First things first, if you have any clothes in your current wardrobe that were purchased — without your consent — by your parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles, do yourself a favor and toss them. Donate them, tie-dye them, give them to a younger sibling, do whatever you have to do to get all the wackest stuff out of your closet. It’s time to Marie Kondo all the non-jams. You’re going to need that extra space for your fresh new gear.
If you care about style at all, you know that the best threads you can rock in the modern era fit snuggly within the realm of streetwear. The clothing of the streets — in large part inspired by the cultures of hip-hop and skating — is dominating the world of fashion to such an inarguable degree that even luxury retailers like Gucci and Louis Vuitton can’t help but crib looks from those rocking graphic tees, joggers, snap-backs, and sportswear while navigating the urban jungles of Los Angeles, New York, and Tokyo. The best fashion is no longer relegated to the catwalks of Paris, it has officially moved to the type of comfortable functionality that’s seen on the sidewalks of cities all around the world.
In 2019, the hypebeasts who turn-heads on the streets are the apex of cool and it’s time you join their ranks by assembling the essential streetwear pieces you need in your wardrobe to level up your style game instantly. You won’t have to cop all of the pieces in our list to elevate your own personal wardrobe, but having at least one piece from every category is a sure-fire way to guarantee that your whole vibe is fresh and clean.
PART I: Sneakers
Locking in your streetwear wardrobe starts with a dope pair of SNX. While you could go the brand loyalist route — always rocking Nike, Adidas, Reebok, etc — we strongly suggest mixing it up and going with the styles that speak to you in the moment. We’re living in an era where mismatching is the dominant trend, if you want to wear Adidas sweat pants with a fresh pair of Air Jordans, do you. “As long as it looks dope,” that’s the only mantra that matters.
Buying a dope pair of sneakers doesn’t have to break the bank either. If you don’t have $300 to drop on the latest pair of Yeezys, don’t fret, you can easily pick up a classic pair of sneakers for under $100. Here are some of our favorite selects.
This was a hard pick as Nike has several iconic silhouettes but we’re just going to call it: Nike’s most essential silhouette is the Air Force One. A typical pair of Nike Air Force Ones will cost you $90-$100 and can single-handedly elevate your entire outfit. Best of all, they come in unisex sizing perfect for anybody’s feet. A pair of all-white Air Force Ones is a classic look that has never and will never go out of style, and that’s just facts.
Adidas has a collection of legendary sneaker silhouettes on par with Nike but we’re going with the Stan Smiths as the must-have. The Adidas Stan Smith has changed very little since its introduction in 1972 — because it hasn’t needed to. The silhouette is as simple as a sneaker can get and its neutrality makes it one of the most versatile sneakers of all time. When you wear these, you’re wearing legends on your feet.
To some people, the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star is the greatest sneaker ever created. Even if you don’t agree with that idea it’s still a pretty hard one to argue against. Everyone has had a pair of hightop Chuck Taylors and the sneaker still deserves regular rotation in your wardrobe.
PART II: Tops
In terms of closet volume, tops will take up the most space in your wardrobe. Truth be told, you can never have too many. Whether you prefer keeping it simple with graphic tees, going the classic route with a button-up, warming-up with a crew neck sweater or cooling down with a stylish crop-top you can’t go wrong with any — or all — of these must-haves in your closet.
Whether you’re repping your favorite brand or band or simply like to feel like a walking canvas, owning a few graphic tee-shirts is an absolute must. Uniqlo is a safe bet, it’s easily accessible, runs in sizes from XXS to 3XL, and their Uniqlo UT collection is full of hundreds of different designs supervised by famed Japanese streetwear designer and creative director, Nigo, previously of BAPE.
When the weather gets on the colder side, consider reaching for a long-sleeve graphic-tee to change things up.
The un-tucked button-up shirt is wildly versatile and will make you look a lot more dressed-up than rocking a simple graphic-tee. Whether you like to wear it tight with the top-button buttoned or go for a loose-fitting open-button look, a good shirt will look right in the streets and in the clubs and bars. Pick your favorite store, they all have an abundance of button-ups meant for the casual street-ready un-tucked style.
