When you take a look at the most popular brands right now, especially those that cross the lines between high-fashion/couture and streetwear, it’s important to understand that their creators have been heavily influenced by earlier forms of street culture. For instance OFF-WHITE’s founder Virgil Abloh. Virgil actually got his start in 2012 making graphic tees under the streetwear brand, Pyrex Vision. In interviews, Virgil talks about Supreme and other skateboarding style clothing brands. Then there’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School — both designers are renowned in the industry as ambassadors of New York street style. They credit their beginnings in high-fashion to collecting vintage Ralph Lauren pieces in High school while working retail at Tommy Hilfiger, and designing for Urban wear label Sean John. All of these brands mentioned, in one way or another, helped shape the designs we see in streetwear today.
Where would streetwear be today without Shawn Stüssy? It’s a scary thought because his brand was one of the earliest labels in the 80s that really catered to the subcultures of surfing, skate and punk — groups that have contributed to the formation of today’s cool West Coast scene. Based in California, Stüssy started out as an innovative surfboard company, which then became a clothing line featuring its logos in different designs and colorful motifs. The first collections quickly caught on and the label was able to open its own stores across the country, and eventually worldwide. As evidence of its influence and growth, Stüssy catapulted itself to a brand that reaches up to $50 million USD in yearly revenue with numerous outposts and stockists around the globe. If streetwear was a religion, then Shawn Stüssy would be its God with other brands constantly taking a page out of Stüssy’s gospel on how to become a massively influential name.
NIGO can be looked at as the person who was able to transcend streetwear across cultures and continents — he started Bape in 1993 in Japan’s Urahara neighborhood, which is considered to be the birthplace of Japanese streetwear. From there, while it took some time, the DJ/producer/entrepreneur was able to propel A Bathing Ape into mainstream status. During the 2000s many of hip-hop’s most high-profile artists such as Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, and Kanye West adopted the brand’s flamboyant fashions. Soon after, young style-minded consumers also wanted to dress like their favorite rappers, donning the brand’s signature shark hoodies, purple camouflage tees and multicoloured Bapesta sneakers. If there was any evidence to Bape’s reach and longevity, the newer crop of massively influential rap artists like the ASAP Mob, Kid Cudi and Future can be seen wearing pieces from its seasonal collections. And if you visit its online shops, you can witness a bulk of its the products always selling out, even at such hefty price points.
Hiroshi Fujiwara is widely known as the “Godfather of Streetwear,” and it’s easy to say that Mr. Fujiwara’s contribution to the culture is nothing short of massive. To put in perspective, the DJ/fashion guru is responsible for mentoring the growth of NIGO from A Bathing Ape and Jun Takahashi from Undercover — names always mentioned in the conversation of pivotal streetwear brands. Also, as an influential DJ and owner of his first brand Goodenough, Hiroshi was able to translate to the Japanese audience the covetable cool attitudes of 80s hip-hop culture. From then on, most can attribute the evolution of Japan’s fashion scene and artistic movements of that time to Japan’s chancellor of cool. In terms of streetwear and the brands that have continued to pop-up in Japan, it’s safe to say that papa Fujiwara “fathered” them all.
Supreme is the undisputed king of cool in the world of modern day streetwear, and we have founder James Jebbia to thank. The brand is in a class of its own, being one of the first names in skate wear to actually cross cultural borders between hip-hop, art, high-fashion, pop and more. Never has been a brand so polarizing now too, with devoted fans still praising its subversively cool aesthetic and haters bashing the brand for fueling the negative ideologies of ‘hype.’ But whether you get it or not, James Jebbia has carefully curated Supreme’s street-meets-art culture ethos for those in the know. The result has been of course, met with ravenous acceptance as hordes of streetwear fans are still willing to pay top dollar — even at a sometimes 2000% mark-up in re-sellers market — for its logo-adorned goods.
You’re reading that right and no, this is not a curveball thrown at you. If there was anyone who was key to the primordial beginnings of urban wear, then that credit would go to fashion designer Karl Kani. While you might be thinking that urban wear is a separate entity from streetwear, well then you’re mistaken, as this particular genre actually gave birth to true Hip-Hop fashion, which would later transform into present-day streetwear. In this realm, Karl Kani’s clothing in the early 1990s was seen on artists such as 2Pac, Dr. Dre, The Notorious B.I.G and many more. The brand also paved the way for a string of urban labels that came out around that decade that included FUBU, Sean John, Rocawear and G-Unit clothing. It was also exciting to see some of your favorite musicians becoming entrepreneurs, spawning labels of their own and building a mainstream culture of fashion strictly meant for Hip-Hop. In retrospect, if Hiroshi Fujiwara is known as the “Godfather of Streetwear,” then Karl Kani would be considered the “Godfather of Urban Wear.”
It was becoming more evident in the early 2000s that the internet was starting to introduce more and more people to the world of limited edition sneakers. Whether it was Jordans or Nike SBs, sites like HYPEBEAST fed the community the latest information of when and where particular drops would happen. One of the more prominent figures of that time that blogs like this one shed light on was jeffstaple. Whether you were a fan of his Nike “Pigeon” Dunks, his sneaker blog To Darrin Hudson, or his clothing line Staple, one thing was evident, kids during that time period wanted to become creators and entrepreneurs just like Jeff Staple. What Mr. Staple brought to the culture was more than just sneakers and clothes, he gave us intelligent insights on how products were actually made. So if inspiration was something you sought as a budding streetwear entrepreneur, then reading about jeffstaple’s work was an important source. With the shift in streetwear wanting to fit in with the high fashion crowd, Staple continues to stay true to its street, sneaker and urban roots.
Los Angeles streetwear mainstay, The Hundreds has made substantial contributions to California’s street culture. If you look back at its humble beginnings, you’ll see how dedicated Bobby was (and still is) to preserving and progressing West Coast art, fashion and music. What Bobby also taught many followers about starting out as a small brand was the importance of collaborations. Camaraderie with other labels is always at the heart of the Hundreds’s ethos, and we’ve seen them team up with everyone from Diamond, FUCT and Crooks & Castles, to Pepsi, Disney and adidas. While Stüssy was key to California streetwear culture in the 80s, The Hundreds can be credited to grabbing the torch and pushing the culture even farther in the early 2000s.
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