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Streetwear has notoriously made a big jump in recent years, going from cult followings to a behemoth of an icon in the world of luxury fashion. Where did this massive interest come from? Several fashion sources point to the sub-culture of the skateboarding era, which stemmed from the early surfboarding era in the late 1970s. Streetwear also has its roots in music with the development of hip-hop culture. Today, streetwear has a multi-faceted persona, mixing casual look, ready-to-wear fashion, and often luxury paired with exclusivity.

Let’s take a step back in time, however. Streetwear has not always been about limited-editions and key marketing campaigns through selected drop-dates.

Streetwear in the 80s and 90s

A black and white picture of two people holding skateboards
A black and white picture of two people holding skateboards

Like most skateboarding brands in the 80s and 90s, streetwear mirrored the emerging subculture without the popularity of mainstream fashion. Brands like DC Shoes, Vans, and the release of Thrasher Magazine influenced streetwear culture at that time and created an appeal and a sense of community for skaters worldwide. Upon its inception in 1994, New York-based streetwear brand Supreme heralded popularity exclusively to skaters; their unforeseen rise as one of the top streetwear brands today was never expected to happen. So how did it happen?

Not only does streetwear appeal to teens and young adults, but the pivot into luxury appeals to the high-end fashion world has created an industry growth alongside notable brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Balenciaga. Celebrity endorsement helps the streetwear landscape, as well.

Limited production

A person wearing red and white Nike shoes
A person wearing red and white Nike shoes

In the early 2000s, music producers and influencers like Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and Lil Wayne catapulted interest with Japanese streetwear brands i.e. Bape, Comme des Garcons, and Neighborhood, featuring pieces in their videos and references in their music.

“Streetwear became more approachable than the average high fashion, designer label. It nurtured community, collaboration, and artistic expression”, writes Elsewhere, in their fashion blog.

Streetwear designers like Jeff Staple of Staple Design unintentionally helped create absolute hype with the release of the legendary Nike Skateboarding shoe named “Pigeon Dunks” in 2005. The exclusivity factor of limited produced items of shoes, jackets, and t-shirts became the blueprint for streetwear hype. But what about the quality of their products? And how does streetwear brands create value and cultural following?

Where does streetwear go next?

An entrepreneur standing on a bridge in NYC
An entrepreneur standing on a bridge in NYC

NYC-based visual artist and IT Professional Umahoin Odihirin recalls the moment that attracted him to the creative sensibility of Staple Design. “When I saw an interview with Jeff for the first time in a Hypebeast blog, he seemed so cool and down to earth and that whatever he made I’d support it. He just happens to make awesome clothes too.” Jeff Staple’s vision and designs have inspired Umahoin in his own creative outlet ensuring a deeper connection with the streetwear brand. He often looks forward to collection drops and eagerly awaits the newest from Staple.

How does streetwear rank with sales? Strategy& estimates that globally, streetwear brands culminate about 10% of sales: roughly a nice $185 billion revenue.

With those numbers, there’s no peak in sight for streetwear brands. Its growth in popularity will continue to evolve in the next few years.

What are some of your favorite streetwear brands? Let us know in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.