Culture

The VICE UK Census: Streetwear Kids

The first instalment of our new editorial series building a picture of the UK through the people who live here.

by Angus Harrison; photos by Chris Bethell
12 May 2017, 8:00am

Who are they? Streetwear Kids.
What are they? Over the past five years, scores of kids as young as 13, all the way through to adults in their mid-twenties, have allied themselves with high-end streetwear brands like Palace and Supreme. It was a fairly niche obsession that's become a youth phenomenon, with hundreds of heads camping outside the front of London stores whenever a new line is launched. Primarily, it's an online culture; sharing looks to an audience of thousands on Instagram is nearly as important as the clothes themselves, and many of the scene's players put as much energy into maintaining their social media presences as they do their wardrobes.

Pivotal to the movement is The Basement, a Facebook group which became an 65,000-strong community. Members discuss looks, compare outfits and sell items. Which brings us to the final crucial component of streetwear culture: reselling. In order to fund their expensive habits, many of the teens and young adults involved resell many of their items – a thriving micro-economy taking place on Instagram, Facebook and resale app Depop. Whether impressively entrepreneurial or worryingly materialistic, one thing is certain: 14-year-olds have never dressed so well.

Emmanuel, 18 (Photographed)

I was born and grew up in Nigeria. Now I live in London, a stop away from Paddington. I'm currently studying mechanical engineering at Coventry University. I got really into streetwear about two years ago. I'm somewhat involved in the scene. I took a break to focus on school for a bit. I've got about 2,000 followers on Instagram. I buy clothes and wear them, as well as take pictures in them, then sell them when I need to make room for other stuff. Most things I buy don't cost too much individually. I'd say the most I've spent is between £600 and £800. I haven't thought about working in fashion – at the moment it's just a hobby. I just want to be successful in whatever I do, really, and influence others positively as well.

Feifei Fu, 20

I'm from China. Beijing is my home city. I came to London in July to study and I'm still learning English at language school. I first became interested in clothing ages ago, and I like loads of different brands, but Supreme is my favourite. My Instagram blew up a few months before I came to the UK. It was so insane. Before that I used to post photos of food and funny pictures, but now I have to maintain my image. I'm not in a rush to sell my clothes, but sometimes I need to if I've found something really expensive and I can't afford it. I get money from my parents, but I think I'm good at managing it. Most girls don't like streetwear and I wear a lot of mens' clothes. My parents didn't used to understand, but now I'm here they don't have a choice.

Luca, 13

Streetwear is not just clothes; it's a culture. No matter who you are, you can be a part of it. I only have about 1.4k Instagram followers – it's YouTube I've started having a presence on recently. My subs have grown by 1,000 percent in the last three weeks and have started to be recognised in central London. I buy and sell streetwear. I recently spent £370 on a Supreme patchwork jacket, which I had to think long and hard about. I'm always on alert – you never know what's going to pop up on Facebook groups for sale. I would say I'm probably on Facebook 24/7, apart from when I'm at school. My mum is very in-tune with the whole community – sometimes she knows things I would never have realised about streetwear. My dad also tries to join in, but he doesn't fully grasp the idea of spending the large amounts that people do on clothes, although he is cool in his own way, except when he says "wagwan".

Chariza, 23

I was born in the Philippines. I moved to England more than a decade ago and have spent almost half of my life here. I currently live in a seaside town in Essex. Administrating The Baesment's [The Basement's female-centric equivalent] Facebook got me more engrossed in streetwear culture. I also help curate @uniformzine, which started at the beginning of the year. We gather a lot of outfit photos posted by The Basement members, pick and choose the raddest ones and print issues every month. Seeing people gather as a community at random streetwear events is always pretty rad. Also, everyone seems to enjoy documenting and sharing their interests and opinions on streetwear, fashion and youth culture. Many turn something as simple as taking photos of their outfits or their friends into much more creative and engaging material. Now, there's a lot more kids taking up photography and aspiring to build their own brand or visual platforms for what they do. Everyone likes to be connected and we take inspiration from each other. It's fun.


WATCH: i-D Meets Blondey McCoy


Sam, 14

I'm at secondary school now, but I'm not rating it too much. It's great for some people, but the way it's designed gives more creative or independent people more limitations than it should. From what I've heard, I fuck with Swedish schools. I've always had a general interest in fashion and design. Streetwear is just the subculture of fashion I'm currently in. I think the reason it attracts so many young people is the lack of hierarchy. In high end fashion there seems to be this stuck-up inner circle attitude that isn't in streetwear. It's more open. I may not quite be on the inside of the industry, but fashion consumes a large portion of my time. I'd say The Basement is, for the most part, responsible for this. If you don't know what the Basement is, it's basically an "underground" fashion community, but it's evolved into so much more. Man, it's so hard to explain the depth of what The Basement really is in words – there's so much to it. It's like a huge family. A fucking huge, 65,000-person family.

