“Streetwear” is a Loaded Term

As a model glided down the runway with impressive agility, two shiny black crutches nestled under his arms for the purpose of accessory rather than utility, it was clear we had entered Shayne Oliver’s dystopian world of Hood by Air: a universe laden with diversity and androgyny, where misfits are the cool kids.

Hood by Air is most often is referred to as a “streetwear” label, a moniker that has come to characterize style that connotes comfort, ease, and a casual air. It’s not news that high fashion has been moving steadily to corner the streetwear market, and with the explosion of Normcore and sneakers being as ubiquitous as heels, we’re seeing commercial brands adopt this ethos. It sort of begs the old chicken/egg question: do the streets influence fashion first, or is fashion influencing the streets?

An hour later at DKNY — a brand that self-identifies as streetwear, ponytailed girls clad in stripes sauntered out with ease thanks to the thick-soled sneakers festooning their feet. The collection erred on the girly, flirty side this season but still capitalized on the sporty silhouettes intrinsic to the brand. These garments play into the widespread understanding of streetwear; they’re laid-back, comfortable, and inspired by what’s on the streets.

Oliver’s designs, by contrast, subvert and disrupt our senses in their simultaneously utilitarian and hyper avant-garde feel. He presents streetwear as a subculture, one that projects an ideology rooted in self-expression and individualism, championing the outrageous and absurd. The Hood by Air kids are clearly well aware of fashion but get their main influence from each other. His collections seem to unite his fervent fans who, when the show concluded, leapt out of their seats — not in a mad dash to the exit, but rather to give Oliver a standing ovation.

Runway images via The Cut