We live in an age where streetwear and fashion are now one and the same. It’s impossible to ignore that streetwear is no longer a guarded niche community – but rather one that’s global, ubiquitous and infinite in its reach.
We’ll always have streetwear’s OGs to look up to, but today the scene's biggest names aren’t legacy label founders but hugely successful rappers, musicians, and creatives who have turned their careers into personal brand power.
While actual influence is impossible to properly quantify, social media clout is a handy analogy for how much sway someone is deemed to have IRL. In recent years, an entire industry has been built around so-called influencer marketing, where people with high social followings are paid thousands of dollars to endorse products via Instagram. In 2017, the practice is looking increasingly ridiculous, but that doesn't change the fact that in many ways, social media clout is analogous to popularity.
So, who are streetwear's most #influential #influencers?
We hit up the Instagram experts at Dash Hudson, a visual intelligence platform that specializes in insights and analytics on the ’Gram, to find out.
Dash Hudson's number-crunchers analyzed a wide-ranging selection of heavyweight streetwear personalities, from rap megastars to power stylists and hyped designers. Note that both Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia are missing from the report, the former because he deleted his Instagram back in May, the latter because he doesn't have any photos online.
Who Has the Most Followers?
There are different ways to measure a profile's performance. The most basic and obvious way is through total follower count.
Given that street culture is pretty much indistinguishable from pop culture nowadays, it’s no surprise that the most followed streetwear stars are massively visible celebrities. Whether you like it or not, mega-celebs like Drake and Justin Bieber are household names in streetwear these days, and guess what — they've got ridiculously huge followings on the ’Gram.
1. Justin Bieber — 90.4 million 2. Drake — 37.5 million 3. Pharrell — 9.9 million 4. A$AP Rocky — 6.5 million 5. Travis Scott — 5.4 million
It’s a clear sign that streetwear has disseminated into popular culture, especially when its ambassadors are some of the most famous, recognizable and closely-followed people in the entire world. In fact, we could have broadened this out to include even more streetwear-inspired celebs — like recent Highsnobiety cover star Zayn Malik (23.3m), Rihanna (55.6m) or Jaden Smith (6.4m) — but we chose to keep our selection to the guys who wear streetwear day in, day out.
Who Has the Highest Engagement Rate?
A more dynamic way of measuring IG performance is engagement. The holy grail of social media professionals, engagement is a measurement of how many followers interact with a profile's content by liking, commenting or sharing their posts.
1. Playboi Carti - 17.39% 2. Luka Sabbat - 7.79% 3. Tyler, the Creator - 6.63% 4. Matthew Henson - 6.50% 5. Emily Oberg - 6.49%
Out on top, with a next-level engagement rate of 17%, is Playboi Carti. Out there in the real world, Carti's having a blast — his tune "Magnolia" went viral, he's just landed a high-profile feature on Lana Del Rey's new record, and has been regularly hanging out in A$AP Rocky's "AWGE" inner circle.
That real-world hype has translated into crazy social media engagement. It probably helps that Carti posts sparingly — he's got 21 photos online currently — so when he does post, his engagement is guaranteed to be intense.
Luka Sabbat comes in at #2 on the engagement list. Sabbat has a large following — 493,000 — and an actively engaged audience, and like Carti, that's probably because he posts on Instagram a lot more sparingly than other big names on the list.
A$AP Rocky’s stylist extraordinaire Matthew Henson comes in at #4. However, with a following of just 26.3k followers (at the time of writing), it seems surprising that he would have the highest performing account, compared to guys who have followers by the millions, right?
Hélène Heath, a Senior Editor at Dash Hudson, explains that it's because celebrities "have followers that aren't obsessed with them, and are simply following their account just to see what they're up to, and/or the purists are now not as interested since their faves have crossed into the mainstream arena, often times comes at the cost of authenticity.”
Put simply, the people following Henson feel a lot closer to him, so really care about what he posts on Instagram.
At 5.98%, Emily Oberg’s engagement rate is also impressive considering she has nearly 240k followers. To put that in context, it means that almost 15,000 of Oberg’s followers actively smash the double tap and comment on each of her posts.
Oberg is — sadly — one of the only females on the list, and while there's a ton of women into streetwear these days, the scene is still lacking in visible female figures. That might explain Oberg's high engagement rate, according to Hélène — "there is little competition among streetwear-donning girls, and the ones who do it well reap all the acclaim."
Who Has the Fastest Growing Account?
1. Heron Preston - 4.11% 2. Matthew Williams - 1.85% 3. Luka Sabbat - 1.45% 4. Travis Scott - 1.43% 5. Virgil Abloh - 1.43%
According to our stats, it’s another niche name who's killing it here. Heron Preston, the former DONDA and Been Trill creative who recently launched his own label, has the fastest-growing account in streetwear, at 4.11%.
Elsewhere on the list, a similar pattern emerges. It’s really not the bonafide superstars who are getting followers the quickest, because they already have so many. Instead, it's upcoming designers like Heron Preston, Alyx Studios' Matthew Williams and Virgil Abloh who are racking up the numbers.
Today, in the age of the superstar designer, consumers aren’t just allured by a brand, they crave an intimate look at the face behind it, too. In fact, KITH founder Ronnie Fieg’s personal Instagram account boasts a solid 567k follower count, nearly half of his brand's 987k followers. “In today’s world people need to feel personable to the brand, so there needs to be a face and somebody that they can relate to,” Fieg told Glossy in a recent interview.
So, Who Is Actually the Most Influential?
If we’re going by strictly numbers, then Justin Bieber steals the crown of the “most influential,” although it’s fair to say that the pop star wouldn’t be readily be accepted as the most authentic of streetwear names. However, it's hard to deny that he's catapulting a lot of streetwear brands into the spotlight — Off-White especially.
Rihanna, with 55.9m followers, has parlayed her brand power into a hugely successful line with PUMA, which has seen sales at the German sportswear brand increase by a colossal 92% since RiRi joined as the brand's creative director. PUMA has also enlisted other mega-famous names like The Weeknd, Cara Delevingne and Kylie Jenner in an attempt to revive its flagging sales.
However, if we consider a person's influence to be solely based on the ’Gram, then A$AP Rocky is killing it. The rapper's 6.4m following might be a fraction of the Biebs', but his weekly reach wipes out the competition. Rocky's posts have an average reach of 33m, while his competitors average a weekly reach of 12m. This is especially impressive given that Rocky barely uses Instagram, and eschews confessional or behind-the-scenes spontaneity in favor of carefully planned and expertly stylized posts — which probably explains his crazy engagement numbers.
Social media has completely revolutionized human interaction, but that doesn't mean it's the only thing that matters these days. It's telling that most of the people with the biggest impact on modern-day streetwear are completely missing from Instagram.
Kanye West and Demna Gvasalia are some of the most referenced (and ripped-off) designers at the moment, and they've each posted just one image on the platform (Demna deleted his, and Kanye removed his entire account). Gosha Rubchinskiy's page has almost nothing to do with his clothing, and he deletes most of his photos not long after they've been posted. James Jebbia has been top of the streetwear pile for decades, and has helped pioneer a revolutionary new form of consumerism, but he's not set foot anywhere near the ’Gram.
@gullyguyleo, in contrast, has grown a following of over 300,000 by posting outfit shots against color-coordinated backgrounds. That's it.
So, while having a high follower count and a highly-engaged audience can prove lucrative from a marketing perspective — there's a lot of money to be made from paid posts on the ’Gram — it's by no means the be-all and end-all of someone's career — what they do out in the real world is still more important.
Want more fashion insight? Take a closer look at Bangkok's thriving streetwear scene.