Why 2023 was massive for UK streetwear

Why 2023 was massive for UK streetwear

by Ollie Cox
7 min

This year has been huge for UK streetwear, filled with legendary link-ups, emerging excellence, and community-focused designs. Streetwear is an umbrella term used to describe a style of clothing that has been born from subcultures and incorporates garments from largely sportswear, workwear, and outerwear. The result is a uniform that is visually distinct and rooted in wearability, where graphic hoodies, T-shirts, jackets and more allow wearers to pledge their allegiance to the culture. 

Increasingly, the DIY ethos is shining through, opening the doors for new brands who play by their own rules. Thanks to social media, streetwear labels can build up a brand more easily than the ‘90s-founded kingpins, creating new methods of communication between brands and their communities. From Corteiz’s on-the-street chaos to Drama Call’s Manny madness, 2023 was a mega year for UK streetwear. 

Drama Call scored a collaboration with Manchester United 

Since being founded in 2017, Drama Call has been flying the flag for Manchester streetwear, thanks to its spontaneous product drops, revealed with little notice, mobilising Mancunians to the streets to grab the hottest pieces within hours. Its online releases regularly sell out, too. 

While the brand often nods to American culture, this year, Drama Call looked close to home for an internet-breaking collaboration with Manchester United. The link-up was first teased via a fly poster campaign spotted across Manchester featuring the slogan “Made in Manchester,” before being officially teased on Drama’s social media channels. 

Drama Call ©

Official product shots revealed a unique reissue of the 1988 third jersey, updated with Drama Call branding on the front and rear. The release was only available at Old Trafford and cemented the sense of community surrounding the Manchester brand. By collaborating with a football team closely tied to the city – well one half, at least – the brand spoke directly to the community that helped to build the brand whilst also creating worldwide noise, aided by the global status of Manchester United

Always Do What You Should Do took things up a notch

Hip hop is often seen as one of the founding pillars of streetwear, with rappers regularly sporting streetwear labels, big or small. This year, Always Do What You Should Do launched its second collaboration with British rapper Loyle Carner. Following the success of an initial collaboration which coincided with the release of Hugo, Carner’s third album, we saw the stylised “Hugo” branding return for a collaborative tracksuit.

The collaboration resulted from an organic relationship between Carner and the brand, born from the South London-based artist’s appreciation for high-quality emerging streetwear labels. It followed a hugely successful year for Always, which saw the brand throw skate jams in Shoreditch, drop emotional videos encouraging positivity in line with its “Tell Your Friends You Love Them” motto, and take its skate team on worldwide trips. 

Corteiz came for the crown 

2023 was major for Corteiz, with the London-based streetwear label continuing its mission of world domination through collaborations with some of the biggest in the business. Corteiz kicked off its year of collaboration by beaming a bat signal-like Corteiz and Nike logo onto the front of Nike Town in central London. The move signalled the start of one of the biggest collaborations of the year, and followed the London label’s covert release strategy. 

The sneaker chosen for the collaboration was the Nike Air Max 95, a legendary sneaker in London, which felt at home with the Corteiz brand, with West London-based founder Clint honouring the UK capital. The iconic trainer was released in three colourways, originally exclusive to a different city. London had “Gutta Green,” New York had “Pink Beam,” and Paris had “Agean Storm.” Of course, as is to be expected from Corteiz, getting your hands on a pair wasn’t as simple as just going into a store and buying them. Fans had to decipher the location based on a series of coordinates that would be revealed on the day of release and also printed on the heel of the shoe. 

As always, the Corteiz fanbase was quickly able to decipher the coordinates and scenes of cities swamped with streetwear heads racing across traffic went viral. While the shoes were exclusive to each location, this drove the price up on the secondary market. Clint put an end to this by giving fans another chance to buy the shoes at a price point of £110, honouring the initial cost of the Air Max 95 upon its 1995 release, which led to its fabled nickname, the “110.” 

@clint419 ©

A collaboration with Nike is a surefire sign of success in the streetwear industry, but for Corteiz it was just the beginning. In December, deep red billboards around London unveiled the previously unseen Supreme x Corteiz logo in much the same way as the brand’s previous collaboration, cryptically signalling that a collaboration was on the way. In the days that followed, Supreme confirmed the news via Instagram, announcing that a collaborative T-shirt and hoodie would be released via a one-day pop-up event which took place away from Supreme’s stores and on Corteiz’s turf, the streets. Again, the exact location had to be deciphered through a series of coordinates that could be obtained via Instagram story. 

While the collaborative capsule only consisted of two items, it meant so much more than clothing. Not only were the garments staples of any streetwear wardrobe, but they also reflected a coming together of the old and the new; Supreme has paved the way for the streetwear brands of today, including Corteiz. Supreme once dominated the industry with its drop system that was quickly replicated, inspiring and opening the doors for new streetwear brands. It showed a change in momentum and a shift in how people access streetwear, no longer through brick-and-mortar stores but on the very streets that dictate the clothing produced. 

Skepta revived MAINS on the runway 

During London Fashion Week this September, British grime MC and fashion designer Skepta relaunched his MAINS label, following a four-year hiatus. Turning the catwalk into Centre Court, Skepta and his team presented the collection in a tennis-inspired setting. Between the wimbledon-ready boucle tweed two-pieces were a series of tracksuits that were streetwear through and through, which saw iridescent cuffed bottoms paired with matching track tops in silver blue and gold.  

MAINS ©

We got a preview of the items in the run-up to the occasion, where the rapper got his A-list pals to model pieces from the collection. Campaign shots showed streetwear essentials such as denim two-pieces which were modelled by Central Cee, as well as denim New Era caps finished with a flat leather brim. This felt like a poignant nod to grime, the UK-born genre that has influenced streetwear uniforms with its sportswear focus, as rooted in practicality as it was in aesthetics. 

In 2023 streetwear reigned supreme, serving fiercely loyal brand and cultural communities through authentic and engaging marketing strategies and products. It was a year that saw emerging brands lead the way, changing how the industry operates. With such a varied and exciting streetwear landscape taking hold, 2024 is set to be a good year. 

More on Culted 

See: Get your drinks on this New Year’s Eve

See: The best festivals we went to in 2023 

in other news

Comment

JOIN THE CULTED COMMUNITY TO GET THE LATEST ON FASHION, ART AND CULTURE