That Hypebeast: Identifying Hypebeasts

Eugene Kan, the Managing Editor at Hypebeast

A young man wearing a Supreme shirt, raw denims (raw denims are different from regular jeans this Buzzfeed article helps differentiate), SnapBack, and limited edition Nike sneakers walks down the street and someone comments, “what a hypebeast.” But what is a hypebeast? The term has proliferated in recent years and while many can tell who is a hypebeast and who is not, what exactly is a hypebeast or who? Hypebeast are a rising identity within society. On Instagram there are 1.9 million photographs with the hashtag “hypebeast” and 1.3 million photographs with the hashtag “hype.” Instagram allows hypebeast to curate their image of themselves to the public. They often post about sneakers, hype clothing, and their outfits along with photos of their lifestyle. These images are taken from the Instagram user justinnnlo who would be identified as a hypebeast. He’s wearing a Supreme hat, Stussy shirt, and Nike Roshe sneakers. The nature of his Instagram also depicts the hypebeast lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.06.23 AM justinnnlo‘s Instagram

One’s conception and expression of who they are and who society perceives them to be is one’s identity. Hypebeasts are affluent youths (primarily men) that utlize a streetwear style inspired by urban life closely aligned with hype brands such as, but not limited to Huf, Undefeated, Supreme, Stüssy, Bape, and Billionaire Boys Club that correlate to pop culture fashion trends. Also, they are often known as sneakerheads–a term used to identify people who are obsessed with getting new popular expensive sneakers and will wait on long lines for hours or even a day to get them. While the brands they associate themselves with helps make their identity apparent. The lifestyle and demeanor is important as well. Hypebeasts construct their identity to the public through meticulous curation of aesthetics, adornment, and demeanor, which signifies their investment in pop culture and urban life.

Clothes communicate to others one’s self-perception of their own identity. “…The body is ‘dressed,’ and everywhere dress and adornment play symbolic, communicative, and aesthetic roles” (Wilson 3). A individual dressed hypebeast style will be identified as a hypebeast whether he internalizes that identity for himself or not. The identity of the hypebeast is created through the clothes they wear and in achieving this style it dictates a particular lifestyle invested on the hype trends of pop culture and culture of hypebeasts. Bourdieu notes that in order to understand the style one must have the cultural capital to comprehend it; he writes, “A work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possess the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded” (2). In order for hypebeasts to properly represent themselves as hypebeasts, they need to have the knowledge about what items is hype. They must have the cultural capital to distinguish what is hype and what is not (Bourdieu). To gain this knowledge they are actively following social trends. By following theses trends and selectively picking out what items are representative of hypebeasts, a hypebeast identity is actively being created and maintained. “Taste classfies, and it classifies the classifer. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make..” (Bourdieu 6). Websites such as Sneaker News help facilitate news about sneakers such sneaker release dates and limited edition designs. Hypebeast.com, originally a simple blog, has tuned into the hypebeast style and capitalized by curating a online store and print magazine catered to hypebeasts.

Screenshot of Hypebeast.com
Screenshot of Hypebeast.com

Hypebeast.com shows that hypebeast identity is not just about the style but also the hypebeast lifestyle. The online publication curates hypebeast focused entertainment, music, lifestyle , arts, and other news. Hypebeast.com also has a section for footwear, which show the importance of sneaker styles in hypbeast style. Davis too agrees that “…through clothing people communicate some things about their persons, and at the collective level this results typically in locating them symbolically in some structures universe of status claims and life-style attachments” (149). In order to curate their identity, hypebeasts needs to actively follow trends. Even if they know the trends they still need to make the time and effort to attain the items. Clothing styles of hypbeasts signal knowledge, but also monetary capital. Hypebeasts need to line up and wait for limited edition items in order to be able to purchase them. Thorstein Veblen notes that “…a life of leisure is the readiest and most conclusive evidence of pecuniary strength…” (25). In order to have the leisure time to get the expensive branded items they purchase they need to have the time and money to not need to work.

Footwear fanatics waiting online for hours and even sleeping overnight for Kanye West’s sneakers, the Yeezy II.