Crop-Tops are a great way to work your body’s natural silhouette into your wardrobe and their current popularity makes them readily available at scores of stores. If you aren’t finding a crop-top that fits right or you’re looking for a length that isn’t too high but not too low, consider tieing a regular t-shirt with a hair-tie or grabbing some shears and making quick alterations to a shirt you’re thinking of tossing.
You’ll find a wide variety of sizes and cuts from Nordstrom. There’s enough there to get you started.
PART III: Bottoms
A single pair of pants can go miles, literally. In fact, a pro-tip is to wash your pants as little as possible to preserve the color and have the fit perfectly contoured to your shape. These must-have bottoms are sure to help you level up your style game with ease.
We can’t stress this enough, one piece of clothing you absolutely need in your wardrobe is a legit pair of jeans — not stretchy jeans, not jeggings, we’re talking real classic heavy-as-all-hell denim. Grab a pair of deep indigo, faded blue, or deep-dyed black jeans and you’ll have a pair of pants that goes with everything. We suggest keeping it classic and copping a pair of Levi’s 501s. They’re cheap, iconic, and they’ll last forever.
Even once they start falling apart, they’ll just become a unique new piece in your wardrobe. That’s evergreen cool.
If you aren’t tossing on a pair of jeans, you should be reaching for a pair of chinos or khaki pants as your everyday bottoms. Right now slim-legged pants cuffed up are what’s popular, so use that heightened cuff to add a bit of contrast with your socks for an extra pop.
When your sock-game is on point, you’re going to want to accentuate that and no pair of pants work better than a pair of joggers. Joggers enter the streetwear scene via athleisure, so in addition to accentuating your ankle area, they’re also perfect if you want to keep your wardrobe loose-fitting and comfortable.
Find a pair of joggers at the same stores stocking khaki pants and chinos.
PART IV: Outerwear
The most fashionable people understand the importance of layering, a dope jacket can single-handedly elevate your outfit from flying under the radar to being worthy of shout outs and Insta-pics. Learn how to layer and even on your laziest days you’ll step out looking dope.
Crew Neck Sweaters
When winter rolls through make sure to layer-up with a crew-neck sweater. Whether you go the graphic route or keep it basic, the crew neck sweater is a staple of modern streetwear. While Supreme is the current holy-grail of crewnecks, try Stüssy or HUF for a cheaper option.
The hooded sweatshirt is a streetwear staple that has been fashionable since the aesthetic’s origins on the streets of 1980’s inner-city New York. They fit perfectly into your wardrobe regardless of the season and they’re functional enough to look good whether you’re chilling on the streets or lounging at home. We suggest going for a basic one-color hoodie by Champion if you want a loose-fitting hoodie, Madewell if you want something more tapered to your silhouette, or Ralph Lauren if iconic-branding is your thing.
Bomber jackets — and really any jacket with a military-style cut — are a dope addition to your wardrobe that’ll score you compliments wherever you go. Somewhere, someone is always wondering if they should buy a bomber. Don’t be that person, as the saying goes “don’t just think about it, be about it.”
When it comes to bombers be sure and fine if you prefer the puffy of thin-lined variety, you’ll often find one works for you but not the other. For cheap bomber jackets hit Zara for the thin-lined and Uniqlo for the puffed-up iteration.
For those harsh winters when a pullover won’t do, reach for a parka to add a whole lot of class to your wardrobe. The popularity of the modern parka jacket owes itself completely to streetwear’s dominance of the fashion world. While thick wool-coats may always be the most iconic piece of winter wear, it’s the parka that fits most comfortably with the rest of your streetwear-inspired wardrobe and its baggy fit and loose silhouette compliments all body types and keeps you a hell of a lot warmer than something like a bomber jacket or a cable-knit sweater.
Since the parka is such a utility-driven piece of clothing, expect this to be one of the more pricey additions to your wardrobe. Try Alpha Industries for a quality low-priced parka that works well for the harshest Chicago winters.