The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion

Posted on 01 August 2017

The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion | Poetic Gangster

Streetwear history began in urban culture, where it was a well-known commodity for around 30-35 years. This kind of cultural dress code brought about positive recognition to particular groups of people such as the youth of New York which became more visible in urban areas and that were considered underground.

Early streetwear brands took inspiration from heavy metal, DIY Aesthetic of Punk, new waves and later Hip Hop cultures which emerged from the start of the 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and the 2000's.


RELATED: The Evolution of Streetstyle Fashion


Examples of Subcultures

  • Punk fashion which: Provocative T-shirts, Ripped clothes, Mohican hair style, and bondage.
  • Hip hop fashion: baggy pants, Sean Jean, FUBU, NIKE or Tribal Gears.
  • Preppy wears; Chinos, Madras, Argyle sweaters, Boat shoes.
  • Hippie wear: Denim, Flared trousers, flower power, Long hair style and Bohemian style.
  • Hipsters wear: Sneakers, glasses, Ties, Suspenders, Beards, Checked shirts, Jeans and Beanies.
  • Teddy Boys wears: Crepe shoes, Drape jackets, Drainpipe like trousers.
  • Gothic wears: Black clothing, Heavy coats, big boots, Makeups and Poet shirts.
  • Skinheads’ wear: fitted jeans, Button up shirts, cropped hair styles and Boots.
  • Trendies’ wears: Skinny jeans, Attractive big hair, printed hoodies, Bright neon colors.
  • Rasta wear: Having dreadlocks, Rasta cap and African-inspired clothing.
  • Feminine wear: Hats, Sunglasses, Dresses, Hand bags and Floral prints.
  • Urban wear: Skinny jeans, T-shirts, Jewelry and chains, Jackets, Large accent, 70’s Fashion and Colorful apparel.


Due to the over production of cheap synthetic clothing which flooded the market, there were no fashion rules during these days; fashion was all about individual identity, freedom and expression. During this era, bell bottom trousers, miniskirts, bright colors, glitter, satin and platform like shoes which were introduced by Disco styles were the popular fashion trends.


70's Mens Fashion

Fashion in the 1970s was generally informal and laid back for men. Many wore jeans, sweaters and t-shirts made of elaborate designs. Later men started to increasingly wear leisure suit with gold medallions, Vintage clothes, Khaki chinos and oxford shoes. Around 1976, men began to dress into velvet tuxedo jackets with casual pants for formal events. Men’s pants featured smaller flare or no flare during this period.

Unisex men’s and women’s outfits had very few differences which often came together in matching sets and colors such as cream, brown, orange and burgundy. Influenced by disco style, men began to dress into stylish three-piece suits which were characterized by a wide lapel, wide legged, high-raised waistcoat and flared trousers. Aviator sunglasses in discos became a staple and many wore glasses in the popular aviator shape with prescription lenses.


The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion | Poetic Gangster

The Get Down - Netflix


70's Womens Fashion

Popular early 1970s women attire included; Tie dye shirts, folk embroidered Hungarian blouse, Mexican peasant blouse, ponchos capes and any military surplus clothing. Bottom attire included; Gauchos, frayed jeans, bell bottoms, midi skirts and ankle length maxi dresses made of extremely bright colors.

Boots were at their popularity peak. Women had boots for various occasions, with a variety of styles sold in stores at an affordable price. The Go-go boots which featured at popular nightspots like Studio 54 were followed by the crinkle boots, stretch boots and granny boots.

Disco fashion for women included tube tops, loose pants, blazers, form fitting spandex pants, maxi shirts, and dresses with long thigh slits, ball gowns, evening gowns and jersey wrap dresses. Shoes ranged from knee-high boots to kitten heels.


80's Mens Fashion

The 80s was the decade when hip-hop came to the attention of the mainstream audience. Artists wore tracksuits with high topped chunky lace white trainers, oversized wrist clocks and long gold chains which was an important trademark to their look. Athletic wears were more popular than jeans during the days with baggy track pants featured.


 The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion | Poetic Gangster

80's fashion


80's Womens Fashion

Women’s apparel in the 80s were filled with jackets both cropped and long, coats with fur and cloth, inside out coats with leather one side and the other fake fur, baby doll dresses worn with Capri leggings, sweater dresses, sweat shirts, slouch socks, keds and flats.

