Since 1980, streetwear has lived, died, and resurrected through three waves. The first collective of brands erupted from Southern California's melting pot of subcultures, and fizzled after distribution exploded, rave fashion entwined with the design sensibilities, and there was a migration to specific core skate or urban attire. So the remaining street brands and connoisseurs focused their attention on Japan and other foreign regions, returning in the late '90s to incite the second wave of streetwear in New York. The Internet sparked the third wave in the 2000s, capitalized upon by the youth who had grown up supporting the culture and wanted to participate themselves. However, by the end of the millennium's first decade, poorly-run business, monotonous design, streetwear's innate cannibalism (and yes, the economy) had all taken its toll on the flooded market.
I think we're nearing a fourth wave of streetwear, buttressed by brands that are past the point of elitism and exclusivity, instead emphasizing branding and community. This next generation is formulating their own postmodern interpretation of street apparel, illustrated by companies like Primitive. The L.A.-based streetwear brand is rooted in their own boutique on Ventura Blvd. With a strong emphasis on sneakers, Primitive is deeply associated with skateboarding, thanks to pro Paul Rodriguez's involvement in the brand. Their graphic T-shirts run the gamut from obvious parody to Cali-centric conceptual art, and their headwear act as neighborhood identifiers, calling out BLVD and VALLEY, or their original logo P. The only reason they're not higher on this list is because they've only just begun. And that's bad news for the other 49.