Highsnobiety / Eva Al Desnudo

As this year winds down, we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies, and more.

One year on, and the fashion industry’s ever-bubbling cauldron has cooked up a smorgasbord of new trends. The intersection of streetwear, fashion, and sneakers — the Highsnobiety “sweet spot” — is a constantly changing landscape, and in the age of social media, brands, trends, and pieces can live and die in a heartbeat. The second something is in, it’s all over Instagram and then it’s gone again (pour one out for 2014’s all-red sneaker mania).

With 2018 drawing to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year’s biggest trends, and gaze into the Highsnobiety crystal ball to see how long they’ll be sticking around for.

Here are the 10 biggest fashion trends of 2018.

Brand activism

After the memes and internet culture that defined 2017, this year saw the industry start to make a much-needed shift toward weightier matters.

Nike broke the internet when it unveiled Colin Kaepernick as one of the faces of its “Just Do It” campaign. It was divisive but showed how Nike is paying attention to the views of its largely young urban demographic. Even if the move prompted some to cut the Swooshes out of their socks, Nike figured the pros outweighed the cons and was vindicated when its share price skyrocketed and Ad Age named it “Marketer of the Year.”

Patagonia, already an example to every clothing company on the planet, donated $10 million of its tax cut to environmental organizations.

Patagonia’s influence can be felt in Noah and 1017 ALYX 9SM. This year, Noah raised money for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and youth education organization Generation Citizen, and made an elite sport more inclusive. ALYX debuted a fully upcycled line of tees and hoodies and linked up with responsible e-commerce platform SARDIN.

Elsewhere, Supreme teamed up with Richard Prince on an anti-President Trump tee that raised money for Downtown for Democracy, a political action committee that promotes change through the arts. Balenciaga, meanwhile, unveiled a collaboration with the World Food Programme at its FW18 show in Paris.

Balenciaga FW18
Getty Images / Victor VIRGILE / Gamma-Rapho

But while Supreme and Balenciaga’s donations to worthy causes are laudable, they’ve kept their lips sealed on the ins and outs of their production, making it anyone’s guess whether they’re making moves behind the scenes to minimize their environmental impact.

Crystal Ball says: Regardless of how sincere this wave of brand activism is, the fashion industry is in dire need of real, meaningful change, so let’s hope this is just a taste of things to come.

Tailoring

After what seemed like an eternity of luxury streetwear, brands returning to power dressing, tailoring, and formal clothing felt inevitable. Demna Gvasalia’s SS19 Balenciaga show pointed the way. The show was dark and sinister but rooted in power dressing.

Hedi Slimane caused uproar when he wiped away Phoebe Philo’s aesthetic at Celine, replacing it with his own suit-heavy tribute to LA and Paris. Virgil Abloh’s historic debut at Louis Vuitton was heavy on tailoring, too. Kanye West went viral in August when he wore one of Abloh’s suits to 2 Chainz’s wedding.

Raf Simons, who has been reworking streetwear aesthetics for decades, proclaimed the end of high-fashion hoodies at a Spring/Summer 2019 Paris show anchored in couture-grade tailoring, while his work at Calvin Klein has been polished, with slim silhouettes, glossy satin shirts, and cowboy-influenced styling (more on that later).

Away from the big luxury houses, there’s been a prep revival. Brands such as Rowing Blazers and Noah took us back to Ivy League-style dressing, and it’s catching on, breaking away from menswear’s hysterical chase for newness and allowing guys to just focus on what looks good.

Crystal Ball says: The luxe-street cliché has been dragging on for what feels like forever, so you can expect that the counter-movement will be with us for a while, too. The suit has been the cornerstone of men’s style since day one, so that’ll only give the nu-tailoring wave even more traction.

Tie-dye

The rise of the “scumbro” saw millennial style icons Kanye West, Justin Bieber, and Jonah Hill dip into tie-dye tees. Hill, who has been low-key killing it for years, was a big champion of the look, adding a tie-dyed 1992 Lithuanian basketball-via-Grateful Dead tee to his rotation.

Few could have predicted that the Deadhead look would become a streetwear must-have, but trippy LA labels such as the Dead-adjacent Online Ceramics and Advisory Board Crystals created some of the year’s most convincing graphic pieces. The latter even took the splattered look beyond hippie-rock, designing tour gear for Migos.

And it wasn’t just clothing that got tie-dyed. Online Ceramics dyed a pair of OFF-WHITE Nikes for John Mayer (who tie-dyed a Supreme x Louis Vuitton tee himself last year). Pharrell Williams’ adidas kicks took a dip, too, while UBIQ dunked a pair of Virgil Abloh’s Air Prestos in coffee.

