How Star Power Illuminated Streetwear!

As we have discussed in previous blog posts, streetwear began as a fashion style that reflected the mood and tastes of people in urban communities. It combined practicality with some cool, or “fresh,” details to make a useable yet attractive garment. This balance began to tilt  more towards the detailed, aesthetically-concerned side as celebrities co-opted and popularized streetwear. Rappers, basketball players, and other famous people have brought streetwear from the streets of New York and Los Angeles to the runways of Milan and Paris. Because of their influence and cultural relevancy, celebrities claim much responsibility in taking streetwear into the mainstream.

Rappers have probably been the most influential celebrities when it comes to changing fashion. They often come from the neighborhoods where streetwear originated, so they did not so much change their own fashion as reveal it to a larger audience. Jay Z, for example, began his career sporting jerseys and headbands that had been popular for a long time in the Brooklyn area where he was from. His fame helped catapult these wardrobe pieces into regular use. More broadly, rappers popularized the sagging pants look that reveals the wearer’s underwear. This way of wearing pants had been popular in urban communities for many years, but it did not break into the mainstream until rappers brought it there. Rappers like Lil Wayne and 50 Cent would perform on nationally televised awards programs with their pants sagging, which was probably the first time many people had seen this style. Nowadays, however, jerseys and sagging pants are commonly worn by a diverse group of people.

Basketball players share a place in popularizing and innovating streetwear. Basketball’s main contribution to streetwear is the basketball sneaker, which has become so popular that it might as well simply be called “the sneaker.” Basketball players have been wearing these types of shoes for a long time, but the style attracted interest from common people as the sport increasingly took a centerstage position in pop culture. While most players gave people fashion inspiration, Michael Jordan took it to the next level and invented the “Air Jordan” in collaboration with Nike. The Air Jordan provided consumers with a quality piece of basketball culture that was coupled with the legendary Jordan name. This combination led to an explosion of popularity and demand for Air Jordans that continues through today.

Michael Jordan’s joint effort with Nike to design and produce his own version of a streetwear classic inspired and paved the way for countless other celebrities to create their own fashion lines. Now, a number of basketball players, including Lebron James, have their own shoe companies that elicit widespread acclaim and demand. From P. Diddy to Kanye West, rappers have also capitalized on the streetwear phenomenon they helped create by developing their own lines and products. A common theme in celebrity-led streetwear brands is their dependence on collaborations with larger retailers like Nike and Adidas. This, however, does not indicate that these celebrities are not powerful enough on their own, but that their influence attracts even the biggest, most established names in fashion.

Grammar Bytes vs. Grammarly: The Advantages of Both

As the internet becomes more ubiquitous in our education system, students have more and more resources at their fingertips. Information that was once confined to the classroom is now available on students’ phones and computers wherever they may be. Two of these resources are Grammar Bytes and Grammarly. I explored and tested both to see the advantages of each and their value to students like myself.

Grammar Bytes is a website with a very vast library of grammar-related terms, examples, instructional videos, and activities. The most basic feature is the dictionary of grammar terms. The dictionary carefully defines about 75 terms and provides numerous examples of each concept to clarify any confusion that may still exist after reading the definition. Some of the more complicated ideas are linked to videos in which an instructor goes over the intricacies of the application in detail. I found this dictionary extremely helpful and clear, especially as compared to the dryness of other sites like OWL.

In addition to its dictionary, Grammar Bytes provides students with a large number of activities that further develop their grammar skills. Grammar Bytes divides up the activities into different categories that each relate to a topic that was individually defined in the term library. This makes all of the site’s content inter-related and clear. Furthermore, each of these categories has five activities with differing levels of difficulty, which gives students a vast array of options to improve their grammar skills. The exercises are interactive and provide immediate feedback, so students can learn from their mistakes as they do their work. After submitting your answer, a screen with a witty graphic and saying pops up that adds a sense of fun to doing what may otherwise be boring practice. For students who do not have time to do all of the activities, Grammar Bytes provides short “tips and rules” that quickly go over the fundamentals of the different grammar concepts.

