The fashion industry has witnessed the unlikely intertwining of two worlds that despite being perceived as having completely opposite audiences, seem to have begun to slowly but surely dance towards each other. Who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers arch? We’re talking, of course, about the unlikely yet come to think of it perfectly reasonable, pairing of streetwear and beauty.
Historically speaking, the target audience of streetwear and beauty products were the antithesis of each other. On the one hand, we had your hypermasculine cis straight man at the centre of streetwear, with values and expectations borrowed from the nitty gritty [hip-hop culture of New York in the 90s, and the breezy surf-skate graffiti culture of LA, and Japan’s intense nightlife.
Streetwear culture has been notoriously homophobic in the past, the whole idea of men being men, was drilled into our collective brains. Anything that could be perceived as remotely feminine was a hard pass, reason for mockery even. So while in the past, streetwear played a pivotal role in giving one ‘street cred’, in appearing cool, and a part of something, now its mission has evolved. Today we can confidently say that streetwear is a tool for unapologetic self-expression.
On the other hand, we have the beauty industry, whose ultimate customer had always been a white woman upholding impossible beauty standards. Clean, gorgeous, sexy, and more worried about their appearance than anything else. In fact, this is probably one of the things that have shifted the most as far as the perception of the use of beauty products goes; before make-up was seen as vain, it was used to hide and conform, to appeal to others and fit into said unrealistic beauty standards. Nowadays, it’s more than just the products in themselves that have drastically improved and expanded, the purpose of beauty products as a whole has transformed. How so, you ask? Well, now, the purpose of beauty products is to both take care of and express oneself.
Streetwear and beauty have evolved toward each other
Tool for self-expression for an individualism-hungry generation
Two unlikely partners that have converged in the present day being used for the same reason. Self-expression and highlighting one’s uniqueness. Not only that, two industries that were notorious for their gendered approach, are now the ones leading the charge in breaking traditional gender roles and boundaries. Streetwear is catering to women as well as championing a-gender and gender non-conforming identities and beauty products are being produced for men too. As a matter of fact, many beauty products now are being advertised as ‘for everyone’, because making use of something doesn’t immediately translate into one thing or the other anymore. Today’s generations aren’t letting stereotypes define what they can wear now who they can be, only they alone can decide. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s still a long way to go in the dismantling of oppressive stereotypes attached to both industries, although we have indeed come a long way.
The birth of online communities
One of the major reasons behind the collision of these two realms is… You guessed it, social media. The communities being built on social media surrounding these two topics are thriving. And we mean THRI-VING. Truly. Industries that were much more B2C based are increasingly becoming C2C as far as the impact of advertising goes. People will no longer exclusively trust a brand when it comes to informing themselves about a product, instead, they will seek out this information in their online communities. From brand hauls to product reviews, to make up looks and fit checks, social media has transformed avid individual fans of beauty and streetwear into fully fledged influential online communities.
Both Off-White and Palace recognize the power of beauty
Many major brands are beginning to see the power of branching into the beauty industry. It isn’t uncommon for a fashion label to release cosmetics in an attempt to target customers who can’t pay 2000 Euros for a dress but can pay 50 Euros for an eyeshadow pallet. Still, it’s only recently that we’ve seen brands from the streetwear world dive head first into the beauty industry. This year marks a turning point, with brands such as Off-White and Palace launching their own beauty lines/products.
Palace’s collaboration with Calvin Klein is possibly the ideal representation of this shift. A campaign which highlights inclusion, diversity, and community, issuing a new era for both brands. A new take on the classic CK One Perfume and a clothing capsule embracing people from different ages, races, and backgrounds and very successfully communicating the message that their products are for everyone.
Earlier this year, Off-White launched ‘PAPERWORK’, ”another canvas, another surface for human expression”, one of Virgil Abloh’s remaining projects, manifested before his death. A genderless beauty line aiming to engage the senses with its three categories: four ‘Solution’ fragrances, sic ‘Color Matter’ nail polishes, and six ‘Imprint’ face and body solid pigment crayons. With this initiative, Off-White solidifies the idea that a brand merely offers the product, it’s the individual that decides on the instructions for usage. Highlighting once again the ingrained value of self-expression, now a pillar of both streetwear and beauty.
An unlikely love affair, but an effective one nevertheless
And now this is where both of these industries have realised that they might have more in common than their origins could ever have anticipated. Streetwear was never about mere aesthetics, it has always been and continues to be about lifestyle as much as it is about looks. And it seems that this lifestyle has finally realised that its audience goes far beyond its decades-old main target of the straight tough male.
Branching into beauty products gives streetwear access to a larger audience, one that not only embraces the streetwear lifestyle but actually further expands its reach and its tools for self-expression. Because choosing the right kicks is not enough for the perfect fit now, you might be missing out on the full statement if you don’t accompany it with matching nail polish.
The beauty industry has finally seen through its own self-imposed limits, feeding the false narrative that beauty products are for women who want to make themselves look pretty for others. They have finally realised that make-up is for whoever wants to use it, and whichever way they want to use it. The same goes for perfumes, candles, bath salts, and all other beauty items. Everyone wants to practice self-care, and regardless of which gender you identify as, a relaxing bath feels good AF. Opening their audience up to include streetwear communities gives them access to the hungry hypebeast consumer and sets their future on the path of inclusion, which is where we’re undeniably headed.
At the end of the day what we think is finally sinking in, both in society and in businesses, is the fact that all of it, clothes, makeup, candles, perfumes, shoes… They’re all meant to make us feel better. They’re meant to make us feel like ourselves, so it’s only natural that we would use as many tools as we can to achieve our self-expression, rather than let archaic traditions limit us. The future is inclusive, and we make it ourselves.