Monday, July 27, 2009

From Street Trends to High Fashion

"I like fashion to go down to the street, but I can't accept that it should originate there."
--Coco Chanel

Regardless of Chanel's wishes, often street trends make their way into high fashion because fashion designers are always searching for new ideas, and young people on the street are accessible sources of creative, fresh looks. Each street trend is linked to a youth-driven subculture that is more or less a reaction to conformity.
A peek at street trends and their runway equivalents:


The zoot suit consists of a boxy jacket paired with pants that feature a high waistline and peg-legs. Derived from Harlem jazz culture, the look was popularized as a status symbol among teenage boys in African-American, Latin, and Hispanic communities in the 1930s and 1940s.

Zoot Suiter in Illinois, circa 1943

In the 1940s in L.A., riots erupted between white military personnel and Latino youths. The Latinos were recognizable by their zoot suits, so the events were known as The Zoot Suit Riots.

Modern costume-style zoot suits are available
at many costume and vintage clothing rental stores today.

A modern zoot suit, also known as an "Extreme Suit"
available at

High Fashion:

Armani Prive, Fall 2009 Couture
Typical square shoulders and tapered pants

Alexis Mabille, Fall 2009 Couture
Boxy suit

Jean Paul Gaultier, Fall 2009 Couture
Fedoras were often paired with Zoot Suits



The Beat writers (fronted by Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Borroughs) became well-known in the 1950s for their existentialism, rebellion, rejection of mainstream values, and goals to better their innerselves. The writers inspired a cultural movement, of which the participants were called Beatniks. They were recognizable by their striped shirts, dark sunglasses, turtlenecks, slim-legs pants, and berets. Their choice to dress in simple clothes arose from their hatred of materialism and consumerism.

Lady Beatnik dancer in the 1950s in the traditional black leggings
and clingy black top associated with the beatnik look

Beatniks in the 1950s

Cover of "The First Third" by Neal Cassady, 1971.
Photo of Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac,
prominent writers during the Beat Generation

In the 1957 film "Funny Face," Audrey Hepburn portrays philosophical bookworm, Jo Stockton. Her beatnik-style costume became so iconic that the top photo was featured in a Gap ad for skinny black pants in Fall 2006. Ironically, a beatnik look was used to spread the very consumerism that the beatniks opposed.

High Fashion:

Yves Saint Laurent, Fall 2008 RTW
The dark hair and clothes and pail skin of a beatnik

Betsey Johnson, Fall 2008
The runway was staged to resemble a coffeehouse,
in which beatniks played instruments and recited poetry.



Beginning in London in the 1950s, the Teddy Boy subculture made it acceptable for young men to care about how they looked. They dressed for show, sporting ties, tailored suits, and carefully groomed hairdos.

Teddy Boys in Grangetown, Wales, circa early 1950s

Maintaining his traditional Teddy Boy hairdo, circa 1960

In the 1970s, rockabilly music renewed the look.

John Cryer as Teddy Boy, Duckie, in "Pretty in Pink", 1986

Duckie dances and sings in one of my favorite film scenes ever

High Fashion:

Givenchy, Spring 2001 RTW
Poofy bangs and a suit revive the Teddy Boy look

Modern Teddy Boy look, Burberry, 2006
This ad features the typical Teddy Boy hairdo,
slicked back at the sides with a quiff in front

Armand Basi, Fall 2009
Pants that taper in at the ankles
and a different take on the Teddy Boy hairstyle

Ashley Olsen in the Teddy Boy look



The Mod subculture became widespread in London in the 1960s and focused on fashion, music, scooter-riding, and dancing. Their look consisted of minimal silhouettes, bright colors, and bold lines.

Andy Warhol's muse, Edie Sedgwick, in a mod outfit in the 1960s

With Warhol, Edie Sedgwick wore the iconic mod A-line mini dress in the 1960s.

Model, Twiggy wore mod fashions in the 1960s,
and was a fashion icon of the subculture and time period.

Twiggy sports the hairdo and thick eye makeup indicative of the mod look.

Twiggy wore the bold colors and simple silhouettes that characterized mod fashion.

A Japanese girl sports the Mod look, circa 2000

South Korean singing quintet, Wonder Girls, in mod fashion, 2009

High Fashion:

Alice + Olivia mod tunic dress

Mod fashion photo spread, circa 2006

Mod fashion photo spread, circa 2008

L.A.M.B., Spring 2008



The hippie subculture began in the 1960s in the US and is marked by counterculture, the sexual revolution, drug use, and psychedelic rock. Acting out against war and establishment, hippies favored ethnic clothes and jeans.

Hippies in the 1960s
wore colorful loose-fitting clothes, tie-dye, floral prints, headbands, and feathers.

High Fashion:

Diane Von Furstenberg, Spring 2009
The floral headband and loose floral dress indicate hippie influences.

Miss Sixty, Spring 2009 RTW
Skin exposure was also a hippie tendency, as they were immodest with their bodies and opted for sexual freedom.

Modern hippie fashion photo spread
featuring loose, patterned garments



The Disco look is associated with the genre of dance music that appeared in the 1970s. As an antidote to the hippies' fashion, and for ease of dance movement, their fashions featured flashy, stretchy, synthetic fabrics. The looks proliferated at the New York City club, Studio 54.

A disco couple in the 1970s
wearing typical wide collars, high-waisted pants, and polyester

Gloria Gaynor was a popular disco singer in the 1970s
who wore flashy outfits to match the popular look of the times

The Bee Gees were foremost disco stars in the 1970s
who wore metallic outfits of synthetic materials

"Saturday Night Fever" is a 1977 film about a youth who is king at the discotheque.
It made disco fashions visible to wide audiences.