While Grammar Bytes teaches you grammar, Grammarly corrects your grammar. Grammarly is a service that corrects your grammar as you type like a sort of grammar spell check. I downloaded this extension on my computer to discover its capabilities, and I was not disappointed. The service works all the time, regardless of what kind of writing you may be doing. This means that it is equally as effective in correcting the grammar of social media posts as it is in correcting the grammar of academic paper. This feature is kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I find that Grammarly does do a good job of fixing pretty much all of my grammar mistakes, which ensures that my writing is proper and my grades will be good. On the other hand, however, it offers corrections without explaining the reasoning behind them. Therefore, Grammarly is far less of a teaching tool than Grammar Byte, but it does have its role to play. I would suggest that students serious about learning grammar use Grammar Byte, and those who just want to double-check their work use Grammarly.

The Death of Net Neutrality

Net neutrality and the protection of Americans’ privacy have been a running theme in recent public discourse and in our own class. These two issues are distinct but overlap in several key areas. Net neutrality is the idea that internet should be a level playing field for all internet users regardless of audience size or financial capabilities. Broadband internet providers like Comcast and Verizon are striving to undermine this set of rules so that they can extract fees from websites in exchange for better, faster service. This would obviously create an uneven platform in which more powerful companies have advantages over smaller ones.

The pro-net neutrality website “savetheinternet.com” has an article explaining the basics of net neutrality and how it relates to internet users’ privacy and fairness. The post describes how users depend on the openness and fairness of the internet to promote their causes and connect with others. It argues that eliminating net neutrality would destroy the very foundation that facilitates this interconnectivity. The post argues that small businesses and people of color would be particularly affected by the end of net neutrality because they rely on the openness of the internet to gain business and express their views.

In a world without net neutrality, broadband companies could selectively suppress certain ideas and businesses, showing how the policy is also a guardian of privacy. The savetheinternet.com post argues that companies would be able to limit the exposure of activists, especially those of color, based on their beliefs. The suppression of dissidents or those out of the mainstream is troubling because it suggests that internet providers have access to enough information about individual users that they can marginalize them. This lack of privacy is complemented by a desire to curb freedom of speech, one of the most prized parts of the American system. Furthermore, current net neutrality rules force internet companies to get FCC approval before selling users’ personal browsing data to advertisers. Without this safeguard, internet companies would basically have free reign to share personal and financial data with whomever they would like.

Despite all of the consequences of eliminating net neutrality, it seems that the age of an open, fair internet is coming to a close. The article “Comcast asks the FCC to prohibit states from enforcing net neutrality” provides the most recent example of how powerful broadband companies are lobbying the government to effectively end net neutrality. This article says that Comcast is now trying to urge the FCC, part of the federal government, to nullify state laws that uphold net neutrality principles. Since President Trump took office, these companies have made big strides in their campaign against net neutrality and even got the FCC to back off of its Obama-era net neutrality rules. With the federal government off their backs, Comcast and other providers are now targeting state-level regulations that continue to prevent them from creating that uneven playing field. As their crusade intensifies, a backlash is growing among average citizens and many lawmakers, so the future of net neutrality remains far from settled.

Sources:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/11/comcast-asks-the-fcc-to-prohibit-states-from-enforcing-net-neutrality/

https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now

The Business Behind Streetwear Collaborations

As we’ve discussed in previous blogs, streetwear is a style inspired by, designed for, and marketed to the urban masses. This demographic tends to be young and not so well-off, which explains the success of cheap retailers like Zara and H&M that provide appealing styles at low prices. Similar to these cheap, massive companies, streetwear pioneers like Supreme and The Hundreds sell relatively inexpensive products, but they limit their supply to such a degree that a ridiculously expensive resale market arises. This how they create their hype: making cheap pieces of clothing inaccessible to the average consumer. As such, the Supreme logo carries prestige that is comparable to an LV monogram. Streetwear, however, is moving away from this model as it dips its toes in the high-end fashion industry and targets a richer, more refined demographic.

