We understand fashion to be a cynical industry. We know that trends are seldom organic and are often invented in a secret fashion lab and cunningly marketed to make consumers forget how they managed to live through last season without them. Every season brings a new "staple" that - even if you only sort of follow trends - you'll be obligated to run out and buy if you want to feel current. At the level of the common consumer, we're allowed to keep our trends longer than a single season, but even these slower trend cycles are calculated to inspire purchases on a predictable schedule.
In some circles, being fashionable means being what others would call a label whore. People earn the title by following the very newest trends, even the least accessible, and combining them correctly so they remain chic. They choose more expensive designers so the clothes are well cut and sturdy, despite the fact that they're meant to be sent to charity after a season.
This is the reality of fashion, this is what's going on behind the bright facades that line your local mall. Street fashion is the radical response to this.
Antithetical as it might seem, there is a place for creativity and even intelligence in fashion. Street fashion has existed almost as long as fashion itself as a reaction to the staid, the average, the expected. We tend to forget its long history as the fashion industry snaps up and co-opts each reinterpretation, but it is as constant as the desire for individuality. Look at punks, look at hippies, look at the baggy pants of the 1990s. Today, disposable, mass-produced clothing has made a piece of fabric cheaper than ever, and what has existed on the fringes for decades is becoming a full-on movement.
If you've ever picked up an issue of FRUiTS, you may agree with the impression that street fashion is all about out-weirding the next guy. In truth, of all the street style archives out there (there's been an explosion of late), FRUiTS may be the one most like conventional fashion. It's not rare to see the same motif repeated across five or more different outfits each issue, then completely vanished within six months. Besides FRUiTS, you can see examples of street style in:
Hel-Looks - www.hel-looks.com
Face Hunter - facehunter.blogspot.com
The Sartorialist - thesartorialist.blogspot.com
OsloStil - oslostil.blogspot.com
and (debateably) The Cobra Snake - www.thecobrasnake.com
In looking through any of these sites, or paper publications with the same mission, you notice a lot of very young faces. Age may be the biggest factor in defining street fashion. Not to say that street style is inaccessible to someone in their 40s or 50s, but rather that the defiant attitude of street fashion probably results from teenagers and 20-somethings having limited resources yet being unwilling to dress like everyone else their age. Thrifting, unknown designers, clothing reconstruction, and other cheap alternatives to the mainstream are seen in outfit after outfit in these magazines and blogs. Street fashion or no, the only way to make an outfit work is to own it, and these kids do so by insouciantly layering their strange finds over each other, rather than plunking down $2K for head-to-toe couture and calling it a day.
Street fashion represents a huge range of trends, eras, genders, and pricetags, many appearing together in the same outfits. The basic goal is to do something interesting that still looks good. While the fickle fashion gods may offer us bubble silhouettes one season and pegged jeans the next, there are certain universal, timeless formulas for mixing proportions, textures, color, and accessories. These, applied to unique pieces or unexpected combinations, result in what we think of as street fashion.