Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Threadless Streetwear, Maybe?

While the article about streetwear by Jessica Pallay was short but it provided just enough information for anyone not in-the-know to be curious and to have a general sense of what it is all about. And what does Threadless have anything to do with this? Maybe it's just me but when I started reading the article, Threadless immediately came to my mind.

T-shirts from freshjive Spring 09 collection

According to Pallay, there's the exclusive consumers and there's the mainstream consumers who only search for "the fashion derived from the streetwear movement, such as printed hoodies or colorful sneakers, and not the movement itself" (Pallay 2). Needless to say, Threadless, as a "newbie" to the playground, cannot compare to established brands such as Stussy, 10. Deep, or Freshjive. However, given Threadless's phenomenal success in recent years, it has become one of the biggest business serving the mainstream-consumers end of the spectrum. However, if we throw the exclusivity out of the equation, T-shirt designs from the name brands do not differ much from Threadless' designs. This may be contributed to the fact that quite a few brands are going with "collaborative projects with young artists," the "undiscovered talent" (Pallay 3).

T-shirt design from threadless (left) and Stussy (right)

As seen above, it is hard to distinguish which tees is from which company, at least to the not-in-the-know consumers. If companies like Stussy starts going for the "undiscovered" young artists designed T-shirts, then Threadless certainly would be a worthwhile rival. With a community of consumers and artists alike that continuously contribute to the selection and production process of each T-shirt, Threadless gives the consumers the freedom of choosing a (not so) unique design to wear, promoting the individuality aspect of streetwear. To the "real" streetwear consumers, Threadless may seem like a streetwear-wannabe brand. Yet it certainly satisfies the need of providing the "look" to the mass, especially when Threadless doesn't dictate its T-shirt production. It may be new, but definitely "it's making streetwear interesting again" (Ukula Fashion).

Moreover, with the price range around $20 a tee, Threadless does justice for most average consumers who are not concerned with the streetwear movement. With a good amount of participating artists submitting designs regularly, Threadless also provides a avenue of choices unavailable at other brands.

However, as a graphic design student, it appears to me that most of the designs on Threadless are mediocre at best. While there are certainly great ones, tacky DIY styles dominate the selection. This is probably one of the major aspects that keep the mainstream consumers and the exclusive consumers apart. As Threadless thrives on great quantity, it suffers from poor quality. This might be a good thing, otherwise there would be no distinction between the trendsetters and the followers.

Blog #5
by Nghia Trinh

Pallay, Jessica. "A Crowded Street as Streetwear Is Disseminated into the Mainstream, What Will Become of an Underground Movement?" 2007
Ukula Fashion Threadless - skinnyCorp.
1st image from
2nd image from
3rd image from

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