In 2002, Supreme put Louis Vuitton’s logo on some of its clothing without getting prior clearance to do so. Expectedly, Louis Vuitton sued Supreme and made them cease and desist using their trademarked branding. Fifteen years after this legal and creative battle, Louis Vuitton and Supreme teamed up for an official, authorized collaborative capsule that sent shockwaves throughout the fashion industry. The collaboration was so shocking because of the companies’ previous dispute and the fact that it seemed to mark Supreme’s movement away from the exclusive streetwear industry into the high fashion orbit. With this shift came higher prices which combined with the same exclusivity to create an unprecedented resale market. Normal Supreme hoodies sell for about $150, but hoodies in the Louis Vuitton collaboration sold for $1000 retail. While the normal $150 hoodie may see about a four time markup, the price of the Louis Vuitton x Supreme hoodie increased six to eight times in the resale market.

Supreme’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton illustrates an important business-related point: the streetwear and high fashion markets are becoming one. What were once two distinct markets are converging into a single hybrid market that targets a narrow, elite demographic. The way this is happening is interesting from a entrepreneurial standpoint as Supreme has remained loyal to its core consumer base while expanding into the upper echelons of the fashion business. This approach has proven to be very clever because Supreme has increased its allure by associating itself with expensive, exclusive labels without narrowing its audience. With one foot in streetwear and another in high fashion, Supreme has diversified its consumer base, which protects it from possible changes in tastes and trends. Additionally, it has yet again reinvented itself, as it has done throughout its history, to maintain interest and loyalty. Supreme has demonstrated a growth mindset in this way—it embraces innovation and expansion as a means of staying relevant and appealing. Through collaborations like the one with Louis Vuitton, Supreme, and streetwear at large, has proven itself capable of not only innovation but improvement. For example, the cheap blanks that Supreme usually prints its graphics on were replaced by high-quality fabrics and designs in the Louis Vuitton collaboration. Improvement, innovation, and adaptability are some of the most crucial elements in developing and sustaining success—streetwear embraces all of them.

Who Can Save Net Neutrality?

The advent of the internet fundamentally changed human life, for better or worse. The internet gave people access to resources and communication networks that far surpassed any previous technology, and it gave rise to a whole new crop of companies and services. The early years of the internet were marked by rapid expansion, but this growing cyber Wild West soon showed its need to be regulated, which has been a complicated legal battle for over 15 years. The articles “The Internet Doesn’t Have to Be Free” and “Technology Historian Crushes Internet Myths” detail how net neutrality has dominated the debate about the internet’s rulebook and future.

Net neutrality is a term coined by a Columbia law professor that refers to keeping the internet a free and equal playing field for all users, both on the consumption and production sides. This battle has pitted fans of free speech against broadband internet companies as the latter has selectively slowed down the download speeds of certain content. Some providers, for example, imposed artificial delays on loading the very popular streaming service Netflix, which inconvenienced Netflix users ability to consume entertainment on the site. The providers essentially held Netflix hostage and demanded a ransom to restore normal download speeds. This is a quintessential example of the consequences of limited net neutrality: providers can discriminate against certain internet users in exchange for financial gain. The discriminating companies argue that they have contributed to building the internet, so it is only fair for them to extract payment from companies that would otherwise free-ride off of their hard work. On the other side of the debate, those “free-riding” companies and ordinary internet users often argue that the internet should be an open forum for all legal content, and restricting this freedom is restricting freedom of speech at large.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has waffled on the issue of net neutrality since the rise of the internet, but its stance has always had little impact on the reality of the situation. In 2002, FCC Chairman Michael Powell declared that the internet is not within the FCC’s jurisdiction, so the body has no power to regulate it. Despite this decree, the FCC, under other leadership, has tried to institute regulations that maintain net neutrality, but they have been ignored, challenged, or defeated in court. Powell’s statement delegitimized any FCC-imposed regulation or suggestion regarding broadband Internet service, so all subsequent actions taken by the FCC have been ineffective or null.

