Like comic books or underground music, a 1990s streetwear habit required devotion. DJ Ross One, a leading collector of rap T-shirts, said that traveling to New York had been like making a pilgrimage, in which the holy sites were Triple Five Soul, Canal Street Jeans and Phat Farm.
“The thought of reselling, it would have been devastating to me to lose even one of those shirts because it was so hard to get and I wanted it so badly,” he said. “Also, nobody would have bought it.”
The internet, Ross One said, is “the beginning and end of any conversation about things that used to be sacred that are now not. There’s no more underground culture. It’s really hard today for a kid to have something that’s all their own.”
A Survey of Hype
The report was a joint effort by Hypebeast and the waviest auditing firm around, PricewaterhouseCoopers. Dr. Axel Nitschke, an expert on fashion, sports and luxury at Strategy&, PwC’s in-house consulting agency, said that he was interested in the lessons streetwear had to teach.
“Streetwear managed to create desirability for the product, something that the bulk of the fashion industry has increasing challenges in doing,” said Mr. Nitschke, who co-authored the report with Enrique Menendez, Hypebeast’s senior features editor. “Those brands, sneaker brands, have tremendous credibility within the peer group, and that comes out of the community.”
Has that community of creators and customers, many of them people of color, been left behind by the larger industry’s interest? The report defines streetwear as “fashionable casual clothes” — the suggestion being that you know when you see it — and makes room for “luxury streetwear brands,” including Off-White, AMBUSH and Vetements.
By JONAH ENGEL BROMWICH