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Hypebeast Culture: An Introduction

The term ‘hypebeast’ means slightly different things to different people. For some, it’s a badge of honour - a label that affirms a person’s steadfast commitment to coolness. For others, hypebeast culture represents everything that’s wrong with streetwear. Read on to learn about the fashion phenomenon that’s known around the world as hypebeast culture.

The origins of hypebeast culture

At its origins, hypebeast is a derogatory term. A hypebeast is a person who lies and breathes fashion and gets most expensive, most ‘hyped’ streetwear. If every culture has its geeks, then hypebeasts, are the geeks of streetwear. A hypebeast is someone who gets sucked in and absorbed with all the latest drops from streetwear brands - often paying big money to get hold of the latest gear.

The other defining feature of a hypebeast is that they love their brands – and most importantly the logo on their clothes - to be seen. The clothes produced by hypebeast-type brands are intentionally conspicuous. Based on streetwear styles, they invariably feature big, bold logos that make it more about the brand than the cut, the style, or anything else. It’s almost a case of if the logo isn’t seen, then what’s the point?

The hypebeast blog 

The word hypebeast is also significant because it’s the name of an influential media site, which, at its origins, was all about hypebeast culture. In 2005, the underground blog known as HYPEBEAST was founded by Kevin Ma. At the time, it was difficult to find information about exclusive sneaker drops, so the site proved to be a useful resource for fashion-obsessed youth.  

After attracting the attention of hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco, and eventually Kanye West (the site even got a mention in one of Kanye’s tracks) the once underground blog was propelled to international renown. In recent years, the blog - now a fully-fledged media site - has branched out from its origins to cover other aspects of fashion and culture. But it remains true to hypebeast culture, covering product drops from all the brands that hypebeasts rave about.

hype, fashion, launch, supreme

Hypebeast and status

Hypebeasts are primarily interested in the most expensive streetwear brands on the market. This means that hypebeast culture clearly carries an aspirational element. In theory, it symbolises self-made success, rising from humble origins on the streets. But for many, that narrative has long gone, and hypebeast fashion has just become a generic status symbol that’s lost much of its authenticity. It still clearly serves the function of a status symbol though & shows that the person who owns it can afford it.

It’s for this reason that streetwear, and hypebeast culture in particular, occupy a fascinating space in culture today. The roots of hypebeast culture come from streetwear. But what happens when a streetwear brand becomes a multinational brand? And what happens when a streetwear brand uses exclusivity to drive prices up? The answer is that a swathe of young men and women, looking to establish a sense of identity, and looking for symbols to affirm their place in the world, latch onto it.

There’s nothing wrong with status symbols, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with aspiration. But the most common critique you’ll hear of hypebeast culture is that hypebeasts are ultimately being mugged off by the brands they love so much. You might imagine that everyone understands that fashion brands are profit-driven enterprises. But hypebeasts seem to lack a certain level of awareness about their relationship to the brand. Looking at it one way, hypebeasts spend a lot of money to become walking billboards.

Hypebeast vs streetwear?

When you think about the origins of streetwear - which is about individuality and self-expression - the idea of today’s hypebeast culture can seem almost unrelated. How did we get here, and how will streetwear and hypebeast culture co-exist in the future?

It’s clear that streetwear means different things to different people. And the words ‘hypebeast’ and ‘streetwear’ don’t belong to anyone, so no one gets to define it. It may have come from the streets, but now it’s out there in the open, and in the global marketplace. That means it’s up for the taking for anyone who wants to have a say.

What you wear should be a way to express yourself, and whether you find that through colours, cuts, textures, or the brands you wear is fine - they’re all ways of expressing your individuality and style. But just remember that hypebeasts tend to be followers. A hypebeast hangs on every word of their favourite brands. As a result, maybe don’t expect hypebeasts to be as individual as those at the forefront of fashion culture.

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