Lucy, 20

I don't really enjoy things like Instagram. I don't really have a big online presence, and I don't really spend that much money on clothes. The reselling side has definitely taken over the online scene. I first started to notice that last winter, I think. There was suddenly a boom in the interest in streetwear, and of course when something gains popularity it also gains a monetary worth. I like the discussion element of it way more than the selling. It's a view on fashion that you don't get from a publication, and that you could never get from a publication, because of the people who post in the groups. The keys to the groups are the members and the posts. Some people don't like the fact that "everyone is wearing Palace now", because it's their brand or whatever, but I think it's sick. It's sick that young people – people my age and younger – are bonding over something. We all like the same clothes and we're friends because of it. That's really nice. I think it's really unique. It's the thing right now.

Jamie, 21

I was born in Germany and grew up between there and the UK. I moved around a lot growing up. I got into streetwear in about 2012, when Obey, Supreme and Odd Future were getting a lot of exposure. Most of my friends these days are those I've met through being part of online communities. I post on Instagram a lot and use it to look at outfits I find interesting. Due to having to pay for my clothing addiction myself, I can't always hold onto my pick-ups and have to sell things to make room for newer stuff. Occasionally I'll buy things for the sole purpose of selling them to fund the aforementioned addiction. The most I ever spent on an item of clothing was £450 on an Acne Studios coat. Lately I've been trying to find some more original things that I previously haven't thought of. I'm wearing less and less "hyped" items, unless I really like them. For now it's a hobby, but I feel I may be able to take it a step further soon.

Ezra, 21

When I was 13 I used to get bullied in my town, so I tried to find a hobby for myself. It started with collecting sneakers. I left the sneaker game; now I'm only into skate and streetwear. I have 15.7k followers on Instagram. I think, if you checked my Instagram feed, you'd say I was part of a scene, but in real life I hate talking about clothes and being materialistic. If I want to travel I resell so I can afford my Airbnb and flight, but to be honest I love to keep my stuff, especially when I know it's rare and hard to get. I hate that people always put you in a box: "Ugh, a girl wearing Supreme – she doesn't even skate." I'm just like: "DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT I'M DOING IN MY SPARE TIME?" In the near future I want to study in Los Angeles for a year – I hope everything works out so I can move there. I want to work in fashion, but I'm scared I won't be able to work for some brands I have in mind right now, as you can only get in those places if you have some good connections. Instagram helps me a lot to build those connections, but you never know what will happen in the future.

Ethan, 14

I'm currently in year 10 at school, studying mostly art subjects and hoping to carry on to college and university. Where I live, I'm on a farm, and don't have neighbours for like a mile or two. I think the likes of London would suit me more, where there's always something going on. At the moment the most I've spent on anything was £800 – a Vetements jacket I'd been after for a long time. In the near future I've got some bigger buys planned. At first, my parents didn't like how much I was spending on certain things, but when they began to realise I'm making money off of these clothes they thought it was great because they don't have to buy me clothes any more, and it's giving me a kind of business sense.

Sophie, 17

I used to dress quite, I'd say, basic teenage girl – Topshop and that. Then I started looking at vintage Nike and Adidas, 80s, 90s stuff. The first thing I bought was a vintage Ralph Lauren Polo sports jacket. There was a boy who went to my sixth form who was involved with Basement, and I remember my friend saying that he liked my jacket, so I think that spurred me on. It made me feel happy that I got that compliment. I used to have about 800 followers on Instagram; I'm up to about 4k now. I'd say my money goes, number one, on fashion, and number two on going out. There are about 2,000 people in my college. There are so many parties, you have to spend money on getting there, and on alcohol. You have to spend money to have fun, I think. It's experience.

I'd like to look back on my life and think I've achieved something. Whether that's fashion or physics, I just want to get out there and meet people and do things. That's it, really. I'm not fussed about specific bucket-list type things. I just want to experience things and be happy.

Additional reporting by Marianne Eloise.

@a_n_g_u_s / @CBethell_photo / @marianne_eloise

More on VICE:

Why Are So Many People So Obsessed with Supreme?

How Women Made Streetwear Their Own

The 14-Year-Olds Spending Thousands On Streetwear