Crystal Ball says: You can guarantee that the menswear illuminati will have moved on to something else this time next year, even if the Hollywood scumbro aesthetic stays. That doesn’t mean you should throw your dye-splattered pieces away with them, though.

Utility flex

Menswear has always had an element of Top Trumps about it, with guys geeking out and one-upping their friends with superior fabrics and wacky features. That’s how brands such as ACRONYM and Stone Island developed such cult followings.

This year, tech innovations evolved away from internal features like taped seams and breathable membranes toward external elements that took innovation into full-blown flex territory.

Simultaneously flashy and utilitarian pieces like multi-pocket vests and trail sneakers were big, while 1017 ALYX 9SM’s chest rig became a streetwear must-have, with the label’s fetish-inspired pieces also gaining traction in rap and fashion circles. A-COLD-WALL* debuted a tech-heavy Nike collab, while up-and-comer Blackmerle blew our minds with its next-level approach to utility.

Peak utility flex came in the shape of Supreme’s FW18 collaboration with The North Face, which incorporated GORE-TEX and Cordura. While GORE-TEX and Cordura have been The North Face staples for years, Supreme encapsulated the utility flex vibe by plastering GORE-TEX and Cordura logos all over the collection.

Crystal Ball says: There’ll always be an element of competitiveness to men’s style, and the industry’s obsession with technological breakthroughs won’t be slowing down anytime soon, either. Even if the utility belts and visible branding elements go, tech-heavy gear will always have a draw for style-conscious guys.

That Prada shirt

When Miuccia Prada debuted her house’s SS11 collection, it featured a bevy of pieces decorated in bananas and kick-started a banana-print craze, with the fast fashion chains all piling in. It was just one example of how Prada has been ahead of the curve with its awkward, unorthodox aesthetics.

This year, Prada reminded everyone of that fact, looking back into its archive and reissuing some of its most iconic prints on side-by-side juxtaposed mash-up pieces.

Pusha-T, style daddy Jeff Goldblum, Migos’ Offset, and 032c fashion director Marc Goehring were all spotted wearing Prada’s 50-50 shirts, which became the flex du jour on the fashion week street style circuit. The shirts cost a bomb at $1,200 rising to an eye-watering $1,800 for the padded version, but that didn’t halt their march.

Prada’s resurgence hasn’t quite matched the dizzying commercial success of Gucci and Balenciaga (yet), but the brand has been spotted on the backs of pretty much everyone this year. A$AP Rocky and Kanye West are fans of the label’s relaunched Linea Rossa sportswear line, so don’t be surprised to see Prada everywhere next year, too.

Crystal Ball says: As much as we’re into anything Prada-related, judging by how quickly things move these days, you can bet Miuccia’s trendy shirts will be history this time next year.

Pop-culture licensing

Street culture is rooted in appropriation and bootlegging. It makes for fun products, but it’s not without its legal headaches, like when, pre-FW17 collab, Louis Vuitton sued Supreme for its unofficial “tribute” to the house. These days, the habit is to skip the potential legal bother and instead hook up legitimately, resulting in some pretty random-seeming cultural collisions.

Gucci's SEGA Sneaker
Highsnobiety / Julien Tell

This year gave us SEGA linking up with Gucci and PUMA, and Chinatown Market licensing official smiley faces (a real thing, apparently). H&M x Moschino x’d up with MTV and Disney. On the subject of MTV and cartoons, ’90s boneheads Beavis and Butt-Head ended up on an adidas skate shoe. NASA, meanwhile, was everywhere, hooking up with VansIKEA, and Heron Preston. Yes, that NASA.

In high fashion, Raf Simons paid tribute to Jaws in his SS19 Calvin Klein 205W39NYC show, while Virgil Abloh recalled The Wizard of Oz in his debut Louis Vuitton menswear show.

High fashion is driven by concepts, so there was significance in the references. Simons has used his platform to explore hellish visions of Americana, while Abloh’s Oz linkup was, in the words of Highsnobiety editorial director Jian DeLeon, “a fitting analogy for how streetwear has usurped fashion’s old guard.”

Louis Vuitton SS19
Indigital

This year, as the underdog became the establishment, pop culture’s heavy hitters took notice, licensing their intellectual property on streetwear like they would stuffed toys and mugs. That’s nothing new — Peanuts has been a streetwear staple for years — but the size and frequency of the collabs suggest we’re reaching a new level of street culture commercialization.

Crystal Ball says: There’s a ton of money to be made from licensed collabs, so our prediction is that this is just the beginning.

Logomania

Logos have been status symbols for decades, but what was interesting about 2018 was that brands started to loosen their grip on their iconography, taking more abstract approaches to things that are typically strict and closely guarded by corporate style guides and branding rules.

