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By Ellie Richards


Can anyone be part of underground culture in a society adamant on trending self expression? While the celebration of individuality within fashion is a sign of a progressive society, is it still possible to be “different” – in other words, rebellious? Since the birth of the 60’s hippie’s counterculture, we’ve seen underground phases of rebellious style, from punks and mods, to surfers and skateboarders. Now, the latest trend of “streetwear style” as a rebellious form of counterculture has been appropriated and integrated into everyday and luxury fashion.

“I was just using fashion as a way to express my resistance and to be rebellious. It was my ambition to understand the world I live in.” Vivienne Westwood on bringing Punk style into the mainstream.

There are many inspirations for the popularity of streetwear culture, the biggest of which being Skateboarders. The biggest names in street style are Supreme, Thrasher and Palace, brands which originally made clothes as skateboarding brands, and are still making the equipment. These once obscure brands have gained masses of cult following, particularly by “HYPEBEASTS/HYPEBAES”, a community drawn together by a passion for streetwear style, many of which have never held a skateboard in their life. It’s the connotations of the ‘Streetwear/Sportswear’ style that has become held in high regard, and that now Luxury Designers are cashing in on. Louis Vuitton’s’ exorbitantly popular collaboration with youthful skateboarding brand Supreme is a perfect example of Luxury and Sportswear brands combining to become a force to be reckoned with. The most coveted item of the collection, the box logo hoodie, priced at $855 USD (£623) was/still is on many fashionista’s wish-list and a statement in hundreds of A-Lister wardrobes. These celebrity consumers include DJ Khaled, Two Chainz and Madonna. In an article by Vogue, we can see that “The last decade has seen luxury fashion focus on skateboarding and it’s sub-culture dress codes”. Is it really a subculture anymore?

Take a look at some of the biggest “hypebeast/hypebae” accounts on Instagram (a social media platform that focuses far more on style, aesthetic and unachievable lifestyles rather than voice and opinions), for example @gullyguyleo with over 700K followers. This 16 years old has used family money and an exploration of street style to become famous within the community, purchasing the newest and most expensive “cops”, posting a photo wearing them and securing one of the highest “hypebeast” inspiration pages on the website. The desire to be a part of this “urban trend” is causing people to BANKRUPT themselves, choosing “garms” over money for rent and food.

Skateboard style originated from west coast surfers, the Dog Town team, who took to the smaller boards on the streets when they couldn’t surf. Skateboarding up to this point had been very clean, sterile and these youngsters brought energy, style and rawness to the sport.  Their clothes reflected their spirit, lack of money and need for movement to perform ever more daring tricks. The need for comfy, stylised and cheap clothing that may be ripped was essential, and thus started their counter culture. They became mega stars in the 70’s and launched big name brands like Tony Alva and Tony Hawk brands.

The idea that people are going bankrupt over now achieving this style goes against everything that the skateboarder’s rebellious style stood for. Underground culture, whether its streetwear, punks or hippies all came from DIY creative initiative, as there were rarely clothes that would be popular enough to buy in general retail stores. DIY meant inexpensive. The history of sportswear becomes particularly intriguing when considering streetwear, as a previously nineties “chav culture” has seen a massive generational shift towards the luxury market. The “chav culture” phenomenon stems from the UK’s Manchester football terraces, and has become synonymous with football t-shirts, anoraks and the crowds anti-social behaviour. However, during this generational shift, young Millenials who were too young to participate in this culture are now branding Ellesse, Champion and Fila for the “streetwear” style, selling vintage garments for hundreds of pounds, x10 their original worth. Fendi has recently collaborated with Fila for a new collection and is a perfect example of combining sportswear/streetstyle and luxury for a new audience. This has shown how sportswear has turned itself from the working-class background to the wardrobe of A-Listers worldwide. Sam Dover from Mintel.com has said “Sportswear as casual wear was popular in the Nineties and died down again, but now people are wearing it because it fits in with their busy lives.”


  • Underground will never be the same again because we are now a global society with little that is hidden. We now SHARE in a wider community. This isn’t a bad thing, because this means that embracing our individuality within ourselves and fashion is more widely accepted.
  • What does it mean to be rebellious? Is being more normal or just embracing the commonalities of our generation the true form of expression that defines the era?
  • Don’t bankrupt yourself trying to replicate the lifestyles you see on instagram. No one is snapping pictures of the hard times, the struggle or lack of money, all you’re seeing is the aspirational moments. Most of this is not real, so work hard for what you want, remember who you are and express yourself they way you want to.

If you liked this blog, you might be interested to read about Brand Building in the Digital Era?