Friday, August 29, 2008

Rise of the Black Hipsters in the Post Hip Hop Age

written by Kevin Walker

It is pretty much a universal belief in the advertising/entertainment circles that African American youth are pretty much the initiators of many trends that eventually reach the mainstream. Is that still true?

As an agency that prides ourselves on being rooted in research we are seeing that this is not necessarily the case.

We recently went to LA and Atlanta to do some trendspotting on behalf of one of our Clients, and what we saw developing was antithetical to that traditional belief that Black kids start trends. What we witnessed was that many African American youth are mimicking the fashion, musical taste, and activities of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn “hipsters” and West Coast skate punks. We are talking about young people wearing skinny jeans, the hipster scarfs, backpacks, streetwear graphic tees, etc. In addition to the fashions, we noticed that many Black youth in Atlanta and LA were into skateboarding and BMX biking. The icons of this Black hipster movement are Kanye West, Spankrock, The Gym Class Heroes, and Pharrell Williams. The cool clothing brands are no longer Phat Farm, and Sean Jean, they are now Hollister, Ed Hardy, Abercrombie and Fitch, Krewe, The Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles. It should be noted that none of these brands originated from urban hip-hop icons.

Did skateboarding originate in the hood? What about BMX biking? Or the skinny jeans trend? The answer is no. As you may or may not know, these are activities that emanate from the Southern California suburban areas.. So we see this new dynamic at work where suburban trends are shaping the taste of Black urbanites. Our research points to the internet being one of the key catalyst for this new dynamic. My Space, Youtube, celebtity gossip blogs have democratized informational flow. So the influence dynamic becomes two way (suburban to urban, urban to suburban). This is a HUGE trend we see developing that will shape attitudes towards racial identity, and youth trends for years to come. Issues of class also come into play here. The bottom line is that corporations and marketers cannot continue to live on past assumptions. Dynamics are different and agencies like ours will become more valued partners as these dynamucs change so quickly.. Real time research and trendspotting will continue to gain in stature.

2 comments:

Age said...

I think this is spot on, real.
Nice reporting.

Nick Zegel said...

"The cool clothing brands are no longer Phat Farm, and Sean Jean, they are now Hollister, Ed Hardy, Abercrombie and Fitch, Krewe, The Hundreds, and Crooks and Castles. It should be noted that none of these brands originated from urban hip-hop icons."

I wouldn't be so quick put Hollister, Ed Hardy, or A&F anywhere close to the word "hipster". As far as Krew, The Hundreds, Crooks & Castles, and many others...most of them are founded on and inspired by contemporary urban street culture. This culture has strong roots in skateboarding, hip-hop music, & bmx. Music-wise...DJs such as Steve, Aoki, ATrak & Diplo and performing artists MIA, The Cool Kids, & others are big to inspire the "hipster" trend you speak of.

Also...when trend spotting why are you looking at 14 year old skate park kids? They aren't dictating the trends...they are following them.