As historical and devastating as the year 2020 was in essential and actually relevant aspects for the world, some people might also wonder what happened in the cultural space surrounding sneakers and „streetwear“ this year. Here are some comments to recap an eventful year – to say the least.
The best thing that happened this year was a large portion of the „scene“ getting in touch with their social conscience, realizing a certain level of responsibility, and in some cases contributing more than black squares on your Instagram feed. Online publishers carved out some space in between advertorials to put a spotlight on social issues like Black Lives Matter and encouraged people to participate in democratic elections. Many brands designed t-shirts and donated proceeds to benefit great causes. Braindead raised half a million dollars alone for organizations who support the BLM movement and LGBTQ communities with their Dev Hynes collab shirt. Infinite Archives released several excellent t-shirt designs with Hiroshi Fujiwara and Tom Sachs to raise money for Theaster Gates‘ Rebuild Foundation ; andafterthat produced very tasteful bootleg tees of iconic cultural entities like Björk or the Sopranos with the proceeds benefiting undocumented immigrants in New York. Those are just some examples. And yes, that is a large stack of T-Shirts and resources could have been saved if everybody just donated the money instead of buying t-shirts. But hey, if you wanted to buy a culturally meaningful tee in 2020, there were significantly better options than a $600 „luxury“ logo t-shirt. Oh, and yes – some brands donated some money, too. Of course, consumerism still reigned Supreme nonetheless. There is always room for improvement, but it was encouraging to see some attention on more important subjects than the newest Travis Scott merchandise drop. Hopefully, we have not seen the peak of this trajectory yet.
Speaking of important subjects. If you would have asked in 2019, what would be the predominant development in the following year in the clothing industries, many people probably would have predicted 2020 to be the „break-through“ year for sustainability – a term as non-committal as your „if I can find the time“ reply to some extended family asking for a Zoom call. Even though there were intriguing approaches like Nike’s Space Hippie program or the adidas Futurecraft LOOP project, I would argue that there is still a lot of ground left to cover in that marathon. Maybe Instagram mood board accounts like organiclab.zip can raise some awareness for sustainability-related subjects through their outdoor-driven aesthetic. While it admittedly might need more than placing strong products like the adidas Consortium „Gardening Club“ pack, Nike’s ACG line, and Arc’teryx gear next to beautiful or quirky nature photography, it could be a starting point for some people who are otherwise mainly interested in getting a fit off.
In general, it seems that Instagram curators have become the new tastemakers. Images count, words not so much. It is actually surprising that you are still reading this if you are. Some pages focus on finding obscure archive pictures, while others like Samutaro provide a little more context and original content (and yes, text) to put what you see on all the other mood boards and your explore page into perspective. Hidden NY defended his status as the mood board golden child and showed everybody how to turn a flood of well-selected, aesthetically pleasing imagery into a thriving clothing brand. What all these curated feeds have in common, is an inherent knowledge of the visual culture they promote and an authentic level of enthusiasm for it. They also possess a distinctive visual language. You can easily identify organiclab.zip and Hidden NY clones all over the place. The keyword here is „authenticity“ – another admittedly vague term. The currency marketers crave for like sneaker personalities craved for the JJJJound New Balances (someone called them „Internet Force 1s“) is mined on these mood board feeds like Bitcoin on server farms. It will be interesting to see what happens in that power dynamic in the future and what the pages end up catalyzing their sub-cultural wealth into – maybe something meaningful.