Los Angeles 2004: It’s late fall and the temperature is about 50 degrees outside because a storm had just passed. Living in Los Angeles, it can be cold and raining outside, yet somehow the sun will still be out shining brighter than ever. My best friend gives me a call and asks if I want to go with him over to the Fairfax district to shop for sneakers and clothes, because what Fairfax and Melrose had to offer at that time was still a secret to the world. Streetwear at the time was still an underground culture that had not been discovered by mainstream media and mass consumers. Hypebeast was barely being created as a website and was not yet used as a verb to describe the annoying consumers who have now diluted the culture of streetwear. Resellers were not even an idea yet, let alone “bots”. Back then we had to physically get up and go search for the limited edition sneakers and clothing products that were being released from underground streetwear brands at the time.
The scavenger hunt experience was a part of the fun and excitement about being involved in streetwear culture, because while trying to get our hands on those limited edition items, we ended up meeting other people who were into the same thing. I was a freshman in high school at the time, so I would save up money from my part-time library job and selling candy at school to make sure I had enough money to buy the new NIke SB dunks from either Flight Club on Fairfax or Sportie LA on Melrose. Then we would head to Brooklyn Projects, Barracuda, ALIFE, In4mation, Upper Playground, HUF, BAPE, Johnny Cupcakes, The Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles, looking to buy some of the most limited and best silk-screened designs you would ever see on a t-shirt.
Since then, streetwear culture has catapulted into mainstream media and has caught the attention of the rest of the world. Fairfax, Melrose, and even La Brea used to be our little secret. Now when tourists come to visit L.A., they make sure to stop by and snap a selfie in front of the Supreme store. My first time ever going to check out these beloved boutique streetwear stores, I remember putting on my best outfit just so I could stand out but at the same time not look goofy, because I knew that if I were to run into any of my peers, they would definitely have a “Fit”, which is the term we used when we put together a good outfit. When we arrived and walked around for a good two hours, we bumped into some students who attended Fairfax High School in the heart of the Fairfax district. We assumed they would have egos because they had direct access to all of those exclusive stores daily. To our surprise, the kids who participated in the same culture we loved were actually very inclusive and collaborative; everyone was very accepting. We used streetwear to express ourselves. It also inspired us to start figuring out how to create our own clothes and introduced us to other mediums of art.
One specific memory was a kid we met who was walking in the same direction my friend and I were. He was wearing a snapback hat that read “HYPE KILLS” in a big, bold white Helvetica font. It was a design and statement that was bold. In that moment, I realized that this streetwear culture was bigger than we had realized, and soon the world would discover these ideas we fell in love with at a young age. Los Angeles is a melting pot of so many different cultures that in order to stand out, you have to innovate and create your own unique style. The brands that have created these niche boutique stores have unintentionally curated the lifestyle of streetwear through embracing hip hop music, skate culture, art, fashion and design and it all began in Los Angeles, California, the mecca of streetwear culture.
We are now in the year 2019. Some might say streetwear is dead, others might say it has evolved, but one thing is certain: many original streetwear brands have folded and closed their boutique store doors and many new ones have opened new stores in L.A. because the streetwear market is in high demand. I do appreciate the brands who take the time to construct and curate stores that pull from all of those influences to create a unique store and shopping experience for the consumer. Unlike the many resale stores that have recently opened up along Melrose in the Fairfax District and taken away from streetwear rather than giving back to it to help it progress, there are stores that have held on to those original ideas and built brands that are pushing the culture forward. Brands such as KITH, BODEGA, JUICE, RSVP GALLERY, and Dover Street Market have all opened storefronts in the L.A. area in select locations other than Fairfax district. Not only have they opened new stores, but they have all curated a unique aesthetic to give their stores individuality tailored to their brand, giving the consumer a unique and different shopping experience. As an original hypebeast, I very much appreciate the effort of these newly-established brands that have taken the time out to create something that helps move streetwear forward. So the next time you’re driving and you see a bunch of kids waiting in line outside of a boutique store, before you judge them as another hypebeast who is wasting money on clothes or sneakers, understand those are the kids who are going to be creating some iconic pieces of art in the future. They may even invent the next big idea for technology, start a new fashion trend, or design a piece of art that will change the world.