The ‘4th wave’ of streetwear fashion and culture is imminent, and we may even already be there.
Bobby Hundreds, founder and creative director of The Hundreds, believes that streetwear has already lived, died, and resurrected through three waves. This idea that streetwear is a progressive movement going through a life cycle is an exciting prospect, fashion manifests the notion of ideas, concepts and beliefs and has created a culture for the youth. Streetwear is often discussed in accordance to contextuality to its era, with timely influences from era stylistic approaches that are birthed from proximity to the origins of its culture. In this post, we’ll discuss the movements of streetwear originating from Los Angeles and New York, transcending through the conceptual sphere and beliefs on fashion through the 80s and 90s, finding ourselves where we are today and how we define contemporary fashion movements.
The 1st Wave: Southern California’s surf and skate culture.
South California’s pioneering subcultures and revolutionary concept of streetwear and urban culture curated this idealistic lifestyle of art and contextual culture. Influences from surf and skate in LA started the movement of redefining urban culture and lifestyle. Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director, discussed this pioneering movement to Elle magazine as “the clothes became a thing to represent a sort of way of thinking.” This idea of brandishing yourself within the Southern Californian lifestyle of early 80s hip-hop and skate culture, wearing jeans and printing your own tee shirts, is to develop iconography of early streetwear and belong in a community.
The 2nd Wave: Japanese influences and New York City’s melting pot.
I believe this is the true start point of what we label “streetwear.” The second wave saw the birth of brands like Supreme, Stussy, Guess and pretty much every streetwear brand you can think of. The 90s saw Japanese influences and the cultural significance of New York City coming together in perfect harmony, fueling the second wave of street fashion. It revolutionized streetwear for the East Coast of America, which took power from the West Coast’s pioneering movement. This new style was nonexistent away from NYC and saw aspects brought over from East Asia.
The 3rd Wave: The internet’s playground.
This blog has explored previous ideas that the internet has accelerated fashion progression and accessibility, and the impact it’s had on the culture of fashion and young people. The third wave begins to define the current atmosphere of fashion and streetwear, with a great amount of accessibility to the masses. Streetwear in the 00s has manifested itself into mainstream channels. The internet has allowed for this culture to spread worldwide and as a result, this shapes how street culture is consumed and, perhaps, the contextuality of cultural pieces are lost in the matrix of the internet. Something that was once defined by its cultural proximity and influence from culturally specific time frames is now available to everyone and viewed just for the design aspects.
The 4th Wave: Is it imminent or is it already here..?
I don’t think this wave has a recognisable, singular, divisive stylistic reputation because of how vast the culture has become. There are so many aspects ‘borrowed’ from other cultures that it’s impossible to locate one source as the inspiration and driving factor behind the fourth wave. Unless you look towards the genius mind behind Off White; fashion mogul and lifestyle innovator, Virgil Abloh. If I could dedicate this whole blog to Abloh, I would and I would have no shame in stanning him. This new wave is a combination of everything we’ve ever seen in street culture before and there is no singular approach to fashion now. Bobby Hundreds on Complex discusses this; “I think we’re nearing a fourth wave of streetwear, buttressed by brands that are past the point of elitism and exclusivity, instead emphasizing branding and community. This next generation is formulating their own postmodern interpretation of street apparel.” There is so much freedom and that is what makes it difficult to pinpoint a shift from waves. I think we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that fashion will never function in stages like society has done throughout the last century. Trends will come and go and there won’t be a dominant style comparable to the magnitude and significance of 80s surf and skate culture and the NYC street culture of the 90s.
Virgil Abloh is dominating both major scenes of fashion and culture.
Abloh is so much more than an innovator. He is a creative genius that knows no bounds to his creative majesty and is an incomparable icon in the realms of fashion, music, art and even furniture. There is no way to describe him in one blog post, but this might help. Abloh holds the crown for 21st century fashion and design and may just go down in history as the face of the 4th wave.