Beyond anything, streetwear is a culture. It's not about clothes, it's not only a product. Streetwear is an independently crafted intrinsic expression. Having these titles requires a brand to be spawned independently without the backing of an external variable. Becoming a streetwear brand means that you don't belong to any fashion house. Fear of God's designer, Jerry Lorenzo stated in a paralleled notion, "it's street in the sense that [it's] self-taught." No investors, no partners, the product is pure and not dictated to a traditional fashion calendar. Products are entirely dictated upon the intrinsic perspective and capabilities of the respective designer.
Like a work of art, streetwear is never the same for any two people. People either consider locale, era, or niche when trying to explain what streetwear means to them. It is hard to connect the dots, where there are so many dots inexplicably risen at the same time. Jeff Staple noted that he, "sees streetwear and its surrounding musical influences as inextricable." It is essentially impossible to separate a factor that was birthed with the culture.
One thing we can all agree on is that streetwear was forged by artists and renegades in the shadows of the underground. The unfortunate thing is that new collaborations and high fashion is predicated upon and powered by profits. What streetwear has become compared to how it originated is saddening. Big businesses and corporations have infiltrated streetwear and are rewriting their historical cornerstones. It is rare to find brands that care about the content they currently produce. The famous rapper or reality star that spontaneously creates their brand or becomes a designer all in the hope of hype. Talent commonly goes unnoticed analogous to underground hip-hop artists that helped compose many people's lives. I remember listening to Blue Scholars, Brother Ali, Cunninlynguists, Grieves, and KAAN growing up which helped give context and form to my life. Without context, the style becomes disposable. To me, streetwear is about teaching yourself how to screen-print before you can drive. We learned how to iron on vinyl heat transfers in our garage because we were broke. We learned to do controlled burns on our clothes to create an individualistic style. We learned how to dress based on our intrinsic experience. It was much more than social media, it was a lifestyle dictated on struggle, expression, and hubris.
I have worked within the fashion industry essentially my entire life. Before I could drive I interned at a screen-printing shop, learned the craft, stole photoshop CS3, became a graphic designer, worked my way up to an art director, and later on a creative director and production manager for a merchandising company who specializes in merch for bands and musicians. I have learned marketing and branding work like two wings of a bird. They are codependent on the other to reach their full potential. Marketing is what brings new customers in the door, but branding is why they stay. Streetwear is the same in this regard. When someone buys a band tee, it was never really about the clothes. It was about representing a narrative that they believe in.
Styles will always continue to redefine themselves. It is always difficult to define it as one thing because it is intrinsic to every person's story. Subjective experience makes it impossible to compose a comprehensive definition of streetwear. Streetwear is about life held in commonality. It is not about clothing, it is about stories like ours that create a lifestyle. It is beyond a piece of fabric, it is about how we grew up, what we feel, and how we continue to live. It is what we listen to when we are alone, it is about how we conduct ourselves in society. Streetwear is an orchestration of life, merch is a fabric that holds us together. Streetwear connects who we are with what we do.