Out in the real world, US presidential campaigns, Brexit, and the Olympics have so far dominated 2016’s summer. In our neck of the woods, however, there are more pressing matters to contend with. Namely sneaker releases, omnipresent Kimye drama, and, oh yeah, that difficult Frank Ocean second album.
However, some names garner more hype than others, and with the apparent fall of some, social media is amply able to supply replacements. Yeah, ‘influencers’ is such an overused term now that it almost doesn’t mean anything (if a room is full of influencers, who is doing the influencing?) and, yet, they do still have a strange power over us: creating and manipulating the hype machine, lending their names to new terms and trends, changing a brand’s entire direction at the drop of a ‘gram, and sparking panic, controversy, debate or admiration – sometimes all at the same time.
So, this summer, we want to know who you think have been the most stylish and influential people in the Highsnobiety universe. The winner doesn’t receive anything, but it’ll serve as a useful measurement for all of us interested in where the culture is heading – who’s leading the conversation, and who’s not, according to you (because we’re interested in what you think).
Read on for our shortlist, curated in collaboration with the guys at Old Spice, before casting your vote at the bottom of the page. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the best summer sneaker releases and the best collections of the SS16 season as well. Voting for this category closes September 24 with the final winners of the entire Highsnobiety Summer Crowns announced September 30.
Emerging on the scene around 2011 with the release of his critically acclaimed first album, ‘Live.Love.A$AP’, the Harlem-born rapper’s trendsetting aesthetic is now as famous as his rhymes.
This year alone he’s featured as the face of Dior’s FW16 campaign, unveiled a collection with J.W. Anderson, collaborated with GUESS, cameoed in Zoolander 2, and, believe it or not, voiced a video game character. All before rumors of a relationship with Kendall Jenner, affiliating him with arguably the most famous family in the world.
A renowned trendsetter, Rocky only had to rap the names Raf Simons and Rick Owens to begin a fashion renaissance; he played no small part in bringing a grungier aesthetic to hip-hop and, alongside others, helped the genre become the new rock and roll.
We hate to admit it. However, Bieber fever got us. It got us all. It started with “Confident,” the 2013 Chance the Rapper collaboration which we hesitantly admitted listening to, and even then, it was obviously for Chance’s rhymes… It wasn’t until Purpose that we really started Beliebing.
Bieber is less of a traditional ‘trendsetter’ than others on our list. Instead, a team of masterminds, including Scooter Braun and Jerry Lorenzo, have made sure he never misses a beat. Combine this with an enormous following and some recently acquired street cred, and you’ve got a curated amalgamation of current trends in a 21st-century social-media age pop package. The overall result, we have to admit, is one highly influential individual (just witness the Belieber phenomenon/scary joke). After all, he wasn’t the first to shave his head or launch vintage rock-inspired tour merchandising, but he most certainly brought it to the masses.
While Bieber had previously collaborated with Ludacris, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj, and others, it was his more recent hookups with Travi$ Scott, Chance the Rapper, and Young Thug (aka “”JEFFREY””, aka “No, My Name Is Jeffrey” for one week), that gave the Biebs some lucrative street cred. Not even fashion weeks escaped Justin’s influence this season either, with ‘Purpose’ tour merch spotted in multiple fashion capitals and events, including Florence’s premier peacocking extravaganza that is Pitti Uomo.
Far from an overnight success, Skepta took almost fifteen years to (finally) get the credit he deserved (by an American audience). Over the last three years, however, he’s arguably more than made up for this through his girtty authenticity and honest straight up roadman rawness. The British grime master is arguably at the top of his game.
Despite falling off around the time of 2009’s “Rolex Sweep,” he managed to recover and find himself once again with the 2012 ‘Blacklisted’ mixtape. But before the hype got too real and the bubble burst, he publicly renounced his temporarily disingenuous image, as well as the falseness of contemporary popular culture in the blistering 2014 single, “That’s Not Me.” Following a highly publicized friendship in 2015, Skepta confirmed that megastar Drake had signed to Boy Better Know, the grime collective started by him and JME, earlier this year.
Be it through wearing tracksuits, peaked caps, or Nike TNs, Skepta legitimized the so-called “roadman” aesthetic in the wider streetwear scene, injecting an inherently British look that was born in the working class estates of the UK, into ‘legitimacy’ and ‘the mainstream’, all the while lending the grime and wider UK scene a sense of real style credibility. Giving the middle finger to any and all establishments along the way, Skepta’s almost single-handedly gotten everyone now dressed as if they’ve come straight outta gym class (it’s known as ‘P.E.’ in the UK, FYI).
Barely a day goes by without Kanye West finding his way onto our pages. Some of you may attempt to troll the hell out of us, but he still brings in the numbers. However, controversy and page views aside, the man is a hive of activity. A true 21st-century creative polymath. Plus, it’s entirely possible that he never sleeps, tweeting back in January, “I have no interest in working with anyone who is too important or too good or too traditional to take a call at 3 a.m.”
Referencing his YEEZY sneakers, West recently claimed he consistently sells out 40,000 pairs of shoes in two minutes. Whether or not that’s entirely accurate, his use of washed fabrics, dusty tones, distressed treatments, and oversized silhouettes has massively influenced sneaker designs, streetwear, and high street (mall) fashion.
Despite beginning his career as purely a musician, music is now just a fraction of his creative output. His creative ventures know no bounds. If Kanye gets his way, even your home interior could soon include a touch of Kanye after the man claimed he’d like to design for the Swedish furniture giant, IKEA, in March.
A living meme, Drake brings lightheartedness to our list. Unless you’re firing shots at him, he rarely takes himself too seriously. He emerges unscathed from all controversy and seems to have won over everyone but a few lingering haters.
Getting the Drake look doesn’t require gaudy haircuts or avant-garde designer brands, his accessibility is without a doubt integral to his appeal. He’s charmed his way into friendships with everyone from Premier League player Paul Pogba to Grime legend Skepta.
Winner will be announced September 30.