What gives British Streetwear a Unique Identity?


There is no question that streetwear is big news! With its creation attributed to the subcultures of music, skate and surf. It’s led to an enduring trend of more causal dressing, even in formal settings, and the rise of fashionista’s and influencers who create their own sartorial style. The trends dictated by Fashion Buyers and Trend Forecasters are on the decline. In a movement whose roots are generally considered to have grown in the US what gives British Streetwear a Unique Identity?

British Streetwear by Perverse Demand
British Streetwear by Perverse Demand

British Style

We’ve heard London described as the baby of the four fashion capitals. But you don’t have to look very far to find some quintessentially British style. Here are 10 iconic items that the British bought to the fashion world:

  • The Bowler Hat
  • Brogues
  • The Floral Shirt and Tie
  • The Three Piece Suit
  • Wellington Boots
  • The Riding Coat
  • The Burberry Trenchcoat
  • Tweed and Tartan
  • Bondage Trousers z

Some of these items have endured, and been re-invented time and time again. Helping to establish British fashion’s reputation for bold, brave, bespoke creativity.

Streetwear Around the World.

Whilst streetwear is generally recognized to have its origins in surf, skate and hip hop culture in the USA. It’s core principles of individuality and self expression have been adopted across the world. Amanda Margiaria sums up the streetwear culture in Milan with the following statement:

There is no single definition for Milanese streetwear because this style encompasses many different social layers and subcultures. Milanese skaters, hype-kids and influencers wear streetwear but their clothes have little do do with each other. They wear what they wear because they are making a clear statement. Their clothes say we don’t want to homologate to the Italian style of tailored suits. We are unique, we are outcasts.”

To add a new dimension to Streetwear influences, Selma Kaci Sebbagh, when looking at the French market says: “In the French market, especially for the young generation, there is an awareness about sustainability and people want to make a change. I do honestly believe that the new trends in streetwear will be focused on being more sustainable. When it comes to Parisian streetwear there is not an exact style; social media gives us a sense of not having any borders which enables us to look around beyond one style”.

In Asia, in particular in Japan and South Korea you can find some of the most creative, vibrant and progressive street fashion in the world. Asian streetwear blends influences from Europe and the US with uniquely local passions such as K-pop, traditional Asian garments and Cosplay. Whilst the look may be distinctly different from the original surf, skate and hip hop streetwear styles, the attitude remains the same. These, sometimes eccentric, styles represent personal freedom of expression and a rebellion against traditional societal rules, and a desire to stand out from the crowd.

What influences British Streetwear?

British street style originates with the same desire to stand out from the crowd. Changeable and unpredictable British weather demands layering and accessories. It is here that you may see tailoring influences from Saville Row and the Iconic Burberry Mac layered over bold graphics and statement prints, or styled with exclusive sneakers.

Creative Director Nathan Palmer mixed his bespoke British tailoring with Perverse Demand's casual wear on the catwalk for London Fashion Week
Creative Director Nathan Palmer mixed his bespoke British tailoring with Perverse Demand’s casual wear on the catwalk for London Fashion Week

UK fashion retail is heavily saturated with large fashion multiples. Making the same mass produced garments available on high streets across the UK. As such streetwear leaders have to work harder to create a truly unique look. This could mean seeking out international or independent UK brands like Perverse Demand whose designs are scarce and can’t be obtained by everyone. Also igniting creativity, from a history of dressmaking, is upcycling and adapting vintage garments.

It’s impossible to talk about British Streetwear without mentioning the late Dame Vivienne Westwood. Her angst and rebellion, coupled with activism, was expressed in designs which tied British heritage fabrics like tweed and tartan to UK Punk youth culture. This enduring influence, coupled with political uncertainty forecasts a punk revival in 2023.

The Vivienne Westwood Archives on Instagram: “Kilt ensemble from Vivienne Westwood MAN Fall 1999.
The Vivienne Westwood Archives on Instagram: “Kilt ensemble from Vivienne Westwood MAN Fall 1999.

So what gives British Streetwear a Unique Identity?

A relatively wealthy nation, leads to a high accessibility to technology, social media, international brands and music. There is strong sense of British heritage and identity. The UK is home to a multi-cultural society bringing fashion, music and popular culture influences from around the world. British Streetwear brings all of these things together to create a street fashion scene which celebrates the individual and all of the things that they love in a carefully layered unique aesthetic.



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