Hypebeast Culture—Are we confusing the virtues of art with the people who wear it?

By Andrew Benson

Illustrations by Rebecca Baruc

Scroll through the fashion section of any social media app and brands like Supreme, Anti Social Social Club, and Obey are likely to pop up. These fashion brands have become a staple to a select group of people who are interested in fashion as it relates to trends in the music industry. Many of these brands became popular through the power of social media. With the right model, photo, and filter, the clothes become eye catching and appealing to mass audiences.

Sweatshirts and fitted joggers are some of the staples for these brands. They are simple enough to resonate with large audiences. After the brands begin to grow a following online, support from famous artists like The Weeknd, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar help establish their reputation for excellence.

Soon enough, individuals became devoted to achieving the look that these brands present online through celebrities. A group of them formed a collective called Hypebeast, who say that they are “focused on the progression of fashion through visual inspirations and the provision of knowledge,” according to their website. They track artists and brands that embody the highest tier of trends as they pertain to the swagger and success that follows.

The conglomeration of shared interests allows followers to find everything they need in one place. Trends and visuals can be seen on the Hypebeast website where there are articles and databases detailing brands, artists, and styles. The website creates the perfect lookbook for followers. Those who most closely follow these trends sometimes harness the lifestyle to the extent they can become influencers and trend setters themselves.

It is collectives like Hypebeast that reinforce the power of social media as entities which value style over substance. When followers of the fashion trends advertised by Hypebeast—popularized by artists who have arrived at these aesthetic conclusions after sometimes long and complicated journeys—they can become empty and misleading representations of their accessories depth. They create a façade of perfection, and these influencers succeed using readily-made aesthetics and brands to attract large audiences.

But what happens when these influencers break the seal of attraction in their work? Sometimes influencers say something racist, selfish, or cruel. Is the label enough to redeem them? It calls into question the habit of giving so much power to people who can’t balance the level of achievement in their presentation with an equal amount of virtue and integrity. Had their presentation been the product of genuine innovation, one would think these slippages might become less likely.

The answer is more ethical consumption. Like clothes and accessories, which can be bought from recycled or compassionately sourced materials, we can direct our attention to more worthy subjects. We can practice being more conscious, not just about the materials we cover our bodies with, but the minds from which they are born.