Ever since elevated streetwear evolved from a fashion subculture into the industry’s new norm, critics and fanboys have been trying to predict the trend that will eventually overlap it. Now a transition period has begun. Our favorite designers, once sniffed at by legacy brands, are now in charge of said brands’ output, and those smaller names usually relegated to the sidelines are shaping a culture they were once excluded from.
Things change and people grow. What was once a tit-for-tat style battle among artists and celebrities to see who could don the most garish, eye-catching items — from nostalgia-inducing early GOLF WANG drops to that Prada bowling shirt — has started to die down. Craving attention through luxury casual wear is no longer part of the MO of stars such as Tyler, the Creator and Kanye West. Instead, they’re recognizing adulthood and dressing accordingly.
Adopting a more mature style is something we’ve never seen Tyler, the Creator try his hand at before. After all, the 27-year-old rapper and designer built his career on being flagrant, juvenile, and in your face. His foul mouth was matched by the garments he wore: relaxed, emblazoned with logos and prints — practically the antithesis of what many critics considered “fashionable” at the time.
But it’s worth noting that Tyler was among those who catapulted Supreme into the consciousness of young consumers across the globe, before capitalizing on streetwear’s ascent by pushing his own GOLF WANG label into the same space. But just as he built up that clout, so too does a man like Tyler have the power to tear it down again.
Recently, Tyler seems to have bypassed his boyish IDGAF style in favor of something slightly more sophisticated. While his wardrobe staples haven’t been trashed quite yet (the man can’t shake occasional graphic tees, skate socks, and Chuck Taylors), his more colorful pieces have been swapped out for suave ones.
As far back as May this year, you could plot his steady transition, the short-sleeve shirts and skate shorts getting phased out for minty fresh tailoring and preppy, unchallenging footwear staples. Instead of garish garments that demand your attention, the Flower Boy rapper is being drawn toward color-blocking and can be spotted regularly these days wearing camp collar shirts and chinos.
West, a man whose tendency to spur trends rather than follow them, has also been an adopter of a more grown-up, conservative style. After a hectic year — personally, politically, and creatively — his technique for commanding attention seems to have been kept to his Twitter feed. Out in public, the ’fits he’s been shot in feel much more nuanced than what we’ve been used to in the past.
In the last couple of months, West’s eye for heavy garments, music merch (including his own), and ostentatious silhouettes has been diverted slightly, as if overnight he has come to terms with the fairly standard “dad” way of dressing.
Paparazzi shots captured West stepping out in an eggshell blue Prada windbreaker and navy slacks, an incognito look for anyone who isn’t the most notorious man in music. Elsewhere, he’s been spotted in a lurid yellow waterproof jacket and beige trousers with some orthopedic unreleased YEEZYs on his feet.
The understated nature of it all feels distinctly off-kilter for an artist who’s known for being able to transform a teenager’s wardrobe with one designer co-sign. It might be hard to believe, but maybe he does want to slip out of the spotlight and is consciously retracting from his position as a fashion influencer by dialing down the hype on his Instagrammable outfits.
Or maybe it’s more of a coded message. By color-blocking brash and muted shades, he’s influencing our tastes as consumers. Take a look at the collections he’s dropped recently: a fresh line-up of earthy Calabasas sweatpants; lurid yellow Wes Lang T-shirts; dusty gray ones, too. Top it off with the restock of the “Semi Frozen Yellow” YEEZY Boost 350 V2s, and you can see that, while West himself isn’t wearing his creations, he’s increasing their desirability by donning their colors instead.
That’s a smart move for a man who wants to capitalize on the current zeitgeist — still firmly in casual streetwear’s corner — while also developing his own style as an older man. How far can our tastes be pushed in a more youthful direction before we’re no longer making progress? In an act of quiet revolt, European luxury houses such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton are catalyzing the college trend instead.
Our collective yearning to dress youthfully probably stems from the fact we’re all clutching onto something proudly juvenile in a time when responsibility feels so grim. But ignorance is damaging — we need to get grown.
Gone are the days of dressing like stoners in high school. The Wizard of Oz knitwear in Virgil Abloh’s debut Louis Vuitton line-up was reminiscent of the bulky, vintage sweatshirts students take to college as a hometown keepsake. Gucci’s link-up with the New York Yankees for Fall/Winter 2018 gave us a selection of preppy cardigans — the kind worn by a bougie out-of-town football team — that buyers have gone mad for. And let’s not forget how Alessandro Michele is propelling Gucci back into the consciousness of young consumers, leading them to invest in horsebit loafers, a classier, cheaper, and more enduring alternative to a pair of Balenciaga Triple Ss.
Pair that with the rise of Rowing Blazers, which has turned styles exclusive to the douchebag wardrobe (rugby shirts, blazers, and polo shirts) into exponentially cool statement pieces with the help of a killer Noah collab, and the likelihood increases that this more grown-up preppy look will overtake the current reigning trend.
But will it quash streetwear completely in 2019? Possibly, but we can never be certain. Streetwear has permeated the runways of fashion weeks and the tastes of today’s youth so much that it feels near impossible to dismantle.
What we can be sure of is this: Tyler and Kanye are two artists the world takes its fashion cues from, so wherever they head, there will be a sea of young fans following them. Something tells us the hype around streetwear won’t peter out too soon. Either way, let’s just revel in the fact that our favorite musicians are striking out in new directions. In a time when hip-hop style borders on homogenous, it’s good to know that the trailblazers are still one step ahead. If Kanye and Tyler want to grow up, contemporary fashion should be following suit, too.