Ever since I started wearing ripped jeans in 2005, my family has scoffed at the trend. “Your jeans are ripped, do you want me to sew them?” said my Grandma during her first encounter with my brand new jeans. She almost had a heart attack when I told her they were new, and yes, I paid full price.
Ripped jeans have been a mark of grunge culture that rose to popularity in the ‘80s during the heavy metal era. They grew to be a staple in denim and fashion culture and, most importantly, in my closet. I loved this trend, it was cool and it displayed some level of rebellion without the need of actually going out to do rebellious things — not that it stopped me. Sorry mom.
My elders just couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that people were actually buying ripped and distressed jeans. My mom would frequently describe the trend as “looking homeless.”
She just didn’t get it, and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Now I’m wondering if I’m the one that doesn’t get it when it comes to the fashion world’s obsession with homeless chic.
If you pay close attention to the fashion world, you know about “homeless chic” and how it’s an actual trend with a dedicated Facebook page and Pinterest board. Yes, people are actually trying to look homeless and paying a ridiculous amount to do so.
Fashion designers and industry leaders have been designing collections inspired by the homeless for years now, and going forward, the industry continues to see this trend year after year.
Dior’s John Galliano decided to send models in his homeless inspired pieces down the runway in 2000. Vivienne Westwood is even in the mix with her 2010 “Homeless Chic” runway show. Westwood claimed she was trying to “involve the privileged people of the fashion world in the homeless scene.”
In 2012, Urban Outfitters’ CEO was quoted saying that his target customer was, “the upscale homeless person, who has a slight degree of angst and is probably in the life stage of 18 to 26.”
In 2016, Kanye West went on a Twitter rant defending his homeless ripped sweaters against a journalist who wrote negative reviews of his Yeezy Fashion Show. Most of the Yeezy collections reflect a homeless chic look even though the prices emulate otherwise.
Earlier this year, New York Fashion Week displayed a parade of intricate fashion and elaborate designs as it does for every fall season. The trend that seemed to be the topic of conversation after fashion week was some designer’s obsession with homeless chic, again.
Two designers continued the trend on the runway; Japanese streetwear label N.Hoolywood at men’s fashion week and Gypsy Sport at its pop up village.
N.Hoolywood faced major backlash after sending models in homeless style attire, walking in a sluggish manner with their heads hanging low. Steve Dool from online magazine Fashionista criticized N.Hoolywood’s designer Daisuke Obana for his insensitive portrayal of the homeless population.
“To put it plainly, Obana’s efforts, focused purely on aesthetics, erased the humanity and the dignity of homeless people. Homeless people aren’t experimenting with sizing like a FIT undergrad trying on a Vetements hoodie at Dover Street Market. They’re not utilizing ‘unconventional layering’ because they are hoping to start a trend. To claim to celebrate those notions as a hat tip to homelessness is either condescending, ignorant, almost inconceivably out of touch or some hellish combination of all three,” Dool said.
It’s important that Dool and other fashion followers in the community make more statements like the one above to hold the fashion industry accountable for the trends they put out into the world.
Like my ripped jeans, many people will argue, “You just don’t understand, it’s just another form of creating art.” Creating art and appropriating people’s lifestyle that has nothing to do with style or fashion. . There has to be a line drawn when creating art inspired by a certain group of people that shows respect, sensitivity and empathy.
Tell us what you think about the homeless chic trend using the hashtag #MetrosphereFashionTalk on Twitter!