Hype culture: modern society’s current obsession. It’s what makes stars like TikTok’s Charli D’Amelio so absurdly popular, why Netflix releases like Outer Banks and All American gained so much traction in such a short amount of time. It also has completely revolutionized the world of fashion and streetwear. Taking advantage of this generation’s fascination with “finding the next big thing” (according to the Bagpipe) and exaggerated capitalism, the massive fad has allowed brands such as Supreme, Off-White, and Palace to skyrocket in popularity. These types of companies’ success can be attributed to limited product release, exciting collaborations, and recognizability, among other factors.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a hype brand’s “hype” is limited merchandise and under-producing stock, despite high demand. Essentially, what these companies do is release their product, but in extremely limited quantities, which makes each item much rarer and therefore shoots up the price. Like, massively shoots. For example, take a basketball. A regular Spalding ball retails for $24.85 at Walmart. A Supreme basketball? Twenty-five thousand. Twenty-five thousand dollars. Why? It is extremely rare- it is estimated that there are only around 70 of these worldwide. Products are extremely hard to obtain, and most are only available through pop-up stores, exclusive drops, or the resale market.
The resale market is a whole other beast in itself. When products drop, because of previously discussed limited stock, it’s already hard enough to secure for the people that want it, but there is another challenge: people who only buy products to resell them. Between people who want items for personal use and those trying to obtain and resell for a profit, purchasing is extremely competitive and in the end, only a small fraction of people actually get what they want. People who missed out on retail price and still want the product end up having to purchase second-hand, driving prices up to 30 times their original value.
Another major aspect of hype culture is premium collaborations. Among the most iconic include Adidas x Yeezy, Nike x Off-White, Supreme x Louis Vuitton (this collab produced a few of the most expensive items in Supreme AND Louis Vuitton’s history), and my personal favorite- Crocs x Balenciaga. Collabs amplify a brand’s reach to expand to new audiences, help curate new, creative content or put a fresh spin on an outdated concept, among many other benefits.
Recognizability is also detrimental to a hype brand’s prosperity. These brands simply would not be able to sell seemingly basic products for hundreds of dollars if people didn’t know who they were. If you were to talk to any teenager, they most likely have at least heard of Supreme. This can mostly be attributed to their marketing strategies, which are widely regarded as legendary due to their massive success, even though they are vastly different from its precedent. Supreme is built off a focus on exclusivity, generating powerful apparel releases with minimal advertising. Their cult-ish following is also responsible for a large chunk of their marketing through user-generated material, though celebrity endorsements do help them as well. Finally, Supreme always sets a veil of mystery over their brand, be it through their quirky, yet very simple website or their vague, blunt emails- they always leave you reaching for more.
The fad of hype culture currently dominates the modern world of fashion and pop culture, and their rising influence doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. These brands have Gen Z wrapped around their finger, and as the generation begins to make their own money and start making their purchases, they will flourish even more.