Without the FCC able to effectively regulate, the fate of the internet seems to be in the hands of Congress and internet consumers. Congress has the ability to pass enforceable laws that could help maintain net neutrality, but Andrew Russell points out that members of Congress likely do not have the necessary appetite or knowledge to craft smart, effective legislation to deal with this issue. Therefore, the last hope for net neutrality lies in the hands of individual broadband internet consumers, who can exercise their power to demand a free, fair, open internet.

Supreme at 1 Billion

Supreme is the quintessential, iconic streetwear company. Founded in 1994, Supreme rose to prominence by catering to underground the skate culture of that era and knocking off high-end brands like Louis Vuitton. In the two decades since its inception, the company has grown to become a staple of modern fashion. It singlehandedly innovated the now very popular streetwear retail strategy: unleash immense demand but produce very limited supply. This approach makes customers compete with one another just to get their hands on one Supreme’s products, regardless of their appearance or quality. This is what is known as “hype” amongst young people, but entrepreneurs would probably call this “genius.”

Supreme’s hype depends on its relevance and popularity though, so any tarnishing of its name would ruin the company. This need to be cool to make money separated its business model from any other that was in fashion. Hermès, for example, attracts customers because of its reputation for quality and craftsmanship, so its success is linked to its reputation, rather than possibly capricious tastes. So far, Supreme has been able to maintain its hype because it constantly innovates and reinvents itself. New designs, fresh collaborations, and limited stock each season perpetuate the interest in and demand for anything that has the word “Supreme” printed on the tag.

Recent news about the company threatens to destroy its authenticity as a creative, hip streetwear company: Supreme sold a 50 percent stake in its company for 500 million dollars. Some simple math will lead you to a market evaluation of Supreme at 1 billion dollars. The Carlyle Group, the investment firm that bought half of the brand, is a multi-national, multi-billion dollar enterprise that owns countless businesses in a vast array of industries. The Carlyle Group seems to represent the corporate equivalent of the fashion establishment Supreme was founded to antagonize. Many fans of Supreme viewed the Carlyle Group deal as a stain on Supreme’s legacy and a blow to its appeal because they believe it has abandoned its roots and its immense size means it cannot be in touch with today’s street culture. Perhaps this argument has some truth to it, but Supreme probably does not care much considering it continues to be very popular.

While the news of this acquisition disappointed some Supreme fans, others saw this as a legitimization and pivotal moment in streetwear history. A brand founded to be an alternative to the boring, corporate, multi-national, inauthentic clothing companies that dominated the fashion world has become and transformed the establishment. For Supreme to have an estimated market value of 1 billion dollars, it must make an astronomical amount of money each year, which is even more astounding considering it releases supplies much less than its demand. One easy way to see how it has upended the fashion industry is the shift of traditionally modest companies like Balmain and Givenchy into the realm of streetwear. Their creative directors see the writing on the wall and have adopted a growth mindset to steer their brands towards streetwear, the new dominant force in the fashion world. Therefore, Supreme, with all of its quirks and gimmicks, now rivals any other high-end fashion house and is truly a force to be reckoned with.

Are video games causing aggression?

                Many say there is no link between video games and real-life aggression, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Two meta-analyses, based on aggregated data of over 134,000 people, show a link between the consumption of violent media and more aggressive behavior in real-life. These studies examined both correlational and experimental studies. Correlational analysis only shows that aggressive, violent people play violent video games, but this could simply mean that these games attract more naturally aggressive people. By randomly selecting participants to play violent and non-violent video games then measuring levels of aggression, the experimental analysis, however, allowed the researchers to claim that playing violent video games was responsible for increased violence. These studies found that exposure to violent media caused what most psychologists would consider a “small to medium” increase in levels of aggression. Even this seemingly slight increase “causes a doubling or tripling of the number of people who are highly aggressive. after playing a violent video game.”

