The streetwear aesthetic is about attitude, passion, repping your roots, or just looking fly. But when it comes to building a style from the ground up, start with the foundations. If you’re trying to learn the basics, class is in session. We’re here to school you with a complete guide to the elements of the streetwear aesthetic for men.
STREETWEAR MEANING: Casual clothing typically worn by urban youth and inspired by hip-hop and rock-band culture.
5 Different Types of Streetwear
UK Fast Fashion News identified four different types of streetwear aesthetics:
- Hip-hop fashion: One of the oldest types of streetwear, hip-hop fashion originated in the 1980s and 1990s with MTV stars like Run DMC, NWA and the Beastie Boys.
- Skatewear: Typically associated with surfers and skaters on the West Coast, the skatewear aesthetic incorporates the baggy look with cargos, hoodies, flannels and graphic T shirts.
- Techwear: A more recent streetwear trend, techwear incorporates elements like military vests, patterns and materials. We cover it in our article about Gorpcore fashion.
- Athleisure: A mix of athletic wear and leisure wear, this sub-type of streetwear includes hoodies, sweats, T-shirts, joggers and leggings. You can wear it to the gym or a workout, and you can dress it up for a night out.
- High fashion: Also referred to as the hypebeast aesthetic, the looks emulate big name stars like A$AP Rocky, Kanye West and Drake who sport big-name brands like Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Rolex.
Streetwear Attire Traits
- Oversized: Think graphic tees with drop-shoulder sleeves, baggy jeans and wide-leg cargo pants
- Deconstructed: Authentic street clothes style features unfinished or raw hems, distresses tears, frayed seams and stitchings, culminating in a deconstructed look
- Graffiti-inspired: Graphic art that incorporates paint splatters, spray-painted graphics and big, bold colors that you see in the world's biggest cities, created by graffiti artists
- Rebellious: Symbols and iconography that say IDGAF (think skulls and crosses, flames, grim reaper and edgy sayings)
- Edgy: We're talkin' NSFW, you know what we mean? Novelty tees are making a comeback, but these are not your dad's "Keep on Truckin'" tees from the '70s.
Principles of the Streetwear Lifestyle
Streetwear is one of the most versatile styles. You can keep it lowkey (see our post on minimalist streetwear), or you can go loud and proud. But as flexible as it is, there are a few ideas that tie every streetwear look together that you can keep in mind when you’re building your look.
Casual and Countercultural
If you go back to the beginning, streetwear was all about movement. You needed something to wear while cruising down the west coast on a skateboard or b-boying on the east coast. So, if you’re trying to rock streetwear, obviously, you’re going to leave your tux and stockings at home.
But don’t let the word “casual” make you think “boring” or “meh.” Streetwear is the clothing of a generation that decided to stand up and take their style into their own hands. So, when you hear casual, read it as “a style that bows down to no one but me.”
Modern and Retro
Like we said, streetwear is countercultural. It’s always pushing against the norms, trying to create something bigger and bolder than what came before it. That makes it one of the most modern styles out there. But when you’re wearing streetwear, you’re usually embracing your roots, whether it’s a hat with your hometown or modding a style of the streetwear icons who went before you.
Status and Logos
If there's one element that is found in all the different types of streetwear aesthetics, it's a respect for brand status. Logos can be big, bold and gold, or they can be subtle monochrome embossments. Doesn't matter, as long as it's somewhere on the clothing.
Street Style Shirts and Tops
Anyone who knows anything about the origins of the style knows that streetwear got its start when a surfer named Shawn Stussy started writing his name on T-shirts. True to its roots, T-shirts are still the go-to top for streetwear tops. It doesn’t matter if it’s long-sleeved or short-sleeved, graphic or plain; it will always scream “streetwear.”
While short-sleeve T-shirts are standard, that doesn't mean they're you're only option, especially on the court or after a good workout. Level up your summer tank and shorts look with athleisure wear. Jerseys are trending in the mens streetwear aesthetic. Don't think you have to stick to the court when you wear a tank. Nah. The street clothing style calls for layers. Think open blazer over a graphic print tank with a pair of stacked distressed jeans.
At this point, you might be wondering how you’re going to make your look stand out if you’re just sticking to T-shirts as your top. But half the time, it’s the outerwear that’s front and center when it comes to streetwear fashion.
Hoodies are so essential in streetwear you can almost file them under “tops.” It’s almost impossible to do streetwear without them. Wear it straight up, or layer it up with a denim jacket over top or a popping graphic T-shirt underneath. Or wear it as part of your best athletic loungewear ensemble.
Layers are everything when it comes to urban fashion, and your jacket is the most important layer. This is what people are going to see, so if there is one part of your outfit to go hard on, it’s this one. Trending this year for Men's street style outerwear is the puffer jacket, and the designs keep getting doper. Look for metallic fabrics, embroidered logos, and graffiti-inspired graphics, just like you expect for the street style.
Denim is king in streetwear. When in doubt, wear jeans. When you're ready to level up your look, wear stacked jeans. You can do baggy or skinny, biker or cargo, distressed or graphic. They go with everything; they look dope; they can do no wrong. The only rule you need to follow for jeans in streetwear is whether you can move in them—remember, you should look in the mirror and know your outfit’s snatched.
The only other pant choice that’s more streetwear than jeans is track pants. They capture everything the style’s about. They’re comfortable, and you can make them all your own with patterns and colors that are sure to turn heads. You can rock them as an athletic loungewear look or wear them under a bomber jacket for a killer look that won’t quit.
In other styles, shoes are just an afterthought of the outfit. In streetwear, they are the reason we show up. Step up your shoe game with a pair of quality sneakers. If you’ve been avoiding labels so far (which, let’s be real, if you’re rocking streetwear, you haven’t), this is the time to go for the big ones. You can’t go wrong with Nike, Adidas, and New Balance.
This is where you elevate your look from drab to drip. Accessories are what sets your look aside from the crowd, and if you’re looking to stand way out with streetwear, these should be your first stop as far as accessories go.
You already know that bling is the thing, and the options are endless when it comes to how you want to add a little of that little bit of ice to your ’fit. The most popular jewelry options for an urban look include:
- Gold chains
- Diamond studs
- Gold hoops
- Chains with emblems
One way to add a little more shimmer to your look is to rock a grill. Yeah, they’re back. And if you want to kick it like you’re Nelly in 2005, our jewelry vault has got you covered.
If you look at all the kings and queens of streetwear fashion, they’re almost all wearing hats. That’s because hats have been an essential element of streetwear since the beginning. Bring your whole look together with a classic snapback, keep it lowkey with a beanie, or throwback to the nineties with a bucket hat.
Speaking of the nineties, bandana print is on its way back too. Tying a bandana around your head ala 2pac also counts for headwear.
The quickest way to go from looking all right to looking badass is to throw on a pair of shades. There is a ridiculous number of styles of sunglasses you can choose from, which is all the better for your style. You can choose color lenses to match your fit or keep the classic black and focus on the shape. Keep it classic with a straight square frame or aviator glasses, or get edgy with geometric shades.
Class is dismissed. If you’re trying to ace your style, Rockstar Original has got you covered with everything you need to create a dope streetwear look.