New book: 100 Ideas That Changed Street Style


Graffiti: Stephen Sprouse's neon graffiti-style art was posthumously honoured by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, in 2004. I went to journalism college with Josh Sims and, while he was a lovely bloke and a sharp dresser, there were more flamboyant characters around who that looked destined for fashion journalism.

But destined he was - and how. Josh writes for the Financial Times, Wallpaper* and i-D and has published several tomes on fashion including Icons of Mens Style, Street Style and, our favourite, Rock Fashion.

Now he launches 100 Ideas That Changed Street Style (Laurence King, £19.95), a look-by-look survey of the most influential style tribes, trends and 'pavement fashions' to have arisen in the last 70 years.

There's a fair few. Amongst the familiar - Goth, Hip Hop, Grunge and Geek Chic - Josh profiles in the book sit categories that may not be as widely used in fashion terminology. La Dolce Vita, The Style Press, The Cell Phone, anyone?

Popular books on fashion have a dilemma. On the one hand, writers want to appeal to new audiences. On the other, they don't want to bore or frustrate specialists with stuff they've heard a zillion times already.

If 750 words and two pictures on skinheads seems reductive, however, the magic lies, as so often in Josh's books, in his breadth of knowledge.

The Japanese subculture, decora, saw grown women embracing all things childlike as a defining style.

This isn't your usual fashion patter. Josh takes time to point out something new about every trend: that skinhead, contrary to today's perceptions, was originally a late 1960s assertion of smart dress of British inner-city, working class origins with leftie leanings; that, despite its apparent sartorial freedom, Rio beach style actually has quite strict fashion rules (men must wear swim trunks or board, but never football shirts. Women must wear bikinis, smaller the better. Bathing suits are consider outre.)

Then, of course, there are the images, some pretty well known (everyone from Toyko's Harajaku district is starting to look the same), others startling and unexpected.

Raggamuffin: bling, rings and big things marks the dancehall style dress that originated in Jamaica in the early 1980s.

There's Miles Davis, looking razor sharp in 1959 the chapter on Blue Note; members of the Black Panther party, apparently dancing, in 1969 during a demo in New York in Militant Chic; a group of protestors - all tats and dreads - looking remarkably relaxed up a tree at the M65 Newbury Bypass protest for the spot on Travellers.

The introduction reminds us, in case we've forgotten, why street style is important: in an era where trends are merging and street style, high fashion and mass market getting more entwined by the minute, style tribes like the ones Josh documents may soon be a thing of the past.

'Given how society has fetishized youth and embraced the outsider as an aspirational character over recent decades, it is easy now to forget just how ground-breaking these street styles were: to stand apart from the crowd through one's dress was to invite more than ridicule or raised eyebrows. It could invite violence,' writes Josh.

'But, in sticking to their street style through thick and thin, its adherents shaped their identity, found a comradeship in shared sartorial leanings and, most importantly, challenged the societal status quo. Street style subcultures are, indeed, much more than the clothes that make them.'

And there you have it. Recommended.