Streetwear Tribes: From Hypebeasts To Fun Dads
The MR PORTER guide to urban apparel, and the men who wear it.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or down a hole for the past 18 months, you’ll be familiar with streetwear. The word, anyway, though perhaps not the concept. Because streetwear is a knotty one. One of those trends that is impossible to pin down, yet as powerful and popular as it is undocumented. The sort of stuff that is designed for boys, but can only be afforded by men.
As the name suggests, it is a catch-all term for clothes worn on the street, clothes that sit outside fashion. If suits are designed for the office, streetwear has historically been for Saturdays and Sundays, or the late-night milk run.
Fashion loves a bit of dissent, though, and catching wind of this outlier “movement”, decided to co-opt streetwear. Some streetwear could now arguably be defined as smart. Not job-interview smart, but in-law-meeting smart, which is smart enough. And we are all digital nomads now, working on benches or beaches or whatever, or we at least want to appear like that, so why not wear sweatpants for that conference call?
Unlike most branches of fashion, this one is knotted with a series of sub-groups, all with their own identity, personality and mores. Read on to find which streetwear tribe you belong to.
Hypebeasts don’t work for the website. No, no, Hypebeasts are men of leisure. Who else has time to queue outside Palace for a peach cap when there’s work to be done, exams to be taken? But that’s not the point. Hypebeasts are hunters and this – the queuing, the exclusivity, the chase, the hype – is what makes them Hypebeasts. Why we don’t call them Hypehunters remains an excellent and, as yet, unanswered question.
Nonetheless, they are curious creatures, who move in packs at night, with gloves and Puffa jackets and battery packs, pitching tents on concrete outside shops you walk past every day but don’t know quite what they sell. They know what they want and they won’t stop until they have it, and that kind of tenacity is admirable. The latest Supreme x North Face collab, say, or a T-shirt that will increase in value by 1,000 per cent overnight.
Hypebeasts, though cooler than you, are still regular people. And a successful day copping (effectively attaining wares) is usually followed by a successful night discussing said cops with their partners (Hypebees), except in a sexier voice. The aim is to wear the copped piece, or re-sell it, the profit either going into more cops or into their ISAs for when they decide to start a fund for their Hypebaby, which is a terrifying but very real thing.
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The Eastern Bloc-head
This niche but robust type of streetwear wearer is at the bleeding edge of fashion. He might have been born after 1991, but he knows the cultural significance of designers such as Russian wunderkind Mr Gosha Rubchinskiy, and can spell his surname correctly on the first attempt. He might not know that Mr Rubchinskiy’s clothes are a sociopolitical statement from his youth, from when he and his pals were unable to buy adidas in communist Russia, so wore fakes, but he’s not stupid enough to wear a T-shirt emblazoned with a hammer and sickle in public, either. No, he does not have an MA in post-Soviet studies, but it’s still nice to be part of the conversation. And who can ask more than that?
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The Fun Dad
When the Fun Dad’s nephew explained the concept of streetwear to him at Clowntown, Fun Dad panicked. Since having kids, fashion has meant dark, wipe-clean clothing. And while some collaboration jackets will be fine in a 40-degree wash, Gore-Tex remains a triggering thing to revisit. He’s not worn it since the Hacienda and that’s not a period he’s likely to revisit any time soon, what with Cosmo and the school fees. Except he is, because it’s in fashion and nothing makes you feel more like a man than wearing something practical while getting compliments.
Fun Dads are easy to spot. You’ll find them by the school gates in head-to-toe Oliver Spencer, except for a Stüssy beanie worn incorrectly. Or in Waitrose, in a pair of box-fresh white Gosha x Reebok Phase One Pro sneakers. Or maybe in the park on Sunday, where, after a heavy net session with the boys, Fun Dad will decide that he won’t actually get changed, that he will wear his Champion sweater for his shandy in the pub, and maybe he’ll pass as childless. The key, it seems, is to wear it in ratio: 90 per cent sensible clothing, 10 per cent something sporty. Except never call it sporty.
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The Rich Teen
Fashion was invented by Instagram, declared one Rich Teen somewhere, and lo it began that rich boys started wearing streetwear purely to show it off on social media. At this stage, you’re probably wondering what the difference between a Rich Teen and a Hypebeast is. And you’d be right to ask. Both are time-rich enough to queue, and both are invested in their status. Both are concerned with being seen to be buying. In fact, if they’re not seen, it didn’t actually happen. But there are granular differences that set them apart. Rich Teens, for example, are comfortable exchanging a lot of money for wares they may not wear. Rich Teens went berserk when Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme because they knew their parents would approve. Rich Teens are also more likely to be seen in box-fresh. Such is the quantity of stock they have procured over the years that they operate a wear-once policy. Rich Teens also like the word “procure”.
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Boys will be boys, but lads will only wear sportswear. They will never call it streetwear, so in a sense they don’t really belong here. Except many young men, often students, are biting their style – white sports socks pulled up over their tracksuit hems, touches of neon Kappa and Lonsdale, Reebok Classics kept Daz-white. And now sportswear has fallen into the fold, such is this never-ending resurgence of logos and irony in fashion. Truly, who can keep up? We’re not saying that 21-year-old undergrads are akin to Mr George Orwell adopting the dress of the working classes to report on them in The Road To Wigan Pier. We’re not saying that people who wear adidas at their startup are all guilty of class tourism. But it is a bit weird, isn’t it?
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Illustrations by Ms Karin Kellner