“Young people go to great lengths for designer clothes and to be able to fit in”

Branded clothing and street culture seem inextricably linked. Everyone uses clothing to shape their identity, but how does that differ from the importance of clothing in street culture? Jeroen van den Broek, criminologist and researcher at Erasmus School of Law, was a guest in the talk show De Sociëteit and spoke about street culture and designer clothing.

In all of society, people use fashion to shape their identity.  The same goes for young people in street culture. These young people are part of marginalised parts of society, where people feel that they do not have the same opportunities as others in society. They often wear expensive designer clothes; the question is where this phenomenon comes from. “You see that in these kinds of environments (street culture, ed.) people overcompensate with luxury goods in a broader sense, not just by using clothing. They use it as a way to shape their identity,” according toV an den Broek. However, this phenomenon is not found among young people or in street culture, Van den Broek says: “We all live in a consumer society that pushes us to the limit, where everyone has the feeling that they have to join the rat race, while not everyone can do that.”


Some young people spend an excessive amount of money on designer clothes and, as a result, find themselves in financial problems. Van den Broek emphasises that it is not only young people or people from street culture that are dealing with these problems, but that it applies to the entire spectrum of society. However, young people in a marginalised society have less to spend, which means they can run into problems more easily. Young people are indeed willing to pay a lot for branded clothing, according to Van den Broek: “What you see, what is described in the literature, and what I also see in the context of Rotterdam is that young people who commit a crime to get money do not do so to pay for their studies or to buy a house, but most often for short-term satisfaction. And a lot of that money goes to branded clothing and things like that. Anything to be able to participate.” Of course, this does not mean that the majority of young people in street culture commit a crime to obtain luxury goods.

A message from the suits

Right now, the wrong people are making money from street culture. Many initiatives in fashion and music originate from the street, but the major record labels and clothing brands are the ones that make money from this. The phenomenon of street culture is trending throughout society and large companies are making use of it, often without the initiators of the street culture benefiting from it, according to Van den Broek: “It is no longer a message from the streets but a message from the suits.”

Striving for perfection

Everyone portrays a perfect image of themselves on social channels. It shows which standards we all should meet, while young people from marginalised environments do not always have the opportunities to do so. Van den Broek: "They experience exclusion, while perversely enough style elements from their street culture are used in commerce to present them with social goals that everyone should meet." The role that social media play is huge and is of high influence on the 21st-century consumer society. Young people and large companies constantly show what prosperity looks like, which leads to a greater urge for luxury goods such as designer clothes.

More information

Watch the full episode of De Sociëteit here (in Dutch).

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