The Birth of the Urban Street Wear Gorilla

Street wear is this giant mythical creature every clothing brand wants to be part of but is not sure how to make the puzzle pieces fit to make it happen. It is kind of like the popular kids in high school that everyone wants to hang out with but you keep getting shunned when you try to get too friendly. It is an industry that has spawned just over the last decade or so and has slowly morphed into a runaway train driven by a 500 pound gorilla. Some people say the phrase “street wear” is overly used and they are probably right yet you can’t deny its existence. Clothing brand companies realized some time ago it’s all the rage to be “urban”. Urban clothing brands have created this hip-chic industry where people would rather buy a new t-shirt or a pair of limited edition sneakers instead of paying their electric bill. Who needs light when you look fly as hell right?

You see, I can write this article because I personally witnessed the transition of this industry first hand growing up. When I was 6 years old my parents handed me a skateboard for my birthday and I never put it down. I wish I still had that skateboard; a pink Nightmare on Elm Street skateboard with banana yellow wheels. It was pretty ill at the time. I quickly started reading every skateboard magazine out there. I think I had a 10 year subscription to Thrasher. I can almost remember every skateboard magazine cover dating back to about 1986 and I’ve watched the culture and style change and evolve radically over the years. Almost 25 years later that same industry that was once frowned upon is now thriving. At that time, skateboarding was just not “accepted” and most people where not very friendly towards skaters themselves; if you had a skateboard you where a hoodlum plain and simple. It was not accepted by any one or any culture at the time. When people saw you carrying a skateboard they got scared thinking you were going to steal their purse. Now skateboarding is in the Olympics!

In 1986 I got my first taste of the skater style and that was the beginning of the street wear industry for me. I watched brands like Vision, Airwalk and Powell Peralta pave the way for urban brands today. Many urban clothing inspirations today stem from what the god fathers of street wear created so many years ago. Without them the industry would not be what it is today.

Brands quickly started realizing that kids where really starting to dig this stuff. Branded t-shirts, hats and anything else you can think of slowly started flying off all store shelves. I remember doing all my school shopping from a California Cheap Skates catalog for like 5 years in a row; at that time BMX was just getting started as well creating a whole new extension into the urban street wear community. Back then, it was Chuck Taylors and the Red Hot Chili Peppers that sculpted today’s urban street wear crowd. Now urban idols and figures are on the covers of some of the most mainstream magazines, cereal boxes and flooring commercials across the globe representing their favorite street wear brands.

When hip hop found its way onto the scene it changed things. Not for better or for worse it just added another element to the industry. This was another way for brands to capitalize on a whole new urban demographic. I remember being about 12 years old and being the only person at school listening to Black Sheep, and I loved it! Today the marriage between hip hop and skateboarding style created a catalyst for what the street wear industry is today. As southern California skateboard culture swept from west cost to east coast, inner city kids quickly started creating a new type of benchmark for the skateboarding culture we see today. Kids today are exposed to some of the best style elements and we quickly started to see the urban undertones entering the skateboard clothing industry. We were still many years away from the Nike SB but everything was starting to point at that direction. A movement was quickly born and now brands everywhere use a skateboard or a BMX rider to promote their brands and get the word out even further. It is “hip” to be part of that niche community and it is only getting stronger. Little kids who barely have their driving permit are buying houses for their parents from the money they make in this industry.

Yes, many brands try to drop the street wear tag line into their brand but the reality is that this is an industry that is fiercely getting larger and stronger. New brands are popping up each and every day and they are making things very interesting. Just when you think you have seen it all, a brand surrounded by a Lego theme pops up totally stimulating your creative senses. The street wear industry is a movement for the youth and we are going to see some radical evolvement come from this gorilla in the very near future.