How to Build a Streetwear Wardrobe

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Streetwear is one of those styles of fashion that’s so much more than just a trend but also a way of life. In modern culture, it’s everywhere from the pavements of the East Coast to the runway collections of high-end fashion designers like Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci and Virgil Abloh. Although it looks effortless, crafting the right streetwear look calls for some smart judgment and a wardrobe of timeless, solid staples.

Before we get into discussing the key staples that every streetwear wardrobe is built on, let’s take a quick look back at its history and how it all got started. Originating largely in the U.S, two overall looks developed in both the West Coast and the East Coast. The 90s streetwear that became so ubiquitous throughout Southern California was hugely influenced by the surf counterculture that spread through the state in the 70s and 80s. The blend of workwear and skate wear was largely pioneered by surf legend Shawn Stussy and soon spread to Japan, the U.K., and Western Europe.

It’s the East Coast, however, that holds the claim for originating the style. New York City, the birthplace of hip hop and street culture naturally had an impact on the sartorial choices of its inhabitants. There are many who see streetwear and its musical influences as one and the same, and undeniably, the East Coast birthed the laid back but unique look of dropped crotches and long line tees. New York boutiques were also the place to find flag-bearing street brands like PNB, Project Dragon, and Subware.

Whether influenced by the East or by the West, there’s a way to get streetwear right and a way to get it wrong. Here are the key pieces that you should be building your wardrobe around to get it right!

No streetwear wardrobe would be complete without the ubiquitous hoodie. Once the garb of choice for ne’er-do-wells and athletes, the hoodie has burst into mainstream culture in the past two decades, thanks to the rise of hip hop, and are seen on the shoulders of everyone from Pharrell to poker pro Phil Laak. The hoodie is one item that has captured the essence of street culture, but to keep the look fresh, the fabric is key. Cotton textiles are king, particularly if you’re investing in a classic piece like the Champion Reverse Weave with its original fit.

A high-quality pair of navy blues should be next on your shopping list. When it comes to jeans, however, there’s only one way to go and that’s raw denim every step of the way. Whether you choose to wear them a little loose-fitting or go the whole hog with a dropped crotch this is one item that you should never scrimp on. There’s only one rule of thumb when shopping for denim and that’s to buy the best that you can afford. Denim by Vanquish & Fragment, Rag and Bone, Acne, and of course, the classic brand Levi’s are all labels to check out.

Nothing says urban or streetwear more than the printed tee. The discovery of screen-printing by street pioneers in the 80s and 90s opened up a whole new world of self-expression and blatant promotion. With the abundance of printed and slogan tees flooding the market these days, the tee is one piece that you can really use to express your unique style. As with the hoodie, always choose a cotton tee above a polyester mix for long wear and shape retention. Streetwear heavyweights Fuct, SSUR, Stussy, and Supreme are the brands to shop for.

The final step to building your urban-proof look is a good pair of kickers! Vans, Converse, and Sketchers all have some decent street shoes, but if you really want to complete the look, then the classics Nike Jordans, AirMax 1, and the Sk8-Hi are what you should be looking out for. So now you’ve got the know-how to start building your basic streetwear wardrobe, amp up your look with some unique accessories and military-influenced outerwear for a style that’s truly your own.