With the end of the Spring/Summer 2016 fashion shows, we ponder the longevity of streetwear’s place in the world of high fashion.

As the Spring/Summer 2016 menswear shows draw to a close, we’re left to reflect on the season’s collections and how they’ll shape men’s dress in the future. While the menswear world is broader and more eclectic than ever, one shift in the fashion industry has been absolutely impossible to deny.

Once considered the ugly duckling of the clothing world, streetwear leapt onto the catwalk a number of years ago, launching the careers of countless designers who came of age in urbanwear’s golden era and spawned the utterly unforgivable sin of leather sweatpants (but the less said about that the better). Street staples have appeared in luxury houses and boutiques across the globe, with high-end iterations of graphic tees, sneakers and sweatpants becoming de rigueur amongst the high-fashion clientele.

Of course, the fashion world is not known for its long attention span, and this time around many designers’ Spring/Summer 2016 collections were notably lacking in overt streetwear motifs; instead focusing on an overarching theme of travel and adventure. This season we saw Balmain go on safari, Astrid Andersen, Louis Vuitton and Thom Browne venture to Asia, while Kenzo journeyed to outer space and Saint Laurent headed to California. Maybe it’s because exhausted designers are more in need of a holiday than ever (or maybe they’re all using the same trend forecasters).

Everywhere you looked, designers were moving on from once-popular streetwear tropes. Neoprene – one of the most en vogue motifs of the luxe streetwear trend – was nowhere to be seen; even its number one fan Neil Barrett replaced the scuba fabric with glimmering jacquards. John Elliott + Co injected their usual lineup of side-zippered athleticwear basics with a mix of military and performance gear, inspired by a marathon through Vietnam, of all things. Givenchy’s collection left Riccardo Tisci’s beloved basketball attire at the door in favor of a dressier proposition that played heavily with religious iconography, while Alexander Wang ventured into utilitywear territory with a lineup of chore coats, overalls and worker’s blousons.

Does this mean that high fashion’s adoration with all things street is over? Possibly. Does it mean that the taste for practical, dressed-down clothing is over? Absolutely not.

While we may be seeing less bombers, graphic tees and sweatpants on the runways these days, that doesn’t mean that high fashion’s romance with streetwear was a momentary glitch in the Matrix; rather I believe it signaled the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way men dress. As peoples’ lives become ever more hectic and dress codes in the workplace relax, designers need to reflect the increasing demand for comfortable, casual clothing or risk losing their relevance. When Silicon Valley tech heads are making more money than bankers and even Thom Browne is making sweatpants, suddenly the suit doesn’t seem like the be-all and end-all of high-end dress anymore.

Fashion has always reflected society. Just as punk emerged at a time of great social upheaval and the glitz and glamor of the ’80s reflected a time of rampaging capitalism, the luxe-street movement reflects the tastes and needs of a generation who grew up in streetwear’s golden age and need their clothing to be at once stylish, practical and casual.

For more high fashion musings, check out our H&M x Balmain: Smart Move or Recipe for Disaster? think piece.

Words by Alec Leach
Freelance Writer/Editor/Consultant

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives in Berlin

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