The confluence of the streets and couture — and the advent of social media — has transformed the industry of streetwear. From a growth in “hustle” and the rise of re-selling to a genuine expansion of the streetwear community from the streets to inside Neiman Marcus, Bobby Kim has seen much of it happen. The co-founder of The Hundreds, the 14-year-old streetwear brand, joined the Glossy Podcast this week to discuss the big change in streetwear: The meaning of exclusivity has changed. For example, when Kim was in college, he traveled to New York and went to Alife to buy a T-shirt. The store assistant basically refused to sell a shirt to him. “She didn’t like how I looked. It was a different time.”
Edited highlights below.
Streetwear is in the midst of a massive change.
Now that Stussy can be found at Urban Outfitters and Vetements is a well-known brand that anyone knows about, streetwear has reached a certain tipping point. “Streetwear back then was this niche enclave, underground culture that was hard to tap into. That was part of its appeal. You couldn’t even find the Alife store. They had a camera to allow you into the space. Now everyone has a giant sign outside saying, ‘Come inside,’” said Kim. With the notion of exclusivity changing — which, ostensibly, created the desire for streetwear in the first place — many question where the future lies for brands in this space. Kim said there is a lot more growth left, and streetwear is in no danger of losing its cred: “Nothing lasts forever. When I was 14, I had bleached dreads, which was cool for the time — but we can all agree we shouldn’t bring that back,” he said. “That’s why we created this brand to begin with: to crack that culture open and share with a broader audience.”
Resellers have also changed the industry.
The reselling market has also changed. With prices going up, kids in the space are starting to create real businesses around buying and then selling sneakers or apparel. There’s also the infrastructure present with Amazon and social media to re-sell or create a base of consumers. “Streetwear was so small, when you participated in it, you weren’t making money. It was just about participating. That’s what made it fun back then,” said Kim. “If you saw someone wearing a Supreme hoodie, and you talked to them, they would be so interesting. They were just in a different level of knowledge and accessibility.”
Couture can co-exist with streetwear.
There has always been crossover between high fashion and streetwear: Ricardo Tisci presented graphic T-shirts on Givenchy runways back in 2011, and Raf Simons designed Stan Smiths in 2007. Today, Bergdorf is carrying Kith and Fenty Puma. For Kim, while this may seem like a shock to many in the community, it’s very natural. “Streetwear and fashion have an incestuous relationship that responds to and repels each other. They kind of need each other, in a way.” Back in the day, Kim (and others) would rip up knockoff Louis Vuitton bags and put them on Nike shoes. “The idea was that we were down with fashion — we just couldn’t afford it,” he said. “Now, kids can afford it because their taste levels are changing and moving up the price bracket.”
Streetwear is a boys’ club.
When The Hundreds started, streetwear was cool because, for men, there wasn’t previously a culture that made it OK to be into fashion. There used to a pejorative “metrosexual” label, where it was exotic for straight men to be into clothes or shoes. Now, streetwear has leveled the playing field for men to be into style, regardless of sexual preference. But, for women, it’s different: They’re still borrowing from the boys. “Why can’t it go the other way? Why can’t there be a women’s article of clothing men can covet and pull off?” said Kim. Enter Jennifer, The Hundreds’ new women’s line that Kim says will try to change how streetwear is viewed by women. “I’m still guilty of objectifying women in the graphics of a T-shirt, and this is an industry that has always shut out women.” Kim said he hopes the new brand will transform that. He now sees men coming and buying Jennifer hoodies — for themselves, not for their girlfriends.