The History of Street Style

street style

Street Style photography is a popular part of the fashion world. At any fashion event, especially at New York Fashion Week, there will always be women posing outside for photos while photographers snap away. Publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar will even post the best street style they had come across for a specific fashion event.

Today, we see street style as a useful way to incorporate everyone attending a fashion event, not just the models on the runway. It is a rebellion against runway-driven elitism. Conversely, some people argue that street style is distracting and has evolved into a monster that is more of a nuisance than a positive addition. Whatever side you find yourself on, the history of street style photography is revolutionary.

Considered a grassroots movement, street style was not a trend that was started in a studio or photoshoot. As the name suggests, it is based on the causality of the street and on normal people on a everyday basis.

Some key players in the modern movement of street style photography are Bill Cunningham, Terry Jones, and Shoichi Aoki. Bill Cunningham is a journalist that worked for several newspapers, but at one point, he started taking impromptu photos of fashion on the streets. Including Greta Garbo, he published a compilation of photos with the street style vibe to The New York Times in 1978. This soon became a regular series for The Times. Cunningham’s addition to the paper was a turning point, since it was the first time the publication published any photos of individuals without their permission. This seemingly normal series started by Cunningham was the catalyst for the street style evolution.

Terry Jones left British Vogue in 1980 to start his own publication, ID magazine. This magazine was built on the very basis of street style. Known for “standup shots,” the magazine strove to capture normal people dressed up to go to social events, and hold them as icons for the world to see.

Shoichi Aoki started documenting Japanese street style in 1997 when he noticed a divergence from the traditional clothing for teenagers. Aoki published his own magazine, FRUiTS. This publication was dedicated to publishing Aoki’s work in recording the everyday fashion style of people on the street.

Since 1997, the invention of the internet has completely spurred the movement. Fashion bloggers have manifested street style into something of its own. The power of fashion has shifted from high-fashion models and legendary brands to people who blog from their own laptop and document the people around them, going to work, school and parties.

The playing field is somewhat leveled to the advantage of people wanting to break into the fashion world with the emergence of street style. There has been some backlash over the trend saying that what was once started to rebel against the elites is now an elitist system in itself. Whichever way you view street style, it cannot be denied that it has changed the frontier of fashion.

Emily Harris is a Staff Writer. Email her at bstyle@nyunews.com

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