Streetwear as the new modernism.

Let’s begin with a quote from our man JCB :

For most people, luxury means tradition, it means culture, art and heritage. People want to understand what the heritage and culture of a brand is. There is another mentality coming in, which is through hip-hop culture and streetwear, which many people wouldn’t consider to be ‘luxury’, but it can also be and it can influence luxury.i Today, there’s a new generation of millennials who feel much closer to Hiroshi Fujiwara in Tokyo, than to what we have considered ‘luxury’ in the 18th or 19th century.

JCB’s exactly right too. For most people, wearing a tailored suit or a fitted dress speaks to a sense of tradition, culture, art, heritage… “dignity,” even. But of course that also means that, on the flip side of the coin, it’s old-fashioned, outmoded, stuffy, and artificially constraining. One man’s professionalism and propriety is another man’s dullardly in-the-box-thinking. Or more properly, one parent’s professionalism and propriety is their child’s dullardly in-the-box-thinking.

So it is that streetwear – a studiously relaxed sartorial style based on comfortable sweatpants, hoodies, and sneakers – represents the pupating shot across the bow that teh youf are embracing with such relish you’d swear someone was giving away free hotdogs. After all, who wants to look and feel like an old man ? No self-respecting young person, that’s for sure!ii And since gramps wears leather loafers, pleated slacks, plaid blazers, and collared shirts, that’s exactly what kids won’t wear.

Leveraging new materials, new manufacturing techniques, new supply chain flexibility,iii new ways of shopping, and under the auspices of new brands, youth the world over are giving the middle finger to the stultifying and archaic fashions of their forefathers. “We don’t want your stuck-up properness, we want to be comfortable and casual,” they say. For them, Larry’s leisure suit was but a transitional phase between the bygone days of rigid formality and today’s era of near-universal comfort. And what else could our era be but one of near-universal comfort ?

As with mincomepost-chivalry, #metoopandemic neoteny, and the rest of it, streetwear is the perfect embodiment of our age. It’s at once self-indulgent and self-interested,iv while also being accessible and ecumenical. It’s ideal for our jetset lifestyles because it never needs ironingv while also giving a nod to the emerging feudalist world in which we’d ideally own nothing that we can’t fit in a rucksack.

Not that this is a bad thing!! It’s at least more sophisticated (and more cultured) than the usual post-post-modernist-progressivist gargle, and therefore much better adapted to both our Information Age and the cold realities of our circles of real influence. It’s also more democraticvi than the elitist expressions of 20th century modernism. Take Seagram for instance…vii Not that streetwear is free of its own elitism, but with the middle-class-white-picket-fence-dream all but shattered over the knee of globalism‘s inherent winner-take-all effects, owning a cool pair of kicks, even a pair costing $1`000, is at least attainable for the millions and millions left behind. So this fast-moving fashion space is where the dreams of the next generation are being made manifest.

Just ask JCB. He gets it.

P.S. A couple days after publishing this article, I came across Virgil Abloh’s  2017 lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in which he also likened streetwear to the new modernism. Let’s call that “vindication.”

___ ___ ___

  1. Look no further than Virgil Abloh’s new post as artistic director of Louis Vuitton for the influence of streetwear on traditional luxury. Not that LV isn’t going to chew Virgil up and spit him out, they are, but they still chose the Off-White creator’s bones to pick their teeth with instead of Raf Simons or Alexander McQueen or whoever, and that’s saying something. []
  2. The ultimate “nose tap” to this stark fact, that the young despise the old, is, of course, the purposefully comedic Gramps :

    Gramps
    Droll, non ? []

  3. NikeID anyone ? It’s the shit. And this is coming from a guy who’s purchased three tuxedos in the past thirteen months – two bespoke and a Zegna. Hey, who says you can’t have diversity ? []
  4. Egotistical even. []
  5. Streetwear is generally baggy and unfitted not as a matter of sartorial ineptitude but as a matter of necessity in a marketplace dominated by e-commerce and online “size guides” that can but guess at the frumpy and unexercised lumps of flesh they’ll one day conceal, even enhance. Though of course there’s also the comfort factor that only swimming in your clothing can provide. []
  6. Like most anything else, when imposed top-down, such casualness can be as oppressive as any other policy restricting freedom of expression, but when allowed to blossom bottom-up, it can be as liberating as modern architecture was in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, expressing as it did the best of society and at the same time a willfully naive hope for the betterment of society. []
  7. Fashion is also much more nimble than architecture. Just compare the possible output of a fashion designer and an architect : the former can produce two shows per year with perhaps 50 pieces in each whereas the architect can at best complete two buildings in a decade. Now which do you think is going to better capture the imagination of the flick-left-flick-right children of today ?  []

2 thoughts on “Streetwear as the new modernism.

  1. […] on the topic of fashion, since the intersection between streetwear and traditional luxury is now in full flight, it’s also worth sharing a few photos from the four-day-old Virgil Abloh collection for Louis […]

  2. […] advanced by Off-White head honcho Virgil Abloh for the purposes of giving a nod and a wink to the grassroots modernist “streetwear” movement now making its impact felt in the world of high fashion. Isn’t it ironic ? That’s the […]

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