Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Have you heard of Hypebae?

I'm about to disappear on a vacation for a week. That means that even if I wear any blog-worthy outfits (unlikely while traveling!), I probably won't have the time and resources to post them. So here's a little something to keep you busy: a fun game that sometimes ends up fashion-related! The one rule: Whenever you hear a new term for the first time, don't immediately look it up or ask what it means. Instead, listen, observe, and see if you can figure it out for yourself. Sometimes this process happens over several months. When you're satisfied with your own mental definition, then consult your reference material, and see how close you came! 

I played this game with the newest word in my fashion vocabulary: hypebae. The first time I heard it mentioned, it was in some firsthand narrative in which the author was wistfully admiring this particular style of dress without actually committing to it herself. Like any good guessing-gamer, I of course didn't do any research at that time, and quickly lost track of the article. But now that I've heard the word hypebae a couple of times, sometimes in conjunction with pictures, I'm going to take a stab at what it means.

Hypebae (adj.) *[Note: Since there isn't a lot out there describing this supposed trend, I worry that people who search for the word might come across this post. If that is you, don't take the following definition as gospel! It's a guess based on limited information! For a more informed definition, scroll down to the bottom.] Describing a style of dress in which the wearer (usually female) incorporates a number of characteristic components: a strong profusion of athletic elements such as leggings, cropped tanks or T-shirts, and sneakers. Prominent logos of athletic brands are common. Accessories often include angular sunglasses and belt bags worn as crossbodies. The hypebae style is frequently aggressive and masculine, and based in the strong neutral colors of white and black.

Now let's see how I did!

Urban dictionary defines hypebae as "A girl who is dating a hypebeast and wears his clothing." Well, this doesn't tell me too much except that I was wrong about the part of speech that hypebae occupies—it's a noun, not an adjective. But nouns are frequently used to stand in for adjectives, so I'm not going to judge myself too harshly. The part about wearing his clothing gives credence to my theory that the style involves a strong element of the masculine...but to really understand this definition, I guess we'll have to go see what a hypebeast is.

"A Hype Beast is a kid that collect clothing, shoes, and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others." Well, according to this Urban Dictionary definition, my ideas are much further off base than I thought. Although I picked up on the notion of brand obsession when I mentioned prominent logos, I got the whole focal point wrong. According to Urban Dictionary, hypebeasts are not necessarily all about athletic clothing (although they are "very much into sneakers"), but rather any brand or item that is considered prestigious or hard to acquire.

What is most confusing is that, while a few Urban Dictionary entries strongly emphasize that "hypebeast" is a derogatory term for someone without much actual style, my impression of "hypebae" was that it was an intentional label that women wear with pride.

The existence of a whole website dedicated to hypebae would certainly support that notion, but unfortunately, hypebae.com seems like it has really just co-opted the word to present yet another generic lifestyle site about "today’s female leaders within fashion and culture." Let's take a step back from editorial websites trying to capitalize on a word, to spaces where people are actually talking about "Hypebae style" as a specific phenomenon.

There wasn't much out there. Lookbook had only 9 hypebae looks; Instagram had 903,111 pictures (many seeming to come from the same corporate juggernaut behind hypebae.com) but not much explanation.

I found only two sources that seemed to make an effort at classifying hypebae fashion. One article basically distills hypebae down into 9 essential characteristics, (which is pretty helpful, but it's still written by someone who seems to be an outsider.

There was also a video, which splits the aesthetic into three different distinct types: Heatbae (characterized by branding and logomania) Techbae (characterized by techwear, which as far as I can understand it is high-tech utility clothing meant for extreme weather and sports), and Sportybae (characterized by a casual look, a lot of athletic apparel, and a smattering of visible brand names - basically what I thought hypebae meant). But here's the catch: the person presenting the video is an Instagrammer who never (as far as I could see) even mentions hypebae in her posts.

So is hypebae fashion a real thing? Or is it all a conspiracy between expensive clothing brands and a well placed social media entity?

We may never know, but that won't stop me from sharing my revised definition.

Hypebae (n.) A girl or woman whose personal style leans heavily towards exclusive brands and limited production items, particularly those of an athletic nature or a typically masculine aesthetic. Common elements in a hypebae's wardrobe include sneakers, prominent logos, technical outerwear, and belt bags worn as crossbody bags.

I have to add that one word that kept popping up in my search was "streetwear." I always thought streetwear was supposed to mean "clothing you wear on the street," i.e. everyday clothing, as opposed to formalwear or loungewear. Isn't that what streetwear means? Apparently not. Rather than wait another few months to puzzle out the word's hidden meaning, I looked it up right away. Wikipedia was helpful, but not very: "Streetwear is a style of street fashion rooted in Californian surf and skate culture. It has grown to encompass elements of hip hop fashion, Japanese street fashion, and modern haute couture fashion." So basically streetwear is whatever you want it to be, and hypebaes wear a lot of it.

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