Fendi revived its iconic monogram and then mashed up its logo with FILA’s on a runway-meets-the-street collab that took brand synergy to new heights. COMME des GARÇONS, meanwhile, debuted CDG, an entire line of logo pieces.

As mentioned, Supreme used its The North Face collab to shout out fabric innovators Cordura and GORE-TEX, adding manufacturers into the logomania equation. OFF-WHITE also splattered GORE-TEX logos over performance pieces produced using the legendary waterproofing material.

In sneaker-land, Dior under Kim Jones turned its logo into a repeating monogram on Converse-esque sneakers, while Nike decorated its M2K Tekno and Air Max 1 “Flooded” in multiple branding hits. Peak Swoosh, though, came at Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE SS19 women’s show, which featured Frankenstein creations that stacked logos upon logos.

Crystal Ball says: Logo-tastic pieces are a no-brainer for our ’gram-obsessed industry. Most likely, we’ll find fashion’s relationship with logos will only evolve, not diminish.

The Wild West

The roadman, the lumberjack, and the rock star have all served as fashion muses since the dawn of the ’00s, but this year designers looked west for inspiration.

Like all menswear tropes, the cowboy is masculine through and through, a rugged totem of times long past. Raf Simons reinvigorated the frontier look with slick boots and Western shirts in his Calvin Klein 205W39NYC collections, while Virgil Abloh debuted quote-laden cowboy boots (of course). Saint Laurent designer Anthony Vaccarello’s menswear also leaned into the Old West.

Elsewhere, Helmut Lang literally put the word “COWBOY” on tees, and threw in ultra-luxe boots to match, while Instagram mega-star Luka Sabbat toyed heavily with a Wild West look. All of this left us asking the question: Are cowboys the new style gods?

Crystal Ball says: The cowboy wave has been pleasurable, sure, but it’s only a matter of time before designers move on to a new macho trope to put on their mood boards.

Trail sneakers

We’ve been singing the praises of trail shoes for years, but in 2018, they hit the big time. A natural evolution of the chunky sneaker craze, the trail aesthetic still puts ugly things on your feet, but with less ridiculous silhouettes and more ridiculous features.

Toggled bungee laces, grippy-as-hell sole units, GORE-TEX linings, and protective outer shells are all staples for those who take pleasure in running up mountains, and now they fit our obsession with offensive aesthetics and high performance.

Salomon x The Broken Arm XT-4 Sneaker
Highsnobiety / Asia Typek

adidas’ Terrex outdoor line linked up with KITH and White Mountaineering, while OG trail brand Salomon put out great collabs with Parisian fashion destination The Broken Arm and wild hand-dyed numbers with Boris Bidjan Saberi. HOKA ONE ONE’s Engineered Garments collab was also a solid contender for sneaker of the year.

Nike, meanwhile, reached into its archive to reissue shoes from its cult ACG outdoor line, including the Ruckel Ridge and Dog Mountain, while COMME des GARÇONS lent its touch to the ACG Air Mowabb.

Crystal Ball says: The trail aesthetic has been going strong for a few years now, and no matter how great the tech behind it is, there’s a strong chance the look will eventually go the way of the NMD and Roshe (RIP, pour one out).

Upcycling

With an environmental crisis looming, the fashion industry must radically alter course to lower emissions and waste. That’s the thinking behind upcycling. This year, brands large and small started reusing old materials rather than virgin fibers. A step in the right direction, but one that needs to be taken to a commercial level to truly have an impact.

Matthew Williams of 1017 ALYX 9SM debuted ALYX VISUAL, a line of graphic pieces made using recovered plastic and cotton. High-end labels such as BODE, Children of the Discordance, and Greg Lauren created one-off pieces from resurrected jackets, scarves, and the like. Kudos should also go to artsy LA label Some Ware, which breathed new life into old Carhartt and P.A.M archive pieces.

Patagonia, the undisputed king of responsible practices, launched recycled polyester down jackets, while Parley for the Oceans built on its line of adidas sneakers with apparel and football jerseys made using recovered ocean plastic.

And on the subject of sneakers, at the tail end of 2017, Nike debuted Flyleather, which is made from the discarded scraps that are normally wasted in the manufacturing process. The material uses less water and carbon than traditional leather-making methods, becoming part of this year’s A-COLD-WALL* x Nike collab.

Crystal Ball says: Hopefully we’re just seeing the beginning of this one — using less virgin material is essential if the fashion industry is to start seriously reducing its enormous environmental footprint.

Words by Alec Leach
Digital Fashion Editor

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives in Berlin, where he leads Highsnobiety's digital fashion content.

What To Read Next