Although skirts of any length were acceptable to wear in the decade before, the attention moved to the short skirts and blazers, especially for teenagers and young women. Women’s shoes in the period included strappy sandals, kitten heeled sandals, pumps and keds.

1990s Fashion

Hip Hop fashion also known as the ‘Big Fashion’ is a distinctive dress style originating from African American youths. The popularity of grunge and alternative rock music helped bring the simple, frayed grunge look into the mainstream.

The early 1990s saw a continuation of late 1980s fashion including bold, geometric printed clothes in electric blue, orange, fluorescent pink and acid green. Many women wore denim button down western shirts, colored jeans, metallic spandex leggings, crop tops, rayon and sweat pants.


The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion | Poetic Gangster


90's Womens Fashion

A very popular look among the women was the sexy school girl look. This trend consisted of tartan miniskirts, undersized sweaters, thigh high boots, overall tights, pantyhose and chunky shoes. Silver jewelry, floppy hats, gold jewelry gained popularity around this time among the women.

Fashion trends in 1996-1999 included glamour wear, tight pants, slip dresses, high waist trousers, knee socks, plastic chokers, high-waist miniskirts and cardigans.

In the mid-1990s long hair and clothing were popular. Men wore Aloha shirts, brown leather jackets, velvet blazers, paisley shirts, throwback pullover baseball shirts and graphic shirts. Preppy clothing was a popular than dandified look of the 1980s as young men abandoned ascots and oxford shoes, loafers and short sleeved shirts.


90's Mens Fashion

Men in the hip hop fashion world wore baseball jackets, Baja jackets, overalls, baggy jeans, tracksuits as casual wear. Young men wore preppy brands such as the Gap, Old Navy and Abercrombie and Fitch.


2000's Fashion

In the 2000s there was a rise in the consumption of fast fashion. The trend in fast fashion allowed shoppers to own designer items at low prices, allowing the acceptance and production of copycat styles.

Tattoos and piercing among teens were popular, whereby old school tattoos hearts, skull tribal and flowers were fashionable. Also popular were masks as visual crutch, grills, jerseys, sweatbands as a dope accessory, and fur coats as a symbol of success also du-rugs and tracksuits.


2000's Womens Fashion

Fashion in 2000's was mostly influenced by technology. There was a monochromatic futuristic approach to fashion with metallic, shiny black heavy use of gray and buckles became a common thing. Women and girls fashion trends included  over-sized sunglasses, aviator sunglasses, low-rise jeans, wedge flip flops, hot pants, yoga pants, denim jackets, chunky sweaters, tube tops, sketchers and belly shirts. In 2005 skinny jeans were very popular paired with high heeled shoes. Some of the accessories included glass or pearl drop earrings, knee high boots and silver belt buckles.


The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion  | Poetic Gangster
Jennifer Lopez 


2000's Mens Fashion

Newest fashion trends included sportswear and military as every day clothes. They included tracksuits, cargo pants, khaki chinos, boot cut jeans, corduroy pants, rugby shirts and hiking jackets.

Sneakers, Rockport boots were from Nike, Sketchers, Adidas and Puma as well as baseball caps. American football shirts and muscle shirts were mostly worn. Due to the mainstream acceptance of body size there was introduction of slim fit jeans by celebrities and graphic printed hoodies. Young men had a common haircut which was spiky hair with frosted tips, long shaggy mod or surfer hair.


2010+ Fashion and Beyond

The History of Urban Streetwear Fashion | Poetic Gangster

Poetic Gangster Streetwear Clothing

Streetwear has been greatly embraced and doesn't seem to be slowing down. Trends come and go and came back around but it seems streetwear is here to stay. Brands that were of the past have been re-branded, getting us excited and rushing to stores hoping to find old gems. Streetwear that have been re-branded with Long belts, long sleeve tops, hoodies, shirts and gaudy sneakers.

A renewal of the 90s with Puffer Jackets have also made a major come gliding into the fashion trend arena. Fanny packs are also back and have been reinvented being worn around the waist and sideways. Activewear is now day wear and acceptable to wear grabbing a coffee.

Hip Hop streetwear is constantly evolving and changing with the times. Streetwear in its essence is freedom of expression no matter what era your living in.


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