Brands play a big role in defining a hypebeast. Society also labels people who are hypebeasts by the brands they wear. Brand prominence traditionally have played a big role in signifying socioeconomic status (Han, Nunes, and Drèze). But hypebeasts use the brands they wear to signify style or cultural capital (Bourdieu). Brands that are often worn by hypebeasts typically have large prominently displayed logos and identifiable trademarks or logos on most of their clothing items. For example, the clothing worn by justinnnlo in the pictures above have clearly identifiable logos. They do signify a certain affluence in wealth because the brands are not inexpensive, but the knowledge of and achievement in attaining the items are more significant. Furthermore, many clothing articles commonly have distinct and prominently display brand logos. Stussy, BAPE, and Undefeated are a few examples of hypebeast clothing.

Stussy 1980 Stripe L/S Tee
Stussy 1980 Stripe L/S Tee

Undefeated 2015 Spring/Summer Collection

Hypebeasts is a youthful social group with economic strength using brands in a conspicuous fashion to show not specifically wealth, but cultural knowledge about pop culture. Their clothes follow trends of pop culture celebrities and their dress signifies their knowledge on pop culture trends. The brands are associated with pop culture which associates the wearer to pop culture. Pharrell Williams was featured in the advertisement for adidas Superstar sneakers.

Pharrell Williams  x Adidas Advertisement
Pharrell Williams x adidas Superstar Advertisement

Furthermore, Pharrell Williams also collaborated with BBC to create a new line. Trendy items such as William’s line in hypebeast fashion are in demand and they often become sold out. Many of the items in the collaboration line are already sold out. With brands that identify with pop culture celebrities such as Williams, hypebeasts then can be identified with pop culture as well.

adidas Originals Seoul Flagship Store Features Crowd-Sourced Art in the Supercolor Studio
adidas Originals Seoul Flagship Store Features Crowd-Sourced Art in the Supercolor Studio

Hypebeast fashion also identifies with street art and urban life such as graffiti. The crowd-sourced art in the adidas Original store highly resembles urban graffiti. The typography of the Stussy logo name is often written in a way similar to graffiti handwriting which can be seen in justinnnlo’s instagram photo (also shown above).

The brands that hypebeast wear help signal their identity to society, but also their socioeconomic status and cultural capital about hype trends. It also identifies the individual as someone who rejects regular or traditional clothing. The style shows their investment in urban life and pop culture trends. Hypebeast style identifies an individual who emphasize the spontaneity of pop culture and urban life rather than conforming to mainstream fashion (Practical dress, business wear, and other styles and trends). Hypebeast trends allow the youth to be bold and different in contrast to traditional styles, which relate to a generation immersed pop culture and urban lifestyle culture.


Word Cited:

Bourdieu, Pierre. Introduction. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. N. pag. Print.

Davis, Fred. “Do Clothes Speak? What Makes Them Fashion?” Fashion Theory: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2007. 148-58. Print.

Han, Young Jee, Joseph C. Nunes, and Xavier Drèze. “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence.” Journal of Marketing 74.4 (2010): 15-30. Web.

Veblen, Thorstein. “Conspicuous Leisure.” The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Dover Publications, n.d. 23-42. Print.

Wilson, Elizabeth. “Introduction.” Introduction. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. Berkeley: U of California, 1987. 1-15. Print.

Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 5.17.37 PM Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe was a special exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibit displayed a collection of the high-heeled shoes—a “fashion statement, fetish object, [and] instrument of power”—to explore its history and artistry (Exhibitions: Killer Heels). It highlighted many influences on the high heel. Heels designs appropriated concepts from science, architecture, culture, and fetishism. Some shoes were made from horse hooves, chairs, and wood and some others looked more like death contraptions rather than shoes.

