Is Streetwear Still Cool?

Unlike the rest of retail (and country, for that matter), streetwear had a good 2017. But a recent piece from Highsnobiety wonders if the sub-sect of the industry is facing somewhat of an existential crisis: is streetwear, once a not-so-subtle signifier of being part of a “clandestine, in-the-know club,” still “cool”?

Financial and anecdotal reports would indicate that it is. Supreme, the ostensible leader of the pack, collaborated with Louis Vuitton and then sold half of itself to the Carlyle Group for $500 million. The streetwear trade show, ComplexCon, moved 50,000 tickets. And there was a hyped sneaker release, like, every weekend this year.

But what existed for decades as a small, sustainable sub-industry stocked with obscure-but-affordable product has undergone a radical transformation. “Streetwear isn’t just driving its own growth: it’s the dominant trend for luxury fashion houses too,” the story said. “In October, The Fashion Law reported that “high-end streetwear helped boost global sales of luxury personal goods by 5 percent this year to an estimated 263 billion euros ($309 billion).”

And that profitability is at the heart of author Calum Gordon’s inquiry. “[For] others, from Supreme to the brands showing at ComplexCon, 2018 will present a pronounced challenge in maintaining the buzz that made streetwear an outlier in the first place. Can an industry so visibly profitable remain cool?”

It’s an interesting question. Until very recently, buying streetwear was an inexpensive (or less expensive) way to flex some fashion acumen. Because most things were priced similarly — Supreme tees still retail for as little as $36 if you have quick fingers — the entity was almost whimsically meritocratic in that taste and access to goods were all that really mattered.

But now that resellers and legitimate fashion houses have pushed the prices on in-demand pieces to actually-insane heights (a Supreme x Louis Vuitton trunk sells for $60,000 and the most recent Supreme Box Logo hoodie is reselling for over $900), the market has become actual “big business.”

And big business is inherently not cool.

You can read more about it at Highsnobiety.

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  • What makes big business uncool is the greed. Remove the greed & most just look at it as success. I can’t hate on success.

    I’m not a Supreme wearer, but the 50% private equity sale is gonna change Supreme. Private equity hasn’t exactly done right by streetwear brands or society in general.