Has Globalization Ruined Street Style?

By Will Welch, The New York Times, August 21, 2011

fashion in Tokyo
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images Tokyo’s Takeshita Street is popular among fashion trendsetters.

The irony of so-called street style today is that, really, it exists online. What happened is that photo bloggers began documenting real people with real style on the world’s hippest streets. Those who follow fashion clicked there for inspiration, instead of just obsessing over the runway shows, ad campaigns and editorial spreads created by the closed clique of the fashion world.

Suddenly the most influential images in fashion weren’t created by designers, editors or brand-name photographers. They were created by no-names with digital cameras snapping candid street shots of the stylish editors themselves scurrying out of black cars and into runway shows in New York, Milan and Paris.

Street style hasn’t really suffered globalization — it was born that way.

Street style hasn’t really suffered globalization — it was born that way. The appeal has always been global: a blue-blooded prepster surfing the Internet from his summer home in Hyannis Port can now take fresh styling tips from an online photo of a Japanese-Americana junkie captured on the streets of Tokyo. The fact that both have access to Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo isn’t the point.

If street style has been suffering from anything, it’s its own popularity. At the beginning, photographers were capturing everyday people wearing everyday clothes in a unique and expressive way. But as I argue in a new GQ essay, street style has become so popular that “real people” are now dressing for the cameras, vying to get photographed. It has become a self-aware rather than accidental culture, like reality television. The more outrageously you dress, the more likely it is you get snapped and posted online. That’s created some unfortunate style trends and an environment where the blogs are as contrived as the runways. The streets are now less “Who, me?” and more “Look at me!” and, as I see it, the fickle fashion world has already moved on in search of the next big thing.


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