The goal of my paper was to analyze the streetwear culture and social media’s influence on its growth. I wanted to understand and attempt to explain both sides of the argument of culture vultures, and I believe I did a good job in my attempt. I believe I did a good job in establishing the relationship between social media and streetwear and analyzing the argument of those who criticize culture vultures. One area I do think I could’ve improved in was my overall argument. I feel as if I repeat my argument one too many times in certain areas and that is in part due to my lack of word variation.
Social media has created a virtual global village that connects people from all over the world. An influencer in London no longer only has influence in London, but has influence from places like Zhuhai, China to Jonesboro, Arkansas. This global reach has given power to the influencer and has accelerated the rise of trends. Trends can blow up in a matter of minutes on the internet. One of the booming trends today is the rise of streetwear and brands like Supreme. However, unlike your favorite 6 second vines or meme, it is a trend that hasn’t gone away. As the streetwear culture is just starting to hit the mainstream market, there has been backlash from those who believe the culture is losing its authenticity. Those who consider them “original” streetwear enthusiasts have criticized adopters of the brand, however, Supreme’s rise is due to social media and the natural growth of clothing brands.
Supreme started as this exclusive club meant for only the most authentic and raw of skaters and artists in the New York Area. As Alex Williams from the New York Times stated, “For much of its 18-year existence, Supreme was confined to the in-crowd, a scruffy clubhouse for a select crew of blunt-puffing skate urchins, graffiti artists, underground filmmakers and rappers.” The store represented the culture of its city and thrived in this space. If you walked into the store and didn’t pass the “authenticity check,” you were looked down upon(New York Times). This was true for most underground brands such as Palace and Thrasher. Brands like Supreme established this ethos that they are anti-culture and different from the norm, however, one could argue that they are the new norm. As streetwear has gone mainstream, its ethos has lost some of its grunginess.
Social media has undeniably provided a platform for individuals to create careers and cultivate huge followings. Anyone who denies this can be pointed to Kim Kardashian’s Instagram. As of March 16, 2017, brands have to pay up to $500,000 for an Instagram post to her 94.8 million Instagram followers (Talia Ergas). On a smaller scale, social media has established a pipeline for the growth of streetwear. Leo Mandela, most notoriously known on Instagram as Gully Guy Leo, is one specific individual who used social media to his advantage. Leo Mandela grew up in Warwickshire where the most streetwear thing to do was wear skinny jeans. Due to the lack of inspiration in his community, he turned to social media where he found inspiration from individuals like Jaden Smith, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber. Once he reached around the age of 13, Leo Mandela started finding the money to purchase clothes that were considered “hype.” From there he was able to build up a following on Instagram and currently he has over 590,000 Instagram followers. He models for brands such as Converse and and is flown out to fashion events all over the world. He hangs out with major celebrities on a consistent basis, doing all of this at the age of 15. His free to sign up Instagram account has opened doors that wouldn’t otherwise be possible at his age.
Leo Mandela has also been heavily criticized for his following. Dubbed by many as a “culture vulture,” he is viewed as one of the many that are ruining the culture. However, there is an argument to be made that Supreme’s growth as a brand is inevitable, and social media is only speeding up the process. Brands like Nike, Clarks, and Stussy all started off small. They did not have overnight success. It took the consumers to express their enjoyment from the brand to fuel their growth. Social media just makes it easier for the consumer to spread their enjoyment with a certain brand, thus speeding up its growth. Social media’s reach has fused Supreme’s urban sensibility and suburban mainstream, drawing a fine line between those who wear the brand because of its urban authenticity and those who wear it because it is hype.
As our world becomes more and more connected, the popularity of different art/expression/culture/niches will grow too. This is becoming an issue as people are quick to protect a part of their identity and keep it a secret from the masses. All it takes is a couple of minutes to find like minded individuals or to find a niche you are interested in. What were once subcultures are being thrust into the spotlight and there is no longer a boundary for its reach or influence. More and more people are facing the fact that what they consider unique about themselves is quite common when looking at grand scope of things, and it is up to each individual to decide whether it will affect them or not.
Ergas, Talia. “Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian Make Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars for Instagram Ads.” Us Weekly, 16 Mar. 2017, www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/kardashian-sisters-make-how-much-for-instagram-ads-w472080/.
Williams, Alex. “Guerrilla Fashion: The Story of Supreme.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 21 Nov. 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/fashion/guerrilla-fashion-the-story-of-supreme.html.
Davey, Jacob. “How Gully Guy Leo Harnessed Hate to Become the Coolest Kid on Instagram.” Complex, Complex, 1 Feb. 2018, www.complex.com/style/2018/02/gully-guy-leo-converse.