History of Streetwear From The 80’s To Present Day Fashion

Streetwear, (also called street fashion) dates back to 80s when punk, rock, and hip-hop genres began making an impact in the music industry. The California skaters and surfers influences, as well as hip-hop music, contributed to this popular fashion trend. The three movements upheld the culture of self-expression and independence signified by their bold colored and heavily branded streetwear statement pieces. The label has now continued to grow over the years with every decade holding unique styles. The street fashion, which has its origin in a small California group of surfers, has also expanded to other states in U.S. and other places like Japan, Europe, and U.K.

Understanding Streetwear

The bigger the streetwear label became, the harder it became to define. Media houses have twisted the real meaning of the fashion trend, with most of them including clothing like sportswear to the streetwear category. This has led to most fashion brands identifying as streetwear, but very few qualify as the original street fashion of the 80’s. Designers and other fashion enthusiasts should understand that street style is all about people, stories, and community. The genre puts more attention into the individuality and freedom of expression rather than art or design of the product. Therefore, streetwear designers should avoid over-reliance on art and graffiti of particular brands.

Significant Figures and Movements in the History of Streetwear

The artists of 70’s and 80’s had a way of voicing their opinion through music and rapping. Designers like Shawn Stussy recognized that not everyone could become a musician and that is when they introduced Streetwear to the market. Wearing different types of streetwear brands became a great way for non-artists to express themselves. Some of the notable personalities and movements that contributed to the growth of streetwear include:

Shawn Stussy

Shawn Stussy was the person behind the California surfer’s movement in the 80’s and the first person to create and monetize streetwear t-shirts. The surfer made hand-made surfboards before designing streetwear by printing his surfboard logo on the tees. The local surfboard surfer of Laguna Beach increased his profits by selling the t-shirts at the back of his car. Many surfers and skaters followed suit by embracing a DIY approach in producing t-shirts with their branded designs.


early 2000s rapper camo pants

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African Americans did not have a voice in the media in 60’s and early 70’s until the entry of hip-hop in the music industry. The stars and rappers concentrated on music production but later brought their branded t-shirts to the market, which attracted a large following among their fans. They used music and the streetwear fashion as a form of expression and communication to the world.

History of Streetwear

Streetwear has transitioned over the years with every decade holding its unique trends. Some favorite brands of 1980 remain relevant to date while others that have faded over the years might resurface in future. The streetwear enthusiasts have tried to retain the DIY trend of the80’s instead of going mainstream since most customers will never buy a streetwear item from a mainstream boutique. Below is an outline of streetwear fashion evolution from late 80’s and 90’s to the present day trends.

Streetwear in 1980’s

destinys child 90s tommy hilfiger fashion

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It is hard to define when exactly streetwear entered the fashion industry, but the label became popular among the surfers and punk stars in the 80’s. Hip-hop artists promoted the streetwear fashion brands in their music video and public appearances contributing to the development of the label. The streetwear fashion had spread to other U.S states in late 80’s from its California origin. Europe and countries like Japan also embraced the streetwear brand in 80’s creating a large market for the designers.

Brands like Nike entered the mid-80’s streetwear sneaker market with a bang while more people embraced other items such as Timberland and Champion. Streetwear items like crop tops, baggy jeans, snapbacks, and brightly colored spandex became dominant in the late 80’s. Graffiti also became relatively popular among the streetwear enthusiast at this time.

The 90’s Streetwear Fashion

supreme streetwear

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Streetwear items reached their peak in 90’s with many hip-hop and rock stars starting their clothesline which provided original street fashion items. Brands like Le Coq Sportif and shell toe Adidas dominated the 90’s scenes while customized snapbacks and puffy coats grew in demand. Various trendsetters like BAPE entered the markets in limited editions leading to high price points. This limited the number of buyers contributing to the emergence of copycat companies that produced low-quality streetwear. Brands such as Supreme and FUBU also entered the market and became favorites for most streetwear enthusiasts in a short time.

Streetwear in 2000’s

2000s Air Force One

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This was the turning point for streetwear with most brands ditching the old trends for the new-age fashion statement. Streetwear brands with high discounts like Wu-Wear and Lil Wayne’s Trukfit clothing entered the early 2000’s with a bang attracting a large client base from the poor neighborhoods. Adoption of new-age trends contributed to the increased demand of streetwear among musicians. Brands like Supreme and LRG dominated the industry during this era.

Internet was the main thing in 2000 leading to an increased popularity in online selling and buying. People developed smarter ways of getting their streetwear items sold through celebrity endorsements. For example, artists like Nelly promoted the Air Force One kicks through his “Air Force Ones” song while other stars identified with particular brands.

Current Streetwear Trends

Dimepiece women streetwear brand

Image Via: Missbish

Online buying and selling have increased the number of streetwear enthusiasts today. Brands can easily sell their items to the clients all over the world while the customers have exposure to wide variety of products. More people have embraced the hip-hop culture while the artists have become the leading streetwear brand ambassadors. Brands are still collaborating with mainstream companies creating a larger market for their products like leather jackets and sneakers while DIY pieces such as punk rock tops and ripped jeans also have a place in the markets today.


It is clear that streetwear will continue evolving every year with various brands introducing more items in the market. Streetwear has continually given people a platform to express themselves artistically and in style.

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