Ranveer Singh and Karan Johar are making this trend look cool in India


If you had noticed Alia Bhatt – back in the days of airport looks – sporting big jackets and chunky sneakers or Ranveer Singh wearing head to two neon or gold sweats, you were looking at what the cool kids call streetstyle. Streetwear is a style of casual clothing which became global in the 1990s. But in India it’s half a decade old and is now getting celeb cred – a reason why a lot of the OGs (meaning originals in streetspeak) of the brigade are looking for fresher styles.

It’s an offshoot of counter culture that developed in California’s surfskate culture and New York hip-hop fashion. The streetwear style encompasses elements of sportswear, punk and Japanese street fashion. But now even high fashion brands have become part of the streetstyle story courtesy popularity of Kanye West’s Yeezy and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White. Essentially streetwear is tees, tracks, hoodies, sneakers – but not all brands that make those garments are streetwear. Meenakshi Singh, co-founder of shopcapsul.com (a streetwear portal) says, “Streetwear is built on community, story telling – and often collaborations. Streetwear is the new luxury but not only defined by price point but because it provides exclusivity through information and access.”

The key elements, says Bengaluru-based PR professional Gokul M – a sneakerhead and one of the OGs of this wave in India – centers on “casual, comfortable pieces such as jeans, T-shirts, jackets, baseball caps, and sneakers”. Manufacturers create exclusivity through intentional product scarcity. Singh notes that now there are more Indians contributing to the business of culture. The main movers of this culture are the creative folk and quite possibly those who make up the gig economy – a reason why it’s also known as freelancer’s uniform.

While athleisure made elements of streetwear cooler, streetwear is its more exclusive cousin. The original sub cultures that led to the birth and growth of streetwear are rising in India. Bobby Hundreds, the founder of legendary streetwear brand The Hundreds, had mentioned how for creativity to grow you need resistance, oppression, overcoming and survival. He said: “…In that way, I am excited for how India interprets streetwear over the coming generations. I really do believe that it is the next and most promising frontier of street culture.”

(Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh and Karan Johar)

If you want to try your hand, you don’t have to hit the hypebeast (someone who follows trends to make a social statement) mode a la celebrity. You can adopt elements. Singh says, “Streetwear in essence is about having your own style and showing it through independent labels.”

Gokul mentions that in India the culture came in via sneakers and then came the cool clothes. He says this is the time for a rise of the second wave: an Indian interpretation of streetwear. Think self-designed tees, fancy cutouts and more personalisation. To try street, invest in elements like boxy fit tees, oversized anything, ankle length chinos, pants, track suits, statement sneakers, slides and socks, full-sleeve graphic tees, interesting button-up shirts, fanny packs, coach jackets – but most importantly wear your clothes, don’t let them wear you. The reasons why streetwear will endure especially after the pandemic is as Singh says, “Casualisation was already a big trend but the dystopian nature of the world and humans adjusting to this new situation has given an even bigger fillip to the trend. And streetwear, according to us, is the power dressing equivalent of this world.”

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