What The Hell Does Hypebeast Even Mean?

They've invaded our malls!
ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano

It’s all over social media: hordes of frenetic youth, dressed in streetwear knockoffs (a favorite is the Anti Social Social Club T-shirt), are causing a stampede at your local mall while chanting and dancing to the earworm ditty, “Hayaan Mo Sila.” (Listen at your own risk.)

They call themselves “hypebeasts,” and their antics are usually met with annoyance, sometimes amusement, by those who witness them. Because of the widespread popularity of this gimmick, more hypebeast crews have been formed, meeting less than favorable consequences, such as getting banned from certain malls for causing riