Were The Casuals The Original Hypebeasts?
Hypebeasts are generally young adults & teenagers that will pay hundreds of pounds for rare & exclusive items, but did ‘Hype’ culture as we know it today actually start with the Casuals back in the 1980s?
How we now shop for apparel & trainers has changed massively since the 1980s, but the demand for certain styles still remains. Some adidas trainer releases have seen re-sale values in their thousands with the demand for sought after trainers now at an all time high. Whether you’re a 3 stripes fanatic or just like a decent pair of trainers you’ve probably heard of the term “Hypebeast” before. So what actually are Hypebeasts and how relevant are they, if at all, to the original Casual scene of the 1980s?
Above: The classic 80s Casual look with the Sergio Tacchini Star track top (left) as famously worn by John McEnroe.SHOP NOW
Hypebeasts are generally in their late teens or early 20s and collect highly sought after streetwear & trainers from brands’ that are deemed “super cool” by other fellow Hypebeasts. If you’ve ever seen the queues outside Supreme stores on release day then the odds are that 99% of them are “Hypebeasts” whether they like to admit it or not. Hypebeast culture in general has sky rocketed in recent years thanks to social media & the accessibility of product online. Raffles have made certain releases even more “Hyped” and resale values of items have gone through the roof.
Above: The classic 80s Casual look with the Benetton Rugby Shirt (left) which was recently re-launched last year.SHOP NOW
But, and it’s a big but, buying rare and exclusive trainers or apparel is certainly nothing new. Here in the UK it was the Casuals that really started our own homegrown trainer scene. Coming off the back of B-Boy culture from the Bronx, style driven sportswear, European football glory, a new generation of fitness freaks & highly profiled tennis stars, the late 70s & early 80s became a melting pot of casual sportswear & athletic trainers. It was all about who had the best gear on and a way for the young working classes to look & feel good. Sourcing rare & exclusive adidas trainers, wearing the latest Tacchini track top, Benetton rugby shirt or Pringle Argyle knit became almost cult like. Entrepreneurial retailers like Wade Smith in Liverpool cashed in on the Casual scene by spotting the new trend. Smith would drive over to Germany in a van and bring back unknown adidas models with Casuals flocking to his store in their thousands to bag a pair of Trimm Trab or Forest Hills.
Above: A young Casual browses the trainer wall of Wade Smith’s iconic Liverpool store back in the 1980s.SHOP TRAINERS
After Margaret Thatcher came into power in 1979, unemployment in the UK had literally doubled by 1985. Times were hard for the average working class family and if you were struggling to put food on the table, spending £100 on a pair of trainers for your teenage son wasn’t really an option. The majority of Casuals were working class & grafted for their “grails”. The ones that didn’t have the money would just simply steal from sportswear shops. Moody Lacoste polo shirts were a cheaper alternative than the real thing but no-one really wanted to be associated with wearing fakes. It was all about following the latest terrace trends, one-upmanship and who had the most expensive gear on. If you didn’t “Dress” the part you weren’t a Casual, it was as simple as that.
Above: It’s got to be 3 stripes, trainer culture originally started in the UK with the Casuals.SHOP TRAINERS
So how do modern Hypebeasts compare with the original Casuals? The concept is relatively the same. Collecting & sourcing rare trainers is certainly nothing new. However, Hypebeast culture is largely controlled by the brands themselves by only releasing limited numbers of a product to create further “Hype”. This particular retail model continues to dominate the majority of releases. Back in the early 80s it was the Casuals that dictated what was cool and what wasn’t. Let’s not also forget that it took adidas a good 5-10 years from the early 80s to market their gear with a more lifestyle approach. It wasn’t until 1986 when Run DMC signed an endorsement deal with adidas for $1.6 million, that adidas really started to see the impact of subculture & music for the German sportswear brand moving forward. The adidas trainers’ the Casuals were sourcing were originally made for playing sports like tennis, handball & running. They were performance shoes, not something that were really designed to sell out in seconds on release day.
Above: The Fila Settanta Mk1 track top was a must have track style for any young casual seen here in classic navy & red.SHOP NOW
It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of Hypebeats don’t actually buy products to wear, they buy them to sell on and make a profit. The ones who are splashing out £1000 on the latest “drops” to wear themselves aren’t exactly painters & decorators on an apprentice wage from a council estate are they? There’s a general conception that a lot of Hypebeasts are just spoilt little rich kids who can get what they want on tap thanks to the bank of mummy & daddy. Some are however quite entrepreneurial in how they source and resell items. You could argue that modern day Casuals have become more like “Hypebeasts” in recent years with how they buy their products. One thing is for sure though, it was the Casuals that really kicked off trainer culture in the UK back in the 1980s & not some Z rate celebrity influencer on Instagram.
Just remember to keep it Casual!