Monday, September 13, 2010
The Issue with Women's Streetwear... or Lack Thereof
What I love most about women’s streetwear is how it gives gender the two middle fingers. Streetwear, without argument, indiscriminately appeals to a wide spectrum of gender expressions among women. Are you femme? You’re covered. Butch? You’re covered, too. Thug? All set. Boyish? Yup. Do you linger in the middle? You’ve come to the right place! Gender isn’t the problem in streetwear for women. It’s actually finding shops that carry clothes for us. That may or may not be an issue in international fashion capitals like NYC and LA. But it is everywhere else. And I know why these small urban boutiques cater to men.
1) The turn of profit in women’s fashion is low, and the failure rate of clothing lines for women is high. The industry is much trendier than men’s fashion. Staple defines men’s clothing. Women’s clothing is more along the lines of "keeping up with the Joneses."
2) Women who rock streetwear are in the minority. We exist only in pockets. And most of us aren’t rolling-in-the-dough.
3) These boutiques are opened by men who are heavily immersed in hip-hop culture. Now, let’s take a look at hip-hop culture: it’s male-dominated, and let’s be real, the women you see in the music videos aren’t rocking graphic tees and high tops.
Some boutiques do a half-ass job at providing women’s items (i.e., Politics in Lafayette, LA). Other boutiques give it a good go (i.e., Sneaker Junkies in Providence, RI, and Wish in Little Five Points, Atlanta). But, how often do you walk into a crowded urban clothing boutique? In my experience, hardly anyone is ever there. And so, I honestly can’t hate on the lack of resources available to streetwearing women. Hold up while I bust out my numbers again:
1) As mentioned above, we are often broke, and we are a minority (even when only speaking of Asian, Black and Latina women). Additionally, women’s clothing has a fast rate of … evolution, meaning boutiques have to clear their shelves quickly to stock that new hot item. Yeah, pricey, right?
2) Within this minority of streetwearing divas, most of us don’t exclusively dress this way. At least not to the extent of men. Our brand loyalty just doesn’t live up. The fashion industry is largely to blame for this. For example, let’s look at a demographic that, in many cases, functions outside of female fashion norms: lesbians. How many of your lesbian friends dress like cartoons? Furthermore, how many of your straight female friends are constantly updating their wardrobes? Enough said. Numbers don’t lie.
3) Perhaps in answer to the discrepancy between profits of men’s and women’s clothing, streetwear is gradually becoming more and more unisex. This is especially true for kicks. However, that leaves lankier women such as myself out of the loop. I can’t rock Nikes because Nikes are too bulky for my feet.
4) The line between street wear and indie/punk/hipster is pretty fudged. I’ll stroll into an urban clothing store, peruse through the women’s section, and find Cheap Monday and Stüssy mixed in with Married to the Mob and Hellz Bellz. And I’m not gonna lie, I really appreciate that.
But we manage, don’t we? And we sometimes enjoy the hunt, do we not? Streetwear is a beautiful thing—especially sharing our finds with the homies. Too bad it costs $40 for a t-shirt. I mean… damn. But, at some point, it always goes down to $10. Word. The circle of life, y’all. The circle of life.