Streetwear has always been worn on the streets of the world. The buzz over different brands is comparatively new. Even newer is the fact that, above all, young boys are fascinated with this hype. In Germany, too.
Marcel is 17 years old. He comes from a solid middle-class family and attends high school in a medium-sized city in western Germany. For him, standing in line is pretty common. Of course, not to obtain the necessities of life, but for his “style,” as he calls it. “It all began in 2015. At that time we camped in front of Jades in Düsseldorf for five days to get Yeezy Boots 350 Moonrock,” he explains in passing, as he talks to his friends about which store in downtown Cologne they will go to next. In terms of style, Marcel and his clique look incredibly similar to the thousands of other young people out shopping this Saturday morning: streetwear, streetwear, streetwear, right in your face! It almost seems as though their Sleeping Beauty sleep in the last few years was really a detox cure with personal success training: what was once done purely by the subculture for the subculture is today self-assuredly in vogue again, on the catwalks of the fashion weeks, in various collaborations for limited-edition sneakers and, of course, on the streets of the world.
There, of course, to be accurate, streetwear has always been worn, but the hype over certain brands is comparatively new. Among other people, it all got started with young designers typically born in the 1980s, who could not identify with the outdated and jaded haute couture system and instead wanted to make “clothing for the streets,” as Demna Gvasalia of the Vetements label put it. Vetements gained a name, among other things, because the design collective bought secondhand Levi’s at flea markets, deconstructed and reconstructed them–and resold them. In other words: clothing from the street for the street. The oversized hoodies bearing the Vetements label, which look like heavy metal gear from the early 1990s, simply took off–and are being worn by Parisian youth as well as Kanye West. The young Russian designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy, who quotes and adapts outdated sports and streetwear labels such as FILA, Sergio Tacchini or Tommy Hilfiger in his collections, is doing precisely the same, and seems to have captured the spirit of the times: when his Adidas x Gosha collection appeared, people stood in line at stores for hours. For some time now, people also camp waiting for the latest sneaker editions–and besides that there are also raffles: sweepstakes in which the draw decides who can be the first to buy the coveted shoes.
Boys who actually should still be accompanied by their parents come to us, some of them several times a month, to sign up for the raffles–and when they get the chance they always buy the sneakers.
This hype is mainly stoked by young men. “It already starts at age 14, 15,” says Erhan Bektas, owner of the Atelier Köln concept store. Herbert Hofmann, buyer and creative director of the Berlin Voo Stores, explains: “Boys who actually should still be accompanied by their parents come to us, some of them several times a month, to sign up for the raffles–and when they get the chance they always buy the sneakers.” To own things which were created, worn to a show or mentioned in a song (such as Raf Simons in A$AP Rocky’s song “RAF”) by well-known musicians (in most cases rappers) is totally important to many and gives them the feeling they’re part of a secret society–as with any youth culture, fashion functions as a badge showing that you belong. In addition, for boys, “sneakers are a collector’s item,” says Hofmann. “Girls collect jewelry, bags and high heels and a thousand other things–there’s not much leftover for boys.”
That more is leftover now is primarily thanks to social media culture, which makes everything visible and available to everybody everywhere. “Before, you had to read fashion magazines, which most young men would never have done,” says Hofmann. “But now everybody clicks through Instagram. The quick pictures create needs–and the right style is demonstrated before your eyes, both at the celebrity level–as well as among friends.” On the part of the brands, apart from a good concept, there is, of course, a well worked out marketing strategy and scarcity is a positive trait. “The collection pieces from Gosha Rubchinskiy, for example, which are under the aegis of Comme des Garçons, are shipped as limited editions, which makes the brand all the more desirable. In our store, Gosha is sold out after two days at the latest,” says Bektas.
Brands such as Fila are, of course, delighted to be part of the hype, thanks to designers like Rubchinskiy. They attribute their “rebirth” to, on the one hand, a reminiscence of the 1990s, and, on the other, to the ubiquitous athleisure trend. “Athleisure is a ‘skewed hybrid’ of business, casual, sports clothing and current fashion trends such as the logo trend–basically a completely new and distinct category. The styling is different and there is hardly any difference any more between business, casual and sports clothing. As enduring as sports clothing and as versatile as business casual–that matches the zeitgeist of the consumer,” explains Konrad Nowak, head of marketing at Fila Europe. That “today’s fashion-minded youth especially deliberately define styles by means of large logos,” is just right.
And what is happening with the original streetwear, which really does emerge “from the street” and its subculture? Even in Cologne’s cult skater store, Made In, which has been in business since 1981 and has been a classic “boys’ hang out” from way back (and still is), there is a noticeable shift in its customer base due to digitalization and it no longer depends on skate videos and American magazines for information. Niche brands, which used to be reserved for a small group, now find “non-skaters” cool, too, and demand for brands such as Thrasher or Supreme has risen as part of the streetwear hype. However, Marcel Bock and Eric Remy from Made In do not see this as a sellout of “genuine” streetwear: “For Thrasher it is cool that they have caught a hype wave, since Thrasher reinvests a great deal of the money they earn back into skateboarding. Many people are wearing Thrasher at the moment because it is being hyped. But for us skateboarders, who have been wearing Thrasher for years now, no hype in the world changes anything about loyally supporting the brand. In 30 years we’ll still be wearing apparel from the San Francisco magazine.” For youth, culture is still youth culture. And hype is still hype. The difference lies in the stability.
This feature appeared in our GERMAN ISSUE. Find out more about its stars and shapers in the print magazine or check the digital magazine here.