Streetwear has continued to grow the longer it has existed, meaning there are many more brands out there now than when it first started up back around 1980. This has inevitably led to a number of clichés appearing that may have started out as pretty great but have since been milked to death, meaning they should now be avoided at all costs.
Anything – no matter how awesome initially – can become a cliché, usually thanks to smaller brands ripping an idea off from a major player, and then churning it out again and again. We’ve probably all fallen foul of this. You know how it goes; a slick new t-shirt design comes out that you just have to invest in – a few weeks/months down the line and every man and his dog is wearing a version of it, dragging you down into their pool of copycat fashion. Safe to say, the tee will remain firmly in the back of the wardrobe from that point.
This isn’t a run-down of 10 things to dodge – some of them are still pretty legit – but you need to make sure you do them right in order to avoid looking like you’ve put your personal style together while scrolling through Tumblr.
1. THE ALL-SEEING EYE
Now, largely thanks to the novels of Dan Brown, anytime a triangle/eye (or both) design appears on an item of clothing or in a music video from Kanye/Jay-Z everyone thinks there’s some mysterious new world order Illuminati hidden message. When in reality people probably just think triangles look good. Fuelled by this, a lot of them have appeared in streetwear designs the past few seasons probably as a marketing tool to sell more gear than anything else. It’s high time the conspiracy theories and designs quit cropping up – the All-Seeing Eye never looked so tired.
2. FORGETTING HOW TO SPELL
Leaving vowels out of street brand names is ‘rllygd’. It seems that unless it takes people a while to work out how to actually pronounce your brand name then it mustn’t be cool. The now-defunct Canadian t-shirt label, Brknhomewas one of the first to drop a few vowels and since then we’ve had the likes of UNDFTD, UNDRCRWN and Staple using ‘STPL’ in some designs. It’s even broken out into music now – SBTRKT and MSTRKRFT anyone? It seems the American love for abbreviations has gone to the next level.
3. LOGO APPROPRIATION
Taking logos of luxury clothing brands and reworking them into fresh incarnations is something that’s been pretty big on the scene – especially the Versace logo which has featured on the shirt fronts of at least two brands lately. In all honesty it’s a pretty neat idea with some really eye-catching designs that have sprung out from it but I’ve seen it walking around too many streets in too many cities now. It’s officially became a ‘thing’ – it worked, that’s great, now it’s time to move onto pastures new.
Pornstars. Female pornstars wearing not very much. These are words to arouse the attention of most young men, i.e. the guys who wear the clothing streetwear companies put out. So dressing porn stars in these clothes was an idea dreamt up in a dusty meeting room on a lazy Friday afternoon that is beautiful in its simplicity. This could well be one of the few clichés on the list that still has some legs left on it – expect to see it around for a while longer, but growing steadily more tired.
Camouflage/military looks have been around since the inception of streetwear; they’re a big part of the scene so it’s always gonna be around in various guises. With the camo explosion that is happening right now it may be worth riding it out then giving it a miss for a season or two to let it die down a little. It’s still worth investing in now though because there are some really great pieces from Carhartt’s Work In Progress line, A Bathing Ape and many more.
6. VARSITY JACKETS
The varsity/baseball jacket has been around for longer than you think but it’s only recently that it has hit the mainstream in a big way. Although it is a handy to have one hanging on your rail, it should be one of high quality to combat the multitude of not-so-great ones out there. A word to the wise, don’t wear a baseball jacket featuring the emblem of a team you don’t support or don’t even know (it’ll just be embarrassing).
7. 5-PANEL CAPS
Five panel caps – they’re everywhere but that doesn’t really take anything away from them. Ultimately there are two main styles of cap so it’s to be expected that it’s something we see brands incorporating into their collections every season. They’ve become such a mainstay within streetwear apparel that competition to design the freshest five panels has become extremely fierce – leading to some incredible caps and some real let-downs. A lot of it is about sifting through, picking out the real gems and wearing them correctly.
Whether you’re into weed or not, it’s hard to deny how good ganja leaves can look when printed onto clothing. The ‘Plantlife’ collection of weed-based boxers/socks from ‘Frisco’s HUF was a real breath of fresh air – taking the green leaves away from Bob Marley t-shirts and cheap Amsterdam souvenirs and placing it firmly into luxury men’s street apparel. This is the main point here, keep it refreshing, keep it relevant and it’s a cliché that very much works. Do you think it was coincidence that we’ve been seeing a lot more of this around the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence?
9. NAME & NAME & NAME & NAME TEES
‘John & Paul & Ringo & George’ – not the names you’d expect to see printed across the front of a streetwear tee but that’s what 2K by Gingham did. It has since spawned a million and one imitations, mostly because the design was so simple that it is incredibly easy to recreate. So you have 2K to thank for all the ‘Name & Name & Name & Name’ tees you’ve been seeing everywhere. It really split opinion this one – some thought it was genius in its simplicity while others thought it was the worst street tee ever created.
10. RAPPERS WEARING YOUR SHIT
Hip hop and streetwear go hand in hand so when the clothing designers get stuck for ideas, an easy option is to plug for printing some rap lyrics onto the garments. An easy way to stroke a rap artist’s ego is to feature their lyrics on your products; it’s also a sure-fire way of getting them to model the clothing for your next campaign. A few freebies don’t go amiss either. Having a huge rising star like A$AP Rocky sport your clothes can give a massive boost to a brand’s profile and align you as ‘cool’ in people’s minds.
Michael Smith heads up online marketing at Northern Threads, a menswear retailer based in the UK and shipping worldwide.