The topic of Urbanwear versus Streetwear is something I’ve wanted to discuss on this blog for some time. What the terms “Urbanwear” and “Streetwear” specifically mean as they pertain to men’s style, fashion, and how they are categorized.
I’ve heard this topic as the focal point of debate in many a barbershop and discussed between clothing department store employees I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The question still remains: what makes a clothing brand urban or street?
I’ve always believed Urbanwear was a sort of euphemism which was marketed toward Black American hip-hop culture. Mainstream brands such as Cross Colors, Karl Kani, FUBU, Rocawear, Sean John, and AKOO got their inspiration from the inner-city. Whereas Streetwear, is something I’ve come to understand stemmed from skaters or smaller brands looking to breakout from the mainstream market brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and GAP. These brands had more individuality and exclusivity that varied from region to region.
Again I ask, what’s the difference?
Let me use this reference. I can’t speak for every Black American, but when I was growing up, the world I knew consisted of only my little city. I was totally unaware of the outside world. More specifically, the world I knew predominantly consisted of Blacks and Whites. Food, music, speech, and style where all basically categorized as a “Black thing” or “White thing”. Now that I’m older and more experienced I know better. Though when dealing with clothing brands and style, I hear “Black clothing” to their Urbanwear, and “Culturally diverse style” to Streetwear. When I see Streetwear, I want to think individuality and exclusivity. With Urbanwear I try my hardest to not think “Black thing” or “non-Black thing”.
I still believe when the industry uses the term Urbanwear, the target audience is the Black community. It branches from what mainstream hip-hop glorifies: bling, bikini-clad women, champagne, cars, and money. I don’t believe there’s an underlying racial epithet to it. Well, I would much rather not believe there’s something just below the surface. It is supposed to be culturally diverse, by the way.
In closing I see both terms as marketing ploys targeting a respective audience. The line between the brands so thin, the fashion savvy Gentleman could interweave clothing pieces from both to fit his desired style. So I guess my last question would be; since when has style been known to fit into a box? Men’s style is inspired and at the same time inspiring. Who cares what name is behind it?