A photo-essay analysis of the largest growing trend in fashion consumerism
Fashion historically has been a dynamic culture, influencing individuals on a larger scale, shifting paradigms and social constructs. Mainstream fashion in hand, has used the emergence of capitalism in the mid 20th century to be able to drive its cultural content around the globe. Fashion as a culture traditionally follows hierarchy model in various aspects, from where a fashion trend starts and ends up in the mainstream flow to the popularity of brands following a hierarchy. Multiple subcultures are within popular fashion culture, and our focus will be the subculture dubbed the “hypebeast” culture. Hypebeast culture particularly has emerged as its own in the early 21st century, and has shaped itself into a dominant trend in fashion. Brands are the cultural content of the culture, where it takes pieces from different subcultures within fashion to drive itself; from notorious fashion brands to urban fashion start ups, all of which enter the culture’s consumptions stream. Throughout the understanding of hypebeast culture, we’ll see religious themes that to most, are not prominent, or even considered to intersect with religion at all.
Sneaker culture in the beginning of the mid-2000s is said to be one of the beginnings of hypebeast culture itself (Fullon, 2015). Sneaker culture is the primary force to which hypebeast culture has become what it is today. Since hypebeast culture carries over multiple aspects of sneaker culture; it is important to understand how hypebeast culture evolved from sneaker culture to become its own rather than being a tag with a negative connotation that has carried itself with the culture till this day. The cultural content and spirituality of sneaker culture is embedded within the sneakers themselves based of variables such as the brand of the sneaker, the specific colour-way, the historical context, and the rarity of the sneaker. These variables in turn determine the spirituality of the individual within sneaker culture, which arguably is a hierarchy based spirituality system where certain sneakers acquired have a higher value. The higher value associated with the sneaker brings higher spirituality that attracts others within the culture as well as places them on a higher spot on the hierarchy. Everyone within sneaker culture labels themselves as a “sneaker collector” or “sneaker head’ regardless of the size of their collection, but their place in the hierarchy of sneaker collectors is determined by the size of their collection and the number of rare sneakers within it. Most importantly, sneaker culture’s success has come from celebrities’ influencing what is popular, and influencing the identities of sneaker collectors (Boden, 2006). Sneaker conventions, which can be compared to churches, allows for a gathering of sneaker collectors to see what is new and great in the culture, displaying the newest or rarest sneakers to different speakers talking about history or current developments. Here, there is a flow of cultural content, and an opportunity. Further, we see how celebrity influence from the mainstream has allowed hypebeast culture to evolve and become its own popular culture encompassing the cultures from which it started. Essentially, hypebeast culture retains most of the sneaker culture blueprint but the evolution of the culture has expanded its cultural content, medium, and access on a global scale.
What drives the HypeBeast Culture?
Fashion brands are the primary hub of cultural content in the hypebeast culture. With each brand comes a sense of spirituality associated with each brand. Some are loyal to a certain brand, refusing to sport any other brand seen as competition. This form of spirituality forms a hierarchy, where the consumption of one brand gives more spirituality compared to another, and consumptions of multiple brands can push towards a higher spirituality ranking on the hierarchy of hypebeast culture.
Certain brands are more symbolic than others, for example the street wear brand, Supreme, is a symbolic brand within the hypebeast culture. It is iconic, and its clothing is one of the most sought after by hypebeast enthusiasts. The brand is a primary example of symbolic representation within the culture. Supreme dons its logo on every piece of clothing or accessory it sells. To a hypebeast, if it has Supreme written on it, they must have it regardless of the practicality. A notorious example of the Supreme symbolism is the crowbar made by Supreme. A specially made crowbar labeled with the Supreme logo and painted in their iconic red paint (Figure 3), which sold out on the day it released or subsequent releases (Babcock, 2015). Although a crowbar has no relation to fashion, the impact of the brand, and its ability to attract numerous followers of the culture is a testament to the hype or popularity.
It is important to note, this is capitalist spirituality, and the purchase of clothing from different brands determines the spirituality of the individual. To sum it up, the more you’re willing to spend on clothing, footwear, and accessories, the higher you rank on the hierarchy. The intersect of high fashion and urban street-wear contributes to this, as high fashion is less available to the general public with higher prices, and street-wear may be more available at a lower price. The intersect births the hypebeast culture, the commoditization of the culture comes from the brands that are popularly and sell extremely well. Traditionally, high fashion is an entire subculture in itself, but has become an important part of hypebeast culture. Many are interested in high fashion brands such Dior or Louis Vuitton, but will also show similar interest in smaller urban fashion brands or larger brands such as Nike with larger availability or fan base, and ultimately develop their own ‘look’. In hypebeast culture a ‘look’ can be a combination of endless brands coming together from a spectrum of possibilities. In essence, the culture creates an algorithm for a ‘look’ that allows individuals to reach a higher spirituality (Choi, 2016). The development of the ‘look’ is what continues to motivate the individuals within the culture to pursue the cultural content available to them (Boden, 2006). Furthermore, part of the culture leads to an endless cycle of fulfilling spirituality through consumerism.
