Summer brings with it the ambitions of Supreme backpacks and the promising delight of Off-White belt fantasies. The teenager sleeps to dream about the first day of school with Retro 1s on their feet and a Gucci bag at their side. Until school starts back up, they work for a Bape or Palace hoodie and a Stone Island jacket to match. But with these material objects there is the internal struggle between individualized originality and the compliance of collectivism. Is the teen dressing and consuming for oneself, or for the collective culture?
The quintessential teenage dilemma of self-identity versus conformity is manifested through hype-culture. Nearly every teen seeks to establish and express individualism, all the while being influenced by capitalistic conformity. Will the teenager dress to express a message about their identity? Or will they flaunt their wealth to have an impression of status and attract envy? Brands like Gucci, Balenciaga, Off-White, Supreme — brands that are integral and holy to hypebeasts, are utilized for the latter.
Luke Gonzales, a junior at St. Michael’s High School, a proud owner of such brands, knows why he likes them.
“I like the brands because they represent you as wealthy,” he said. “It’s half respect from other people and the other half is people know you can afford the brands so they can tell you have money by your clothes.”
Sean Chavarria, a sophomore at Santa Fe High School and former hypebeast, agreed: “My main goal was to impress others with this expensive high-end clothing.”
The major theme of consuming hyped, or socially coveted, items is for external purposes, such as appealing to a broader community, as opposed to internal purposes such as self-confidence and empowerment.
Dani Mosher, a 19-year-old who founded fashion label Malakoi to empower the LGBTQ community and to celebrate artistic expression, said being a hypebeast is an effort to identify with a larger and encompassing culture.
“To me, especially nowadays, it’s more about fitting in and being a part of the culture and having people understand what you’re wearing versus wearing something for yourself,” Mosher said.
With this culture, however, there is a sacrifice to be made.
“When you’re just subscribing to the ideas of what other people think is cool or what other people will recognize and see that you spent a lot of money, it takes that element of your own personality away,” Mosher added.
Santa Fe High School junior Chris Ramirez had always been against the idea of conforming with society, especially when it comes to clothing.
“I think [hypebeasts] are just trying to seek out popularity and show off to the others that they have.”
Still, Mosther said that within the hypebeast community there is still the persistence and struggle to be an individual.
“Even if hypebeasts are trying to connect with a community, there is also that exclusivity where you’re not just everyone,” she said. “Not everyone has that sneaker, not everyone has that box logo or colorway. There is a growing desire to stand out. Even though you’re not standing out in the sense that you’re getting a brand that no one’s ever heard of, you’re standing out that you have an item that everyone knows but no one can get.”
And with such a high demand for the high-end designer products comes a chance to capitalize for knock-offs. With many mostly wanting luxury items to flaunt the high price in others’ faces, they have to find ways to get the hundreds to thousands of dollars to cover the cost. Those who simply don’t want to work that hard for the money take a different approach.
Knock off brands or “fakes” have been around ever since the beginning of designer luxury goods, and they have stuck around for the people who want to give the impression of wealth without spending much money. These fake products lure groups of teens who want to conform, too, but just don’t have the funds.
“At school, it’s now quite common to see kids wearing fake Supreme and Off-White,” said Ramirez. “I honestly think that those people shouldn’t even bother trying to show off because you can tell it’s obviously fake. I have more respect for the hypebeasts who actually make an investment rather than the ones who aren’t willing to but don’t want to look like the rest of us.”
Buying high-end products can be fulfilling, but regret comes as a byproduct.
“I regret doing it [buying brand items] because I had all that money that could’ve been put to so many other things,” said Chavarria, who said he got thousands of dollars working for family members over the summer. “I thought the investment was worth it at first. I, unfortunately, didn’t realize it until half a year later when I saw how pointless it was since people didn’t care what I was wearing.”
For Gonzalez, he feels like his goals were accomplished.
He said he only regrets his purchases if the brand items break or fade in color — “basically if the authenticity of the item is lost.” In general, he said, “I think it’s cool for other people to see you as ‘wealthy.’ … In this day and age, everyone cares about the respect from other people.”
Gabe Biadora is a senior at St. Michael’s High School. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lincoln Byrd is a junior at Santa Fe High School. Contact him at email@example.com.