                Despite the existence of evidence that suggests violent video games cause players to become more violent, many researchers still discount their role in emboldening the worst of parts of human behavior. Many publications and media outlets are reluctant to share this finding because the evidence is not completely indisputable yet, but it seems to be getting more and more reliable. Video game companies dispute the dangers of their products because selling goods that seem to turn innocent kids into monsters is obviously not a very good marketing strategy. The article points out that these skeptics often cite the declining violent crime rate that coincided with the rise in video game popularity as proof that violent videos games do not cause aggression. This argument ignores the research that strongly makes the case for the link, and it does not consider that video games may contribute an increasing portion to the declining violent crime rate. It is certainly possible for violent crime to decrease while video games bear an increasing burden of responsibility for the remaining incidents.

                 As studies like the one cited in this writing show that violent games can make some players more aggressive, we must come up with a solution to make sure the exceptions to the rule do not become the rule itself. There really is not a good political solution to this problem because we cannot prohibit people from playing these games or control the content of them. Therefore, I think that this is a matter of personal and parental responsibility. Parents and friends of active violent video game users should try to monitor the behavior of the players to ensure that they do not become unusually aggressive. Of course, not every video game player becomes violent or aggressive, but given the statistics we should be especially cautious of people who become consumed with this type of entertainment. In return, we should expect that players who notice their behavior is changing because of the games express their emotions and concerns. Violent video games are here to stay, but that does not have to have any negative implications for our society if we have an open forum to discuss the potential side effects of these games.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-changing-culture/201212/yes-violent-video-games-do-cause-aggression

Paper or Laptops

The introduction of modern technology into age-old learning environments has caused a debate over whether computers and e-reading devices help or hurt people’s ability to learn. “Learning in the Age of Digital Distraction” describes how technology inclines people to multitask more, which impairs our ability to retain information. In the classroom, computers distract us from the lessons being taught; in our personal lives, our increased multitasking causes emotional and psychologic stress and anxiety. In “A Textbook Dilemma: Digital or Paper,” the author describes studies that reveal digital and print readers have the same level of main idea comprehension, but print readers seem to retain more details than their digital counterparts do. The author expresses some optimism as digital reading is in its infancy, so it may develop to the point where it surpasses print. According to a Pew Research Center survey, reading levels in the U.S. have remained steady in recent years despite new access to books. The poll also found that most Americans still read print books, and very few of the surveyed use e-reading devices exclusively. “Attention Students: Put Away Your Laptops” serves as a warning to students by explaining that taking notes by hand requires a slower pace and allows the students to absorb more information than taking notes on a laptop or tablet. Like the e-readers studied in “A Textbook Dilemma: Digital or Paper,” digital notetakers were found to do equally well when it came to recalling facts and figures but significantly worse on conceptual ideas.

To build on the ideas found in these four articles, I located two articles that describe the advantages of taking notes slowly and reading paper books. The first, “Should Students Take Notes on Paper or Laptops? It Depends,” argues that what matters more than the method of taking notes is the speed with which they are taken. Studies cited in this article again show that taking notes slowly increases how much information students absorb, but students using laptops or tablets can retain equally as their hand-writing counterparts if they type slowly and selectively. “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper vs. Screens” makes the scientific case for the advantages of reading printed texts rather than digital ones. The author describes how the brain views each letter as an individual physical object, so it creates a “map” out the text that increases our understanding and navigability of the material. According to research, physical books seem to lend themselves more to this mental mapping because they are tangible, which gives them an advantage over e-texts.

Links:

Should students take notes on paper or laptops? It depends, studies say

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/reading-paper-screens/

Digital Identity

In “Blogging to Establish Your Digital Identity,” the author describes the usefulness of blogging in finding work after graduation and improving your writing skills. The article also details how writing a blog is an effective and somewhat easy way to showcase your work and expertise while also enlarging your digital footprint. The author identifies three problems people often see with starting a blog: it’s time consuming, it’s difficult, and it’s expensive. In reality, blogging can help shorten the time it takes someone to write, many find it to be not that challenging, and new platforms allow writers to blog for very low costs. Therefore, blogging seems to be a fun, appealing way to sharpen your writing skills and gain more exposure online.