How Social Media help drive HypeBeast culture to its popularity
Hypebeast culture is reliant on one medium for cultural content to be consumed, and that is the Internet. Specifically, the use of websites and different social media has allowed hypebeast culture to connect individuals into the culture. The globalization of hypebeast culture in part has to do with its evolution into the popular culture mainstream. Social media has expanded the culture to great lengths, from just being word-of-mouth communication to using social media to expand itself to connect communities around the globe into unifying culture. The emergence of blogs specifically catering to the culture nurtured into what it is today. The start of the blogs within culture began with Hypebeast, named directly after the term itself, the founder of the blog, Kevin Ma, started off by documenting his interest in clothing, fashion, and sneakers (Lieber, 2016). Now Hypebeast has become a full website, bring multiple million page views a month, becoming an influencer in the culture, and most importantly feeding the content to the consumers (Lieber, 2016). Social media in particular, shapes the identity of those within the culture as it feeds the imagery for consumption (Boden, 2006).
As mentioned previously, there is an algorithmic component to obtaining spirituality in the culture itself. The emergence of the culture algorithm stems from the cultural imagery shown by social media around the culture as well as the imagery seen from celebrities who dress a certain way or wear a certain brand (Boden, 2006). The impact of the imagery from the media dictates the identity of those in the culture, hence forming the algorithm to dress a certain way that shapes identity and determines spirituality in the culture. The brands you wear, how you wear them, and when you wear them are all part of the algorithm based from the consumption of imagery from social media.
The Hypebeast Culture: Where will it go?
Hypebeast culture is a large trend emerging within the umbrella of fashion culture, as it grows in size, so does the dynamics in which it operates. In our analysis, we saw different concepts defined from looking at the culture such as capitalist spirituality, symbolism, hierarchies, and consumer culture. Clearly, there is more to the culture than just purchasing a shoe, or a certain shirt, or lining up for hours or days at a time to purchase your favourite brand. Hypebeasts have made their own culture from a small community into a global phenomenon not limited to any borders. Although, some parts of the world see the community of hypebeast culture operate differently, their aim remains the same: ‘cop’ the most desirable fashion items to flaunt your ‘look’.
- Fullon, Ben. 2015. “Confessions of a Recovering Hypebeast.” Racked. http://www.racked.com/2015/5/21/8629511/confessions-of-a-recovering-hypebeast.
- Boden, S. 2006. “Dedicated Followers of Fashion? The Influence of Popular Culture on Children’s Social Identities.” Media, Culture &Amp; Society 28 (2): 289–98. doi:10.1177/0163443706061690.
- Babcock, Gregory. 2015. “Supreme’s Fall/Winter 2015 Dropped Today and Hypebeasts Are Pissed.” Complex CA. http://ca.complex.com/style/2015/08/supreme-fall-winter-2015-hypebeasts-twitter.
- Choi, Mary HK. 2016. “On Female Fuccboi Style.” Racked. August. http://www.racked.com/2016/2/8/10923368/female-fuccboi-style.
- Lieber, Chavie. 2016. “What Is Hypebeast and How Did It IPO?” Racked. http://www.racked.com/2016/4/14/11425592/hypebeast-explainer-ipo.
- Complex Closets : DJ Khaled Shows His Sneaker Closet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AZ3kYNftEs)
- The $750,000 Sneaker Collection (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sb65pG3-bUM)
- Image 1 left: http://cdn.wallpapersafari.com/23/55/OTWDV9.jpg
- Image 2 middle: http://static.highsnobiety.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/10211024/supreme-paris-grand-opening-line-up-07-320×213.jpg
- Image 3 right: https://scontent.cdninstagram.com/hphotos-xaf1/t51.2885-15/e35/11909965_1501753310134672_1877571406_n.jpg
- Supreme Crowbar: http://pbs.twimg.com/tweet_video_thumb/CM9a2PxVEAA-V8T.png
- @HYPEBEAST. 2016. “Get Outside With The Contemporary Elegance of Prada Linea Rossa Sunglasses.” Hypebeast. http://hypebeast.com/2016/12/prada-linea-rossa-range-of-styles-2016.
- BAPE® NYC 10th Anniversary / BAPE® x BIG SEAN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQCGU58zncs)
- 2016. “9 Signs You’Re Definitely A Hypebeast.” Narcity Toronto. Accessed December 1. http://www.narcity.com/toronto/9-signs-youre-definitely-a-hypebeast/.