By Eytheu Magwaza
Street culture is heavily influenced by the youth. The carefree attitudes of youth today are what street culture has come to embody. We speak through a language that is universal, rather than adhering to physical borders. In aesthetics we find personalities represented by fabrics, and these fabrics communicate a freedom, a carelessness and an artistic expression innate within us through a collaboration of everything from shoes to headwear. When we dress, we communicate.
Breaking boundaries of language by building bridges across continents, using fashion as the foundation, there are similarities between European street style and that of the inner-city Johannesburg youth, two heavily contrasting parts of the world, finding a common means of expression and communication.
Streetwear is intended to strike the perfect balance between style and comfort and both the grime youth of Europe and Jozi-youth do this effortlessly. What we often see in modern day streetwear is the collaboration of different styles of clothing used to compliment the outfit and thus create killer combinations. As casual sportswear is paired with functional gear, Umsindisiwe Wesiko pairs a flak vest with Adidas sweatpants, and Semsi pairs a North Face skiing jacket with Palm Angel sweatpants. Sweatpants are ideal for traversing the hustling and bustling streets of both Berlin and Johannesburg, such relaxed fits allow for keeping up with the fast-paced city life.
What should also be witnessed is the prominence of the bucket hat as go-to headwear for streetwear style icons, as well as the glad return of puffer jackets. Both items ideal for navigating the urban terrain, with its bitter-cold nights or days under the scorching African sun. Be it the extravagant streets of Copenhagen or the back roads of Braamfontein, bucket hats and puffer jackets have become undeniable for both functionality and style.
Another noticeable trend in the modern-day street culture within this global contrast is the act of adopting an element of formal-wear into a common streetwear fit. We see UK fashion icon Semsi pairing an oversized formal white sweater with red slacks. We also see stylish Braamfontein native Tracy Mokgopo pairing a green turtle neck with cargo pants, a streetwear staple. This shows us how the dapper, respectful and business-orientated aesthetic that we associate with city life can be adopted by the youth and interpolated into street fashion to exude more of a carefree and comfortable look.
The inner city youths of both Europe and South Africa, both with thriving ecologies, find that streetwear perfectly captures the attitudes of the youth in these types of urban environments, where it is never enough simply to adapt to one normality. For youth in a toxic space, a carefree sense of abandon is symbolised by the more relaxed fits, while there resides an element of prestige presented in the pairing of formal wear with sneakers and the ability to integrate funcional workwear for the purposes of style and comfort alike.
Some would say that these environments are dangerous, in which case we could see fashion as the armour for urban life; a way to feel equipped for what one might encounter in the sstrange and treacherous streets of London or Johannebsurg. As we walk the streets, hemispheres apart, we are telling the world that we are prepared for whatever they throw at us.