It’s not just your own body, closet, or wallet that are affected by your participation in hypebeast culture as we know it; the repercussions spread all the way across the globe.
Disclaimer: With heavy acknowledgement for streetwear/sneaker culture’s origins in Black culture/communities, the content in the following article is strictly based on personal experiences and the experiences of the contributors (who volunteered to contribute their perspectives) in relation to our involvement in “Hypebeast” culture as perpetuated by Hypebeast.com. Black history and culture is best shared by those who lived through it themselves. All research collected is referenced to its respective sources, however, should you want to learn more about the origins of streetwear/sneaker culture in Black culture from Black perspectives, consider conducting further research and/or reading the following article/interview with Tanisha C. Ford discussing the cultures that influenced streetwear today, which include Black culture: https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/vb9jj3/dressed-in-dreams-tanisha-ford-uncovers-the-black-women-who-invented-modern-streetwear
Fashion holds the power to be one of the most poisonous industries to the environment, our lifestyles, and our wallets. Most popular fashion brands – particularly fast fashion brands – have poor working conditions for their employees, pay unfair wages, use unsustainable resources and materials, and/or ignorantly promote unsustainable ideas through their advertising in order to create a demand and fill the wallets of the already-rich. Thankfully, parts of the fashion industry (i.e. specific brands or initiatives) have already shifted their practices to be more environmentally/socially sustainable. However, sustainability doesn’t just end with environmental and social change; consumers need to pursue more sustainable lifestyles and mindsets, too. To see radical change in our futures, we need to think very critically about the culture, industry, and consumers; the three need to integrate sustainability into their practices from the bottom up, not just on the surface.
We’ll be looking at Hypebeast (the brand and culture), the culture it has created within the fashion industry, pop culture, and our everyday lives with reference to some perspective from retired-hypebeasts, and sustainable solutions collected from them and some sustainability advocates. If fashion, brands, trends, and news aren’t pursuing initiatives with the intent to achieve an ultimately more-sustainable environment and culture, they’re just weighing the progress down. In order to progress sustainably, what do we rewire? The brands, the culture, or ourselves?
Hypebeast: “A hypebeast is a slang for someone who is a beast (obsessed) about the hype (in fashion), and will do whatever it takes to obtain that desired hype.” (Urbandictionary.com)
Sustainable: “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.” (Google.com)
Hypebeast(.com) is an online content hub that shares content primarily on men’s streetwear and the surrounding culture. They cover content on Nike, Adidas, Yeezy, Supreme – the list continues. But since its conception, Hypebeast has grown to become so much more than just a news hub – it’s a whole culture of elite streetwear and dedicated, passionate consumers. We’ve all likely bought into the hype before, or at least thought about doing it. In the retrospect of some retired hypebeasts, hypebeast culture also serves “as a status symbol,” is based on the need to get “what others can’t get,” and is simply businesses knowing/selling what their consumers will buy. Hypebeast culture consists of a constant thrill and chase for the next drop; but the sides we seem to ignore are the constant chase for the attention/validation of others and its fundamental roots in hypercapitalism and hyperconsumerism.
All criticisms aside, there are certainly aspects of the culture that bring joy to its participants. Based on responses from interviewed contributors, some have expressed that the culture had provided them with a sense of belonging in groups/with others with similar interests, could make them some money by reselling expensive products, induced happiness when purchasing something that is famous for being sought after, and helped them discover and express their personal style.
However, they also realized that – in some cases – this culture ultimately led to a sense of toxic elitism and exclusivity, reselling products and simply engaging in the culture started resembling an addiction, and they started to ironically feel lost with their identity in a sea of people who express the same styles (as an indirect result of wanting to find their own style). This is a very non-exhaustive list of criticisms; based on their responses, these were not the only downfalls to participating in the culture. Other criticisms consisted of the issue of owning more than one can handle, the fact that fully investing oneself is too financially unsustainable, and hyping up brands that sell bad quality products for insane prices is unethical and a waste of money. One of the article’s contributors, Ernie, included in a response: “I had more shoes than I could wear in a month” “No one really needs an endless pile of clothes to choose from. There’s only 7 days in a week” “It eventually becomes a self-serving cycle where you never really have enough.” And environmental sustainability aside, the idea that we constantly think we need more than what we already have is unsustainable in itself. In the end, the overall benefit for the consumer is very low while the benefit for its creators is very high, yet the consumers persist.
“With a dedicated team focused on the progression of fashion through visual inspirations and the provision of knowledge, HYPEBEAST's devotion and commitment has made it one of the premiere online destinations for editorially driven commerce and news. Spanning a comprehensive range of both styles and brands, from streetwear to high-end and from established to well-known, the HYPEBEAST editorial team has sought to make a positive contribution to one of culture's most important creative mediums.” (HYPEBEAST.com, About Us)
If they’re focused on the “progression of fashion” and making “a position contribution to one of culture’s most important creative mediums”, they should also be focused on the progression of sustainability in fashion. Alas, as they continue to promote brands and aspects of the culture that do not promote sustainability, they themselves are perpetuating the unimportance of sustainability in streetwear. I understand that Hypebeast itself isn’t necessarily at fault – they simply report on the brands that are popular and loved by consumers. However, by sharing the content they choose to share, they are ultimately perpetuating unsustainable products, brands, lifestyles, and ideas. Hypebeast’s mission is out-of-date; it’s inspiring to the unconscious consumer which is a problem.
What if we rewired hypebeast culture to give people who promote sustainability this same exact treatment for promoting sustainable brands, ideas, and lifestyles instead? Why are we normalizing unhealthy buying habits? Why are we normalizing shopping-addictions? Why are we normalizing unconsciousness? We can express ourselves without emptying our wallets and filling our closets to the brim. It’s not just your own body, closet, or wallet that are affected by your participation in hypebeast culture as we know it; the repercussions spread all the way across the globe. Maybe the problem altogether is the hype itself.
Special thanks to contributors Ernie, Spencer, and Ivan for your time and thoughtful responses on being retired-hypebeasts. Although not all are quoted, all contributed valuable perspectives to the content shared in this article.