Singing sensations from the 1970s, ABBA,
in disco fashion including bell-bottoms

High Fashion:

Chanel, 2008

Naheen Khan, Spring 2009
Metallic fabrics

Alberta Ferretti, Spring 2009
This flashy outfit resembles one that would have been worn in the 1970s by a disco star such as Donna Summer



Punk became widespread originally in London in the 1980s and is associated with punk rock music. The subculture is marked by anarchy, non-conformity, animal rights, and anti-capitalism, among many other ideals. As many punks favor the Do It Yourself aesthetic, the fashions consist of leather jackets, combat boots, and tight pants that have been hand-decorated with metal studs, patches, stitching, and paint. Tattoos, eye makeup, and heavily dyed and gelled extreme mohawks complement their outfits. Alternately, some punks favor anti-fashion because they argue that the culture should be defined by its music and beliefs instead of material items such as clothes. These punks wear plain jeans and white t-shirts.

Sid Vicious of the influential punk rock band, The Sex Pistols,
with girlfriend Nancy in the 1970s
They sport the adorned leather jackets, dyed and spiked hair, and tattered jeans associated with punk fashion.

Punks on the streets of Japan, circa 2000
wearing punk-style plaids, zippers, and denim

High Fashion:

Vivienne Westwood, Fall 2009
The tight black pants, extreme hairdo, and heavily decorated top were influenced by punk style.

Yves Saint Laurent, Fall 2009 RTW
Leather jacket with studded collar, reminiscent of the punk look



The hip hop cultural movement became popular, especially among African-American youths, in New York City in the 1980s and is marked by hip hop music, graffiti art, DJing, and break dancing. The look features bright colors, heavy chain necklaces, baggy denim, caps, sunglasses, branded clothes, and athletic jackets.

Posing in front of graffiti which is associated with hip hop culture,
these men wear typical hip hop fashions.

Influential hip hop group, Run DMC
in typical hip hop style athletic jackets and gold chains

Will Smith as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
in hip hop clothes in the 1990s

High Fashion:

Sean John, Fall 2000
Puffy jackets and vests became staples in a hip hop wardrobe. of the Black Eyed Peas wears Hip Hop fashions.
Vivienne Westwood plaid trousers
Diesel red sunglasses
Dior sneackers

D Squared, Spring 2009 RTW
Big chain necklace, reminiscent of hip hop style


New street trends emerge since fashion is always changing, and fashionable people are always searching for new looks. Street trends are almost always a result of the culture in the given place and time, and since times change, fashion changes along with it. These are two street trends I've noticed:


Newsboys in Brooklyn in 1908

Newsboys, or Newsies, were the primary distributors of newspapers from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. Since they were usually homeless children, they wore modest, shabby clothes. This look has inspired a street trend which resembles a rumpled, shabby, schoolboy uniform. It looks vintage and European. Featured are "newsies" caps, tweeds, plaids, worn-in leather oxfords with laces, vests, collared shirts, blazers, and pedal pushers. Common colors are brown, gray, navy blue, tan, black, and white.

The characters in 1992's "Newsies" wear examples of the look.
The film is based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.

A couple sporting the look in Japan, circa 2000
Her overalls and his shirt and trousers by Christopher Nemeth
Shoes by Belly Button

Outfit by Christopher Nemeth

The outfit on Tiny Tim, of "A Christmas Carol", is an example of the look.
Like the newsboys, Tiny Tim was a pitiful young boy in rumpled clothes.

Vintage shoes by John Moor

Shoes by Christopher Nemeth

Shoes by Christopher Nemeth

Shoes by Christopher Nemeth

Shabby newsies cap and outfit by Christopher Nemeth

Outfit by Christopher Nemeth

Outfit by Christopher Nemeth

The Newsies style looks good on people of all ages.

Newsies style with a hint of color

In Japan, circa 2000
Jacket, Shirt, and Trousers by Christopher Nemeth
Shoes by John Moor
Hat by World's End

High Fashion:

Diesel Black Gold, Fall 2009
Plaid, wool, and various shades of gray create the newsboy look

Diesel Black Gold, Fall 2009
Gray pedal pushers contribute to the newsboy style

The look featured in a fashion photo spread, circa 2006
Jumpsuit by Mayle
Shirt by Diesel
Belt by 3.1 by Philip Lim
Shoes by Clarks
Newspaper backdrop is a nod to the newsboys whose fashions influenced this photoshoot.


July 2009

Since mature women usually lack self-consciousness and have more money than youths,
they are able to dress expressively and nicely,
and thus, inspire trends among younger girls.

Designer Iris Apfel is an icon of eccentric old lady style.

Mary-Kate Olsen is credited with making the eccentric old lady look a street trend.

Old lady style, circa 2007

Old lady style, circa 2009

High Fashion:

Luella, Spring 2009
Tea dresses, florals, pleats, blouses, broaches, tweeds, and pastels
create an eccentric old lady feeling

The old lady look by Juicy Couture

Diane Von Furstenberg, Fall 2009
The floral hat and droopy wool sweater create old lady style

Mary-Kate Olsen in a fashion photo spread inspired by the old women who lived at Grey Gardens.
From "Bazaar" magazine, October 2007.
Bodysuit and skirt by Miu Miu
Leggings by Blumarine
Hat by Christine A. Moore Millinery
Gloves by Etro
Ring by Hari Jems
Shoes by Prada

The inspiration for Bazaar's photo spread.

Possibly unintentionally, Little and Big Edie Beale of Grey Gardens
became fashion icons in the 1970s.