Fetish Ballerina -Christian Louboutin
Fetish Ballerina -Christian Louboutin

Walking through the exhibit, I felt my own shoes were inadequate. I noticed that many people (including myself) viewing the exhibition were not wearing high heels. High heels are inconvenient. They’re difficult to wear for long periods of time especially when a lot of walking is involved and any strenuous activity would be silly. Personally, I don’t wear heels often because I use public transportation. Women who wear heels around often probably have a car, so that they don’t need to walk around as often. The shoes on display highlighted the difference between the “leisure class” and “labouring class” that Thorstein Veblen discusses in “Conspicuous Leisure.” He writes, “Conspicuous abstention from labour therefore becomes the conventional mark of superior pecuniary achievement and the conventional index of reputability; and conversely, since application to productive labour is a mark of poverty and subjection, it becomes inconsistent with a reputable standing in the community” (25). Veblen contends that conspicuous leisure was a way of displaying wealth and distinguishing oneself from the lowering working class. High heels connote “conspicuous abstention from labour” because they are not practical for physical activity. The ability to wear high heels like the ones on display shows that one doesn’t need to work and has the ability to leisurely exhaust oneself by wearing impractical but beautiful shoes. Not only does the high-heeled shoe ostracize those who are not capable of wearing it, the brands at display also makes it so that only those with the economic means can attain these killer heels. The exhibition featured top-notch brands such as: Tom Ford, Salvatore Ferragamo, Christian Louboutin, and Alexander McQueen. Without “superior pecuniary achievement” one does not have the money to buy killer heels or time to wear them (Veblen). Not only are the shoes unattainable because of the exorbitant cost, but also because of social status.

Lady Gaga's shoes made by United Nude
Lady Gaga’s shoes made by United Nude

Social status and social worth were factors that played in role into the pieces that were selected for the exhibit. A status of an individual can also make a pair of shoes famous. The infamous Vivien Westwood shoes that cause the supermodel, Naomi Campbell, to trip during her catwalk were on display. Marilyn Monroe’s black Salvatore Ferragamo stiletto was displayed simply because she owned them. The exhibit also featured a pair of shoes designed by United Nude specifically for Lady Gaga. These three shoes were on display and famous because of the individuals the shoes were associated with. It shows how some individuals can have such superior social power and influence that museum pieces were selected because of their fame.

Vivienne Westwood shoe that Naomi Campbell tripped on
Vivienne Westwood shoe that Naomi Campbell tripped on

The distinction between the killer heels and the shoes of the average person shows the large disparity between the wealthy and powerful and the powerless working class. “Fashion on the one hand signifies union with those in the same class, the uniformity of a circle characterized by it, and, uno actu, the exclusion of all other groups” (Simmel 544). Not only were the shoes on display expensive, but they had social value that could only be achieved through the association with people such as Naomi Campbell, Marilyn Monroe, and Lady Gaga whom have a celebrity status that is unachievable for most.

Marilyn Monroe's black Salvatore Ferragamo stiletto
Marilyn Monroe’s black Salvatore Ferragamo stiletto

At the end of the exhibit, there was a wall of photographs and notes created by the audience. There were photographs of museum visitors who were wearing heels along with notes about why they loved heels. I had not worn heels so I did not add a photo to the wall but I wrote a note to leave my thoughts and appreciation for high heels. Although many of the visitors did not wear heels, there was definitely a sense of appreciation and awe for the heels on display. I recognized the beauty and art within the exhibit. As Bourdieu writes, “To the socially recognized hierarchy of the arts, and within each of them, of genres, schools or periods, corresponds a social hierarchy of the consumers” (1). Like myself the other spectators probably realized the value of the killer heels. I realized that the viewers had a cultural capital—a competence and upbringing to be able to understand connotative value—to come to visit the Brooklyn Museum (Bourdieu). One needed the knowledge about the exhibit to know to visit and the cultural background to appreciate the items on display. I found that the brands displayed were not unfamiliar to me. Someone who had the leisure to learn about them would know the designer brands. killerheels2

As I left the exhibit, I felt glad that I had not worn heels. Heels are beautiful, but my feet would have been killed.

-Erica Lei

Works Cited:

Bourdieu, Pierre. Introduction. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984. N. pag. Print.

“Exhibitions: Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe.” Brooklyn Museum: Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe. Brooklyn Museum, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2015.

Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” American Journal of Sociology 62.6 (1957): 541-58. Web. 31 Dec. 2012.

Veblen, Thorstein. “Conspicuous Leisure.” The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Dover Publications, n.d. 23-42. Print.