Streetwear, which became an influence in the 1990s, grew from surf culture and hip-hop fashion. Encompassing punk, skateboarding, sportswear, and elements of Japanese fashion, streetwear usually covers casual and comfortable clothing such as T-shirts, jeans, sneakers, baseball caps, etc. We all are streetwear enthusiasts to some extent. However, most of us don’t have an idea that many of the great designs of streetwear are created after re-appropriation. Smaller as well as larger brands borrow streetwear designs from other sources, without minding the intellectual property rights and ethics. The reason is that the streetwear industry considers re-appropriation as the catalysts to creativity. Besides copying designs from other industries, streetwear designs have largely been influenced by pop culture. Let’s take a look at some awesome pop culture references found in streetwear.
Brknhome is a leading online company owned by Joshua Pong, and Kenta Goto, that creates men’s streetwear fashion designs. It created men’s streetwear designs on the basis of Don McLean’s cultural touchstone ‘American Pie’. The thumbs-down design, which was originally borrowed from McLean, hints towards the government’s apathy and delayed response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The back of the Brknhome’s shirts was even featuring the lyrics of McLean’s American Pie, “Drove my Chevy to the levee, But the levee was dry.” These shirts were rightly fulfilling the criteria of streetwear fashion due to their resistive design. The shirts enjoyed wide popularity among youngsters all across the country.
There’s something appealing about flipping the familiarity to create a new thing. While we’ve been arguing whether or not the strike-off bar logo Undefeated featured contains any Black Flag references, utilizing the Knicks and Lakers logos but replacing the team names was an initial step that established the precedent for the future sporting tributes.
The shirts were a fine re-appropriation of New York Lakers and Los Angeles logos. Although there wasn’t involved any outstanding creativity, yet the designer played with the logos very well, and so the store succeeded in getting its shirts on the high streets of America.
Every rap video on YouTube rap nowadays is littered with references to the Illuminati and the shifting world order. We’re obsessed with conspiracy theories, and the North Face’s fantastic logo is begging to be mocked. Milkcrate is an overlooked company, but its New World Order created for sweats and shirts was very popular during the 90s. The brand also added to the streetwear industry and Fabricali with its original, and innovative streetwear designs during the later years.
DQM, you are the kings of the animal-based pun. The Chopper, Bill the Butcher, and Meatallica designs are timeless, but the Pollo items are a standout in terms of overall execution from the New York-based label.
Pollo introduced a new design of streetwear after manipulating the logo of Polo Ralph Lauren. The brand replaced the horseman with a polo player riding a chicken. The articles featuring this wacky design caught the attention of people belonging to all age groups.
This is the beauty of streetwear that it reflects almost everything that matters for humans. Being inspired by mass culture, streetwear has always been coming up with wacky ideas and designs. As in the case of Bapex, which paid homage to Rolex Submariner in such a befitting way that it took streetwear to new heights of wishful luxuries. BAPE simply allowed the common man to wear the rich designs of Rolex watches.
Shepherd Fairey, a street artist and owner of OBEY, launched a campaign that he called “an experiment in phenomenology” where he used the face of Andre the Giant by mixing it with John Carpenter’s “They Live”. After Fairey’s designed tees, Andre’s face and his stickers were seen in every major city of the US.
The designs of Crooks & Castles aren’t known for their delicacy, but their swagged luxury concept is one that has risen to prominence after a lot of hard work by the brand. The use of the Medusa head logo as a jumping-off point was a statement of purpose, indicating that this brand was aiming for a whole luxurious lifestyle approach. Under its lavish lifestyle approach, Crooks & Castles also designed a clock, just like BAPE.
Perks & Mini, with its creative re-appropriations, has always been enjoying a prominent position among the streetwear brands. Getting inspiration from Velvet Underground & Nico, this Melbourne-based brand that was established by street artists Shauna Toohey, and Misha Hollenbach, introduced articles that feature a peeled banana fruit. This re-appropriation that refers to pop culture, is perhaps one the best works of Perks & Mini. Yet the brand is commonly overlooked in the fashion industry.
You may have seen pictures of your father wearing tees with the misfits logo. Yes, this was considered cool once. But just like bellbottoms, it became out of fashion. Diamond brought this back into streetwear fashion by creating a design inspired by the logo of Misfits Crimson Ghost and launched hoodies. Many took the design as a bit crazy, yet it enjoyed popularity as few famous artists also wore it on important occasions.
Fiberops main designer Alyasha Owerka-Moore, who is known for his original, prolific, and innovative streetwear designs, is responsible for this awesome re-appropriation. He introduced this design when everybody was infected with hip-hop fever. He used the lyric of American singer Bo Diddley’s song “Who do you love,” which was released in 1956. Fiberops printed the line, “Use a cobra snake for a necktie” on its shirts which were sold like hotcakes, even when people had no idea about the song. Fiberops, which contributed greatly to streetwear art, is perhaps one of the most ignored brands in the US.