When we think about street style, we think back to the emergence of subcultures and their use of fashion as a vehicle of expression. Different street styles came about as a declaration of certain repertoires of values, beliefs and philosophies held dear by groups that pursued alternative lifestyles. Common themes prevalent in street style are the search for a sense of community in urban cities and youth resistance against mainstream culture.
Here’s a throwback to some of the iconic style "tribes” of the past half-century and how their unique sense of style and aesthetics have made an impact on fashion:
From the Greasers in the U.S. to the Ton-boys in the U.K., these groups formed communities around their appreciation for motorcycles, which had become the affordable transport for the working class in the 1950s. Think about the 1953 iconic biker film “The Wild One” for a stereotypical representation.
Signature looks: Black leather flight jackets, jeans and white/black shirts
The Beat movement that began in the 1950s is generally considered the precursor to the hippie subculture. See Audrey Hepburn in her portrayal of a "beatnik", the media stereotype of the members of the movement in the 1957 film, "Funny Face".
Signature looks: Beret, black turtle neck, easy flats, straight leg cigarette pants and black leotards?
Teddy Boys (and Girls)
This British subculture emerged after the Second World War and its subsequent post-war austerity. Working class youth grew more affluent and were able to afford the dandy (and traditionally upper-class) Edwardian fashions reintroduced by the tailors of Saville Row.
Signature looks: Long drape jackets, creeper shoes, slim ties and velvet collars?
Derived from the term "modernist", the Mod movement began in the 1960s and traces its roots back to the Beat Generation, jazz and existentialism. Young British urbanites started popularising scooters and wearing neat-cut French and Italian styles.
Signature looks: Shift dresses, miniskirts, bold colors and prints, knee high boots, the drop waist, short hair styles
The hippie movement of the 1960s is commonly associated with opposition to war and weaponry (most particularly the Vietnam War), advocating sexual liberation and encouraging the expansion of one's spiritual consciousness.
Signature Looks: Bell bottoms, ponchos, hair accessories, fringe, long peasant skirts, flowing silhouettes
Also referred to as "headbangers", members of the heavy metal subculture can be characterised by their disinterest in material consumption, rejection of institutional authority and working class resentment against constraints for success.
Signature looks: Band graphic tees, spikes, neck chokers, leather jackets, band patches, chains and more black
Punk fashion heavily emphasized on DIY clothing refashioned from secondhand items. The crude deconstruction of garments (rips, graffiti, etc) into new forms fit their core principles, encompassing anti-establishment views and a strong focus on individual freedom and non-conformity.
Signature looks: Multi-stud ear lobe, tattoos, body piercings, destroyed fabric, frayed hems, safety pins, bright hair dyes, leather clothing, razor blades, dog collars, laddered tights
Part of the wider hip-hop movement, the B-Boy subculture in the 1970s encouraged a creative outlet for outcast youths in the form of "breaking", otherwise known as breakdance. It is symbolic of the violence between gangs and disillusionment with the authority.
Signature looks: Oversized gold jewelry, sneakers, tracksuits, Kangol hats, snapbacks
The founders of goth were English rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees in the 1980s. Their dark style of dress and the spread of goth rock as a music genre gave birth to the goth movement, in which members were stereotyped as cynics of societal evils.
Signature looks: Dark eyes and lips, white faces, long coats, black shades, crosses, corsets, laces, Medieval/Victorian inspired clothing
Till today, designers often reference these subcultures on the runway. The influence of subculture can be seen from the likes of Vivienne Westwood, who brought punk into mainstream fashion, to the likes of Alexander McQueen with the gothic elements incorporated in his iconic collections. No doubt that counter-cultures will remain a major source of inspiration to designers as they seek to incorporate authenticity, meaningful experiences and diversity within their designs. It will be of no surprise to see elements of these subculture styles come back in trend in the future.
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