Streetwear, social class, and the hypebeasts of Manila

Art by Elle Shivers

The sight on your news feed is nothing new: droves of Manileño youth draped in class-A replicas of branded clothes — these kids take to the streets dressed in Adidas track pants, Bape camo, and Vans Old Skools. These masters and madams know you see them and amp up the swagger as you whip your phone out to post a clip of them captioned “The hypebeasts are taking over (insert mall here)!!”

The original meaning of the word was an insult towards someone who purchased expensive or branded clothes simply because of the hype, and not because of them liking the look or feel. Now, the term hypebeast is conflated with anyone who has streetwear pieces in their wardrobe. This is the image that news channels and night-time feature shows have conjured in the minds of those uninformed of the culture. The bad light shone on them due to the rowdiness of these youth groups is a common source of irk among groups of like-minded fashion junkies.

 How’d we get here? Just a few years ago, the entire concept of streetwear wasn’t even that concrete. The closest thing to its modern counterpart was sneakerheads, and the two cultures weren’t even so intertwined yet. Streetwear style in the earlier years was really sneaker-centric, where the shoes were the focal point and the rest of the outfit followed. Recent developments have shifted focus to the entire “fit”, or outfit, which has led to more clothing brands gaining traction.

It’s the same way the lexicon of What’s Your Ulam, Pare? made its way from ironic jests among conyo kids to the hosts of Showtime calling their audience petmalu lodis. Pop culture and humor tends to originate from niche communities and branch out over time until eventually they hit the mainstream. Of course, by that point, the people who first got to the good stuff enter hipster mode and turn their backs.There’s a lot to unpack with this frustration, so we’d best go at this step by step.

One issue with these gangs of hypebeasts would be the fact that most cases would involve these kids wearing replicas of actual branded items. With the popularity of taking blank t-shirts and silk-screening or printing on them, it was easy for copycat producers to follow suit. Kanye West’s Pablo tour merchandise, A$AP Rocky’s VLONE, Anti Social Social Club, and more are famous for this practice. It’s not inherently bad, given the quality of the shirts, but designers do end up pricing their shirts at premium figures, which only go up with their resale value.

The frustrating part here would be that these replicas can easily look like the real deal to the untrained eye. An argument could be made that to some, it feels as if the ease of procuring the same look at a lower price devalues the luxury of flaunting the same look but with the authentic pieces. But imitation knockoffs aren’t a new concept; the ubiquity of fake Louis Vuitton monogram handbags has been rife among titas of MNL for the past two decades.

With the popularity of taking blank t-shirts and silk-screening or printing on them, it was easy for copycat producers to follow suit. | Art by Elle Shivers

It’s not like there’s much that can be done about the proliferation of fakes either. In all honesty, we can’t really stop the fakes from spreading,” says Maj Veloso, founder of streetwear and culture community, The Third World, when asked about the phenomenon.“I don’t have anything against people who wear them, but if they do just to fit in, then I guess they don’t understand the culture.”

Rik Rasos, co-founder and designer of local brand Proudrace, chimed in on the spread of fakes, as he mentioned seeing replicas of his own clothes while shopping in Taipei. “All we can do is spread awareness that there are options out there you don’t have to buy a replica,” he says. “Just support local brands that you can afford. They’re equally as good and globally competitive.”

So maybe the issue lies in the rowdiness associated with these massive get-togethers? These hypebeasts form different clans based on where they live or the styles or brand they’re into. This inevitably becomes a source of tension when they all encounter each other in public spaces, which possibly leads to fighting; security issues aside, this unbecoming behavior gives the scene a bad name as well.

Sole Slam founder Antonio Aguirre Jr., has strong views on the fad of hypebeast culture. “Brands like Supreme, Bape or Off-White that real hypebeasts wear are now rarely seen being worn by those spending tons of cash for these brands, just because being called a hypebeast in our country is so derogatory to say the least, whereas in the US, UK or Japan, a hypebeast is well-respected in the culture community for putting together well thought of pieces.”

These hypebeasts form different clans based on where they live or the styles or brand they’re into. This inevitably becomes a source of tension when they all encounter each other in public spaces, which possibly leads to fighting; security issues aside, this unbecoming behavior gives the scene a bad name as well.

Despite all this going against the prevalent hypebeast image held by the majority of Filipinos, does this really reflect the streetwear community? Do people really take the new era hypebeasts as one with the people who wear authentic merchandise?

And who is to decide who the true streetwear community is? The concept itself is one big, grey point of contention. Brands not typically made for the street become absorbed into the stereotypical assumptions of what the urban area of fashion is. High fashion brands like Gucci and Balenciaga have been recently releasing diffused lines catered to fashion-forward people who idolize the high-low looks of Kanye West and A$AP Rocky. The concept of rigidity and definition of what streetwear actually is would be counter-intuitive to the fluid nature of the evolving scene.

People who have been in the scene for a while now would know the best brands, where they’ve come from, and how these labels were all established from their hometown,” says Maj, who cited Team Manila and Daily Grind as forerunners of the Filipino streetwear community. This very flexibility is the same force behind driving online market and discussion groups like The Third World to pop up on social networks and further drive the growth of the community. Antonio has been a witness to nearly a decade of progress from niche communities to mainstream attention, as well as streetwear’s crossover from just shoes to high fashion, basketball, and urban music. His brand entered the PH market when there wasn’t much attention on streetwear and sneakers; fast forward to today, and they’re miles ahead.

What most of us fail to see, in the end, is just another manifestation of the need to belong to a community of like-minded individuals.

Maybe it’s less to do with the clothes and image and more to do with the reluctance to associate with these kids who, at the end of the day, simply want to look cool. Aversion to what’s considered jologs is a hindrance to allowing us all to enjoy the same things. Aside from the fact that knockoff fashion takes money away from the companies and distributors, these hypebeasts we look at with disdain commit a victimless crime.

What most of us fail to see, in the end, is just another manifestation of the need to belong to a community of like-minded individuals. Past the perceived harms of the trending hypebeast culture, lies the premise of kids who are happier and closer to each other thanks to purchasing and wearing their duplicate fashion. That’s something we can all level with.

Say what you will about this community recently brought to public light, but the negativity is seemingly misplaced. To each his own, but own up to the real reasons for the beef; we’re all eventually tied together for the mutual love of the fashion we admire. In the wise words of Ex Battalion, hayaan mo sila, sige sige maglibang.

Lend an ear to their credo: fashion, not war. Leave the hypebeasts be; they aren’t really bothering anyone.

Tags:
#friendship #style

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