Inside Hypefest 2018 and the mind of a hypebeast, we dive into what makes this subculture so influential and all-encompassing.
Inside Brooklyn’s Navy Yard held New York’s first annual Hypefest, a festival dedicated to the niche demographic of ‘hypebeasts’–a sub-genre of fashion lovers obsessed with limited edition streetwear trends and collectors items. A relatively young corner in the fashion scene, hypebeast culture has garnered a surprising amount of attention and influence in the mass market all while maintaining its exclusive image.
The fascination surrounding hypebeast culture rose to prominence around the early 2000’s after self-proclaimed sneakerhead Kevin Ma launched his sneaker blog HYPEBEAST, which later grew into a global empire. After attracting the attention of well-known celebrities such as Lupe Fiasco and others in the hip-hop community, the blog’s readership grew and it’s followers slowly coagulated into a community of like-minded hypebeasts all sharing knowledge on the next brand ‘drop’ and resell items.
Unlike traditional fashion markets that pride themselves on their economic exclusivity, hypebeasts culture straddles the line between high fashion and accessible wear, many brands being marginally expensive, but nowhere near in comparison to their luxury fashion siblings. The variation of their merchandise is very uniform–anything from limited edition sneakers to screen-printed t-shirts and matching sweat-suit sets. The Hypefest convention itself was a gentle mix of curious fashion lovers, press and the occasional hardcore hypebeast (many hailing internationally) who came to observe the event’s inaugural opening date. When the gates opened, trendy kids, adults with babies and influencers rushed in to get first dibs on the event exclusive merchandise before they sold out. As the first wave of shoppers settled down the atmosphere was moderated by live music and DJ sets performed on three separate stages, mainly comprised of NYC cool kid musicians from DeDe Lovelace to Zuri Marley to ONYX Collective.
The entirety of the fest spelled out an air of ‘coolness’: exuded from the attendee’s carefully assembled outfits, instagramable haircuts and deadpan expressions that tried to hint at their complacency. It was, of course, ‘cool’ not to care. Only in occasional moments when surprised with a compliment, was there a lapse in their otherwise stoic expressions. Why, then, were so many of these Hypefest goers carrying a ‘don’t care air’ when they chose to attend the festival themselves?
Perhaps because it is easy to hide behind complacency. Eagerness is juvenile, vulnerability is dangerous, and if you don’t care then you’re somehow better than everyone else who does. But even that is as much a facade as the branded shirts and limited edition sneakers these kids vie for. Because it is only human to care about the things you love. At some point though, fashion dictated the ‘didn’t try’ trend that translated into an attitude and subsequently a way of life. But just as fashion itself is merely a garment of trendy cover-up, those who perform the effortless look did, in fact, put in the effort. Those who actually don’t put in an effort–well it showed. Fashion is a harsh critic of those who are ‘uncool’. Image is everything in this world, and it can bring out insecurities in even the most emotionally resilient.
Outside of the no-smile Instagram world (which I, too am guilty of participating in), though, these kids and adults did come to Hypefest for a reason. They are looking for a community. They are looking for acceptance, even while saying they don’t care. They do. Whether in an online domain or in line for a new pair of sneakers to drop, community is the driving force behind why hypebeasts become so involved in this world. It’s lonely to admire these things by yourself, much better to do it in the company of others.
This specific community in the fashion realm is made up of both wealthy children of CEOs and celebrities, and middle class kids who save nickel and dime to afford a $300 pair of sneakers–and that’s what makes hypebeast culture so special; the kids who can’t afford lux fashion now, but one day aspire to do so. Unlike Haute couture or high fashion showrooms, Hypefest attracts a type of energy (of hype?) that is so youthful–one defined by higher dreams and the hustle of achieving them.
What Hypefest was able to provide was a physical space for these like-minded fashion lovers of all backgrounds to meet, indulge in their material spending for a bit (if they so choose), and ultimately connect and form friendships with other hypebeasts or simply others who share a love for *the finer things in life*, even if they may seem bored while doing so.