The actual term streetwear clothing refers to designs coming from the street up into fashion instead of from fashion houses and down into the street. Streetwear clothing is considered to be a more underground fashion because it developed as a response against the pop-culture mainstream brands like GAP and Abercrombie & Fitch. In the early eighties a group of individual entrepreneurs in their twenties, primarily on the west coast of America, began developing fashion that reflected their lifestyles such as skateboarding, surfing, and hip-hop. They took their inspiration from the street bands that often sold their own designed t-shirts and mix tapes to the fans directly. The ability to design your own t-shirts for you and your friends led to a more personalized clothing style.
The history of streetwear began with skate and surf in the late 70s and early 80s. A leading designer/surfer was Shawn Stussy, who took his signature and added it to surf designs for surfboards and then applied them to a line of casual clothing. Once the clothing line took off, he met fashion designers, rock stars, and pro athletes, who all loved his clothing so he hooked them up with skaters, punkers and surfers to make a new look coined streetwear clothing because it took the basic fashion concepts and took them in new directions by taking the design inspirations directly into ordinary street clothing.
Streetwear history continued into the early 90s when Stussy and others from the skate/surf world began experimenting with melding hip-hop sensibilities with the surf and skate styled clothes. They took elements of music, art, and street theatre and delivered them in the clothing designs. Stussy and others encouraged his fans to combine preppy with skatewear and hip-hop or rock clothes with fashion to give a personalized look. The emergence of brands began around this time and the look began to spread across the US.
In the late 90s the current lords of streetwear began to look west to Japan for inspiration. Japanese companies were taking streetwear clothing to the next level, adding pop culture influences such as toys, games, anime etc to tie in with the streetwear clothing sensibilities. Stussy made bonds with various Japanese designers and soon the rest of streetwear was following with him to learn from the Japanese.
Soon streetwear becomes it own brand. By the 2000s the concept of streetwear clothing had begun to take off commercially and everyone wanted to get into the game. European design houses began to create their own labels of streetwear and money began to be the driving force for the brands. This took many of the fashion house brands in new directions, not all of them pretty.
By the middle of the 2000s, the net and the emergence of the importance of blogs to communicate and dictate directions of style began to take over the new focus of streetwear clothing. The emergence of the internet as a force in streetwear that allows individuals to design their own T-shirts as well as the ability of blogs to take on anyone as the next hot street designers changed everything. Soon it was evident that everyone who wanted to design could get into the action. Suddenly the democratization of design is full-blown, streetwear clothing is everyman clothing and designs explode across the internet in a flurry of creativity. Suddenly, the clothing designer is the new rock god, every kid wants to be one. Where it will go from here is anyone’s guess.