Yves Saint Laurent once said “fashions fade, style is eternal.” On this, the French designer is correct. The white t-shirt, or a high-quality autumnal camel coat, will never die. But the 2010s have still borne witness to a splintering of style tribes that shake up Saint Laurent’s core idea. Some style tribes die off as the years pass – eg: the Savile Row-tailored teddy boys of the 1950s. Others morph, by shifting their look (remember when skaters wouldn’t be seen dead in Nike trainers or without an oversized World Industries tee?). New groups, meanwhile, take the place of the deceased. In the ultra-capitalist, everything-disseminated-online realm of the 2010s, this process has taken place at light speed.
The decade kicked off steady enough. The hipster consolidated nu-rave and landfill indie scenes, for example, pulling fans of MGMT, Best Coast, The Strokes and Cookin’ Soul mash-up MP3s under one catch-all term. This lot wore low-cut vests, American Apparel bodycon (even if just one item), grew moustaches, got sailor tattoos. Later, at the decade’s close, they became the definition of anyone in a high-rent area able to afford a child and childcare.
From the hipster archetype (shops at Urban Outfitters, thick glasses, likes MDMA but not smack) came several splinter groups. The 17th of February, 2011 is a turning point for the first of these – it’s the date Odd Future debuted on live television. In a few short years, they, and several other up-coming alt-rap acts (Wiz Khalifa, Danny Brown, A$AP Rocky), inspired the Twitter teen generation’s virgins to dress like they’d had a run-in with an Easter egg basket and some HUF plantlife socks.
These guys and girls were similar to the hipster – they denounced “authority”, they wore garish clothes, they saw themselves as separate to society. Maybe they were even OG hipsters and, having tired of Bon Iver, Harlem (the band) and whoever else had been on then-it blog Hipster Runoff, had developed “an ear” for rap music (by virtue of Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon and Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy). Or maybe they’d always been into Lil B The Based God.
Crucially, they wore Supreme.
Just as Fred Durst plopped a red New Era cap on the 2000s and Biggie helped define the 90s by a long checklist of brands (Coogi, DKNY, Versace), Odd Future brought a brand to global attention. Supreme had long been known by the skater community in New York: its small, inaugural sandalwood scented store on Lafayette Street was a local hangout spot in the 90s. The store was loud and brash, just like Odd Future, who were tapped for seeding by Supreme’s LA store – AKA offered free clothes. As a result, every pivotal early Odd Future moment became a global billboard for Supreme.
Take a look at the references. Lead Odd Future member Tyler, the Creator wore a Supreme five-panel in his 2011 breakout video “Yonkers” (current views: 100 million+) and in that 2011 Fallon performance. That same year, he picked up an MTV VMA award for Breakthrough Artist – and did so in another Supreme number. The list really goes on and on. Frank Ocean rocked a Supreme sweatshirt in his debut SNL performance. Earl Sweatshirt dropped a Supreme reference into “Chum”.
Supreme had been popular before Odd Future; by the time they were seeding to the LA crew, they were already on their ninth collaboration with Nike. Their high-quality garms – on par with other NY-favoured brands when they launched in the 90s (Polo, Nautica, Carhartt) – helped establish Supreme as a streetwear brand, too. But Odd Future and their global reach are responsible for every UK home counties teen you now might catch in a box logo. You might know them simply as: the teenage hypebeasts.
Unlike the hipsters and the early OF fans, the teenage hypebeasts wore every decimal point of their parents’ bank accounts on their £250 hoodie sleeves. Arriving toward the middle of the decade, they weren’t into music as much as their counterparts either. They preferred Instagram to Spotify. They liked Jimothy Lacoste unironically. They were high-end streetwear influencers like Gully Guy Leo and Hetty Douglas – herself a Supreme model.
The teenage hypebeasts of Soho’s Brewer Street wore Palace too. Started in 2009, the London brand did a British take on Supreme. They had “mwad” Instagram captions in LDN slang; and their profile photo is a one pence piece. They collaborated with heritage British brands: Umbro in 2013, then Reebok in 2014. And, most significantly, they nailed that key bit of British comfort wear: the tracksuit.
