IS THE TERM "STREET STYLE" STILL RELEVANT?
Is street style one of those things that loses its relevance once you address it? Like saying "silence" in silence? Once you call something “street style,” are you stripping it of its organic personality? Street style meant, literally, any type of standout look that was spotted on the street. Normal people with exceptional style or interesting styling. Street style was essentially the fashion world’s version of people watching, and consisted of everyday people doing everyday things. It championed expression through a very personal and very individual relationship with fashion.
But now street style has become a style within itself. Somewhat generic and expected. You may ask someone their fashion preferences, and they’ll say “street style,” and you’ll know what they’re talking about. Street style now is set and amplified by unattainable influencers: Instastars at brand activations, supermodels on their way to Fashion Week shows and the designers themselves who set out to sell an “elevated” street style. Heavily staged, always posed, usually paid for. It’s now a particular style that we’ve been convinced is the essence of “street style” by “street style” designers. Here’s what Max Berlinger had to say for Business of Fashion:
“While street style used to represent the frontier of self-expression and do-it-yourself spirit. Now it looks as constructed as the runway. But when the runways and the streets become one and the same, isn't the industry just reflecting its own perfectly manufactured image back to itself? This is a dangerous place for fashion to be, as it's in this mutual admiration that stagnation occurs.”
To be fair, I’m someone pretty deeply immersed in the “street style” world. Generally speaking, I like the shit that’s trending right now. I can’t always afford what’s in, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know about it. Or that I haven’t put it in my online shopping cart only to click out of the tab once my window shopping urge has been satisfied. I follow many of the street style stars. I often self-identify my sense of style as “street style.”
But that’s counter to what “street style” was intended to embody. When Bill Cunningham meandered through New York City looking for subjects to shoot, he was looking for style. Not for a style.
So is calling a look “street style” an act of irony which results in the cancelling out of the term?