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Is streetwear really declining?

By Kristopher Fraser


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Photo credit: Off-White SS20, Catwalkpictures

In 2019, the late-great Virgil Abloh, the trailblazing designer behind his Off-White label and the first Black menswear director of Louis Vuitton, sat down for an interview with Dazed. During this interview, Abloh declared what might arguably be one of the most controversial statements of his career: streetwear was going to die.

“I would definitely say it’s gonna die, you know. Like its time will be up,” Abloh said to Dazed. Abloh would go on to semi-retract his statement in an interview with Vogue, clarifying he didn’t mean streetwear would disappear entirely.

Fast forward to now in 2022, and the word streetwear doesn’t even seem to mean anything anymore. After losing a year of dressing up to the pandemic, sweatpants, hoodies, and T-shirts became wardrobe staples. The work-from-home uniform that was once the uniform of start-up bros in Silicon Valley became the practical option for people who didn’t know when they would see the inside of an office building again.

The look of what was originally associated with streetwear became the look of everyone with a desk job. As life slowly returned to normal, people’s approach to fashion only changed so much. The buttoned-up, restricted look of the office had become more relaxed.

The idea of “the end of streetwear” was still alive and well, not because people weren’t buying streetwear apparel. Quite the opposite was happening in fact but therein lay that theory. Streetwear had become so ingrained into every aspect of fashion minus couture, that the term lost any real meaning.

Once upon a time, there was a rigid divide between luxury and streetwear. The idea of fashion houses who once prided themselves on couture and formal wear making the bread-and-butter of their brands sneakers, T-shirts, and sportswear would have been sacrilege.

Yet, here we are in the year 2022, and the world of luxury fashion is joyously part of the streetwear world. Louis Vuitton hired Virgil Abloh as their menswear director in 2018, a position he would hold until his untimely passing in 2021. Balenciaga, once made famous for their ballgowns by namesake found Cristobal Balenciaga, now makes headline news for destroyed sneakers and leather trash bags. Luxury streetwear websites, like Ssense, saw their revenues continuously increase, while traditional luxury retailers, like Neiman Marcus, struggled with debt and had to file for bankruptcy.

The topic of streetwear is also a touchy one in the fashion industry. Zoey Bombshell, a wardrobe stylist and PR specialist, told FashionUnited, “I wish streetwear would die because, at this point, I’m bored to death. People are so lazy now in streetwear.”

Jacques Point DuJour, a former LVMH employee, shared her sentiments, telling FashionUnited, “[Streetwear] has done what it could. It became the zeitgeist of the majority. However, the space it occupied was promoted by people wanting to be lazy with what they wore. I need people to want to elevate. I truly believe T-shirts are mostly for children.”

While it is hard to even call anything cut-and-sew streetwear nowadays, it doesn’t look like streetwear as a category is going to die anytime soon. It has become a permanent part of fashion culture and retail offerings, almost like how denim went from workwear to a fashion staple.

Virgil Abloh