Helpfully, the opening of Palace’s first official store coincided with a key pivotal British moment. The grime resurgence had been bubbling since 2013, when Meridian Dan released “German Whip”. By 2015, it solidified. Yes, Skepta threw his Gucci in the bin, but he also picked up Palace, walked a tracksuit in Nasir Mazhar’s Spring/Summer 2015 show and – by the end of the decade – sold his own comfort-fit wears in Selfridges, via his unisex Mains brand.
So, alongside hipsters, you had OF fans, teenage hypebeasts and second-wave grime heads. The latter grime fans frequently came from and crossed other territories too. Some were Odd Future fans, looking to banish their early, colourful years. Others were largely there for the threads: they wore expensive tracksuits and shopped at END clothing; when quizzed, they’d tell you their favourite tune was “It Ain’t Safe”. But there were bonafide second wave grime fans too.
These were often found dressed in black and white and banging out early AJ Tracey tunes in London’s burgeoning radio stations of the late 2010s (Radar Radio, Reprezent, Balaami). In the first half of the decade there’s also a likelihood you would catch them bubbling near the lit-up Pioneer DJ decks at a YGG, Mumdance or Riz La Teef hosted Boiler Room; by the tail-end of the next, you’d find them at Keep Hush rave, the next iteration to follow-on from Boiler Room. Here, in the darkness, you’d also bump into another 2010 subsect – the sportswear wearing UK clubbers.
If you avoided the club (they’ve increasingly disappeared over the last decade) and went to one of the UK’s locked off warehouse parties, you’d find several style tribes raving under one roof. Next-gen skaters – the kind who copped Palace when it was only in Slam City Skates, smoked up to Section Boyz “Lock Arff” and dabbed MD to Roy Davies Jr’s “Gabriel” – could be found in the mixer, keying up next to Xanax casualties, pre-balloon-ban Nos dealers and genuine lifetime ravers.
Brand Sports Banger catered, at first, to the latter crowd. Initially operating from Instagram then a physical shop in Tottenham, north London, founder Johnny Banger sold bootleg logo and infamous slogan t-shirts. By 2017, Johnny Banger had set and costume designed Skepta’s Christmas Top Of The Pops performance of “Shut Down”. In 2019, he held his first off fashion week show – a vibey, Marlboro Lights fuelled celebration of the UK, reminiscent of early Alexander McQueen, soundtracked by banging rave music.
Sports Banger also catered to a style tribe you wouldn’t find at these warehouse functions: the retro football shirt fan. You could just about align them with the early thirties hypebeast – a subsect of the man who, grown up from the hipster, has taken to spending money on candles and toothpaste. The retro football shirt fan is similar, but owns throwback or throwback-looking football shirts. Most likely they read the football mag Mundial. They sit in a middling nowhere land. This style tribe is not defined by music. This style tribe is not defined by a drug. This style tribe is the natural evolution of the banter boys from university, but grown up, with a girlfriend of several years now and a good knowledge of what’s on 4OD.
Beyond this, you’d get short-lived bursts of other groups: health goths, credit-card scamming drillers, jazz boys (people in south London who liked jazz and small beanies), VSCO girls. The cutester definitely was never a thing. The arty, slightly moneyed Dean Blunt-loving rap fan from west London was. Maybe you know about sweet boys. Or goths? They never really had a moment this decade, though had a bit of resurgence through the new and upcoming e-boy and e-girl trend – basically Billie Eilish fans in huge FILA shoes and bike chains.
Really, the biggest style tribes of the decade sit in an amorphous blob. They cross the Venn diagram of Palace, Supreme and Sports Banger. They go to raves, they queue for clothes, they’re on the gram. Unlike some style tribes of the past (skinheads, punks, etc) they also don’t really stand for anything? It’s indicative of the 2010s that the most visible, slightly off-centre styles come from capitalism (buying expensive clothes) and an affinity to brands, while also claiming to be anti-establishment. The internet makes self-identifying possibilities endless, resulting in a forever shifting, fluid group of style conscious young people. Their tribes exist: on Instagram, in advertorials, on billboards.
But, unlike in the past, no one wants to belong to one specific thing; to have themselves associated with a particular style, even as they try to replicate it. Why? Because it’s too late. In this latter day capitalism, it’s impossible to rock a look that hasn’t already been co-opted by a brand. And so the style tribes shift. They move. They live on only in flux.