In this article, the author suggests that we google ourselves to discover our digital imprint, which was the topic of our last post. When I searched myself for the last activity, I found a few articles related to my business, several of my social media profiles, and some pages about my time on the high school football team. I was pretty satisfied with the content of what I found as I thought it portrayed me in a positive light, but I was disappointed at how long it took me to find the content. My name, Matt Steiner, is relatively ordinary, so my search yielded tons of results, the vast majority of which had nothing to do with me. Starting a blog could be the solution to this problem by increasing my digital presence and associate my name with more professional, respectable work.

The popularity of social media and the internet at large has increased the need to maintain a good, positive digital presence. Being able to control the blog’s content makes it an appealing opportunity because then I would have the power to portray myself as I want to be portrayed rather than leaving it up to other anonymous websites. This last point is especially important to young college students like myself because we will soon be entering a very competitive workforce run by employers who understand the importance of the digital world. Anybody who is interested in having a job in the near future should look into starting a blog; after reading “Blogging to Establish Your Digital Identity,” I certainly am!

Blog Post #2: Streetwear vs. High Fashion

In recent years, two styles have dominated the clothing world: high fashion and streetwear. The former is as old as fashion itself and has been used throughout history to project wealth, status, and privilege. Streetwear is the antithesis of this rigid, unhumorous style. Streetwear is of, for, and by the people.

While high fashion depends on a top-down hierarchy, streetwear represents the mood and interests of the masses. Names like Yves Saint Laurent and Coco Chanel illicit images of glamorous movie stars who seem to live in a world unrecognizable to the average person, but clothing manufacturers filter these images down to the masses, albeit with reduced quality. Kate Middleton’s wedding gown, for example, cost thousands of dollars, yet replicas and lookalikes popped up at low-end retailers soon after she wore it. This type of top-down diffusion creates a culture in which elite designers and models dictate trends.

Streetwear rejects this system by reversing the flow, so that trends are dictated from the bottom up. The staples of streetwear were born from practicality and function, rather than overt style or aesthetics. Bomber jackets, for example, originated in WWII for air force pilots; these jackets were intended to suit the needs of the working military member, not to serve some artsy purpose. This example reflects the general difference between high fashion and streetwear: high fashion prioritizes form over function, whereas streetwear merges the two. Furthermore, having roots in practicality contributes to creating a bottom-up diffusion flow as luxury brands stylize common apparel, rather than common brands simplifying luxury apparel.

Underlying these contrasting hierarchies are different sources of publicity and clientele. High fashion has historically been associated with and marketed to the wealthy upper classes because of its expensiveness. High-end magazines like Vogue and events like New York Fashion Week detail and publicize the the latests high fashion trends. Streetwear, however, depends on the masses for popularity, so companies often use social media and celebrity endorsements to gain attention. An Instagram search of “#streetwear,” for example, yields an astounding 15 million results! Along with social media, celebrities have been extremely influential in elevating streetwear’s status and popularity. Rappers and basketball players have been particularly important to the streetwear culture because these celebrities are widely seen as in touch with the masses because of their often rapid rise to fame from humble beginnings. More obviously, these two groups of celebrities contain some of today’s most popular individuals, so they have particular sway over the culture.

Despite their many differences, streetwear and high fashion seem to be on the way to convergence. Luxury clothing companies are now producing streetwear staples with added attention to detail and a few extra zeros on the price tags. Streetwear companies have also incorporated more sophisticated designs and motifs into their products, and new higher-end streetwear companies have emerged. Arguably no person has been more important to the meeting of streetwear and high fashion than Kanye West. Kanye has exposed his mainstream audience to urban clothing styles, collaborated with huge companies like Adidas and Louis Vuitton, and even appeared on the cover of Vogue dressed in a streetwear style. With rappers taking over the upper echelons of popular culture, we have seen gold chains replace pearl necklaces, and we should expect to see bomber jackets replace tuxedo jackets.

https://www.vogue.com/article/kim-kardashian-and-kanye-west-keeping-up-with-kimye