Hitting up the hypebeasts: Students find identity through style

He was in eighth grade when Vince A., now a junior, first heard the word hypebeast, a word that would eventually come to cause some sort of turmoil in his self-identification. Even though he didn’t find out its meaning until high school, Vince has adopted a mentality that has changed his whole view of living.

Although the origins of the word are unclear, it is used to describe someone who purchases articles of clothing, accessories, and other material things because of the hype associated with the item.

Items are hyped when “either it’s trendy or it’s highly sought after at the moment,” Vince said. “People go after it just for the credit or the recognition from their peers saying ‘Oh he has that; it means he’s cool’.”

Oftentimes, things that are hyped have been celebrity-endorsed or advocated in all sorts of media: hype can be created through lyrics in a song (rapper Kanye West mentions several brands in songs on his collaboration album with rapper Jay-Z) or even more simple methods such as a celebrity wearing an outfit.

“Everything in this world, when it’s backed up by a famous name, has more of a following on the youth,” he said. “Kanye West and [rapper] Pharrell, those are my influences when it comes to fashion. I really admire the way they dress and the way they bring the ‘street’ look to the classy and sharp look together.”

In fact, the hype that celebrities create for brands yields so much influence that hypebeasts sometimes resurrect some brands that have fallen out of the fashion scene, such as the brand Givenchy which Kanye cleverly integrates into the song “Looking for Trouble.” Other times, celebrities will start a trend, rather than promoting a brand.

For example, after Kanye West wore skinny jeans, hypebeasts made the transition over to this new trend, sacrificing comfort for aesthetics.

“The next day, you saw tons of people wearing skinny jeans, tight as their leg and couldn’t breathe,” Junior Dimitri K. said. “But then they’ll say ‘eh, anything to look good’.”

Although Dimitri does not label himself as a hypebeast, he too admits to doing hypebeast-like things, including buying things for the hype and wearing some of the typical hypebeast apparel, such as “snapback [hats], Timberland boots, skinny jeans, usually khaki, some kind of graphic shirt or a solid v-neck, and a watch.”

Other hypebeasts commonly wear things such as sneakers (Air Jordan, Nike SB, etc.), Nike Elite Socks, and coin purses – all things that Vince wears on a daily basis. He said he is often labeled as a hypebeast and although a good portion of his outfits do  incorporate hyped elements, his clothing is chosen for more complex reasons.

“Personally, it’s a word that holds a negative connotation because I find it insulting in the way that, you don’t even know why I bought or wear this, it may not be because of the hype,” he said. “Maybe it holds some sentimental value to me or I actually like it for what it is and not because of the hype surrounding it.”

Dimitri also views being labeled as a hypebeast a negative thing, just in a different way.

“No one wants to be labeled as that person who follows the trends,” he said. “[You’d rather be labeled as the person] that starts the trend.”

This creates a lot of controversy over being called a hypebeast — you are one if you follow trends, but hypebeasts see that practice in a negative light and naturally seek to start trends.

Vince used to feel irritated at someone even jokingly calling him a hypebeast but has now come to terms with it.

“I’ve come to embrace it – not in the way that I’m accepting what they’re saying and that I agree and concur with them – but because everybody is their own hypebeast,” he said. “People don’t see that because some hype is a lot more common and accepted than others. Everybody sees clothes from the mall every day so it’s not really considered hype because everybody has it. But the fact that everybody has it and is wearing something similar to it, that means it’s trendy, which means it is hype.”

Dimitri also thinks that everyone is their own hypebeast to some degree, just at different times.

“I’ll be walking around the store and I’ll see something that other people have been wearing a lot and normally I’d think ‘wow, that’s so stupid, why would anyone want to spend 20 or more dollars on that’ but then I’d be like ‘everyone’s wearing it, let’s do it’,” he said. “There’ll be [other] times when I’m walking in the store and I’ll see something I legitimately like that’s like a brand that people don’t usually wear or an off-brand and I’ll think ‘that’s nice, I think I’ll buy that’. Sometimes you buy what you like and sometimes you buy what everyone else is wearing.”

The fact that hypebeasts wear clothing only because of hype and not because they like it, it transforms the identification of a hypebeast into more than just a label that’s based off looks.

“People are really doing it for the wrong reasons, they just want recognition from their peers, not because they actually like what they’re wearing and that’s what makes hypebeast more than a thing,” Vince said. “[It’s] almost like a lifestyle because they’re doing it for the wrong reasons, they’re living it not because they want to, but because they want the recognition that comes with it.”

Dimitri adds that the word “hypebeast” can be used in two ways: as a label or as a term.

“The label ‘hypebeast’ is really about you physically, it’s an aesthetic word,” he said. “But the term ‘hypebeast’ really encompasses what you do, how you act as a person — it’s two different distinctions. There’s a difference between the label hypebeast and how you live out as a hypebeast.”

Vince believes there are three types of hypebeasts: The general hypebeast which seek the newest things, such as the brand Obey, Supreme, Crooks and Castles, Diamond Supply, etc.; the “High-End” hypebeasts who go after things because of celebrity endorsements, and as the name implies, it’s usually expensive stuff, such as Louis Vuitton coin purses or their belts which range in the $300-$500 amount; and the “Hipster” who seeks individuality and doing something before “it is cool”— they go for something before it becomes widespread and hyped. Hipsters often abandon something when someone else picks it up and/or when it becomes mainstream.

“[This makes them] a hypebeast because you did something for recognition but then you stopped because people started doing it,” he said. “That means you didn’t do it because you actually liked it or enjoyed doing that thing, you did it for the wrong reason. That’s why I think they’re a hypebeast.”

The idea of hypebeasts and hipsters are essentially labels and though they can both be taken positively, neutrally, or negatively, the general misconception is that the labels are derived from appearance. Though appearance has a lot to do with it, these two ideas are thought-processes which manifest boldly into the person’s outfit.

“Your body is the canvas for the paint,” Vince said. “It’s just another way for me to express who I am; it’s like an extension of my being. It’s self expression at the end of the day; it shows people who you are and what you stand for.”