and its seasonal schedules, eschewing boring professionalism and prohibitively expensive high quality fabrications in favour of rawness, attitude, creativity, and community. There will always be an argument about what exactly streetwear is, or was, or how it has changed and sold out and lost its soul, but more than anything it was a template, a blank tee ready to be screenprinted. It’s for those same reasons that, in the last 30 years, it’s become a ubiquitous fashion statement for a generation of consumers who are now as likely to be found wandering the endless malls of Seoul and Hong Kong as they are across the endless beaches and skateparks of the USA.
Streetwear may have come of age outside the framework of the luxury fashion industry but soon enough it got co-opted by it. Streetwear – a preserve of outsiders, artists, those weird kids at school – became luxury streetwear, just another fashion style, a worldwide costume for an age of Instagram-flattened taste. A generic silhouette of expensive tracksuits, logo hoodies and baseball caps emanating from the same fashion centres these garments were once reacting against. Just another product in a landfill of products, a profit mark-up in the spreadsheets of another multi-national fashion conglomerate.
And yet, looking away from the catwalks of New York, London, Milan and Paris, and looking across the globe, a new wave of streetwear has been emerging. From Singapore to Lagos, from Greece to Eastern Europe a generation of talented kids are turning to streetwear’s open template to create fashion that reflects their personal lives and realities, it is fashion that represents the progressive politics of 21st century youth, the inclusive attitude of a generation raised in communities fostered and developed online.
In 2015, after the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, France witnessed a surge in anti-Islamic hate-crime and violence. In response Theodoros Gennitsakis started up the clothing label Pressure with a desire to counter the negative stereotypes swirling around Arabs in the country. The first piece he created was a simple T-shirt with the word “pressure” written on it in Arabic (aping Supreme’s red-on-white box logo for added impact) “because of the pressure Arabs in France were feeling at the time,” he explains. “The pieces are simple but the message is strong.”