Hypebeast Culture’s Effect on Individuality
Have you ever noticed the hype surrounding Jordans, Supreme hoodies, and Off-White belts that take precedence in our prestigious halls? In the garden, a sea of brand-name clothing fills the basketball court. The boys playing nonchalantly sweat through their $200 shirts and carelessly scuff up their highly sought after sneakers. Watching from an outsider’s perspective, I notice that the boys at the top of Packer’s social hierarchy all share the same look.
The term “hypebeast” may have originated in the early 2000s, but it remains prominent in today’s pop culture, specifically within Packer. Max Guryan (‘23) defines hypebeast culture as “essentially just people trying to copy each other … it’s what’s popular, what’s desirable.” The cyclical nature of the brand name clothing industry causes clothing worn by hypebeasts to always be in high demand, triggering its increasingly high prices. As we go through high school’s defining years, participation in hypebeast culture can be a cop-out from having a sense of originality.
Packer students should all be able to express themselves with their fashion choices, but when does hypebeast culture start to undermine male individuality?
This is not to say that girls cannot partake in hypebeast culture, because they definitely can. However, hypebeast culture consists of “just straight white males… It’s really dominated by them” said Syd DeRiggs (‘23). Within the Packer community, the same social pressures are not manifested among female students in the same way that they are among male students. As Upper School Health Teacher and Middle School Diversity and Equity Coordinator Jeremy Hawkins shared, “there’s also a gendered aspect to it. Maybe just the term ‘hypebeast’ is a very masculine type term.” Girls may face similar social coercion to fit a certain standard, but it is not as focused on having a pack mentality where everyone wears the same exclusive brands. Boys are taught at a young age to be masculine. In high school, this translates to a culture of homogeneity.
Hypebeast culture is not cheap. As Alex Bourtin (‘22) outlined, “once something starts to become a trend it’s going to be naturally more expensive, and the demand for it and the supply for it is just going to be off the charts.”
With Packer being an independent school and 75 percent of families paying full tuition, many students can afford the unreasonable sum of money needed to participate in hypebeast culture, but at what emotional cost?
While it is understandable that dressing similarly, as Alex shared, “boosts people’s self-esteem,” a group of boys being pressured to wear virtually the same thing can harm their sense of self. He added, “if you’re wearing something that you like and you know that other people are going to notice…then that’s going to boost your self-esteem, you’re going to be more confident about it.”
Mr. Hawkins describes the struggle to fit in as “a rite of passage for a lot of people.” He went on to explain this phenomenon; “I think that part of that is because a lot of those choices that were being made weren’t fully you that was making them. It was like, ‘oh I’m wearing this because you know people around me are wearing it so that’s why I’m doing it.’”
Bobby Lobue (‘21) and Owen Smith (‘21) shared that because of a newer promotion of uniqueness in pop culture, the term hypebeast has shifted to embody a negative connotation.
“People try to pretend like they’re going outside the social boundaries and I think everyone’s doing it so it’s kind of the same,” said Bobby. If being the same is perceived negatively and everyone seeks a unique style, why do many high schoolers still lack individuality? Because it is easier to fall into the trap of being like everybody else when you are afraid that being yourself can affect you socially.
I have never experienced the pressure to wear something specific at Packer, but I cannot speak to the male experience. I have noticed that people idolized in our community often fit into a certain box, one very similar to that of their popular friends. Typically, these admired students are straight and white, a problem that adds to the exclusiveness of hypebeast culture.
I do not think that we should completely avoid shopping at the “hype” brands, especially if you feel like you best express yourself by wearing them. As a community, we need to be more self-aware and try our best to not perpetuate the idea that certain brands or styles are better than others.
To any aspiring hypebeasts out there, in the words of Alex Bourtin, “just be an individual. Don’t follow what other people are doing. Even though it could seem like the right choice and it could seem like different circles are going to start including you more if you do that. My big thing is just be yourself and pick things that you genuinely like and you genuinely want to wear or else it’s not going to end well.” By not letting ourselves fall prey to the mob mentality that is hypebeast culture, we can actively encourage others who may not have our same sense of self yet to be able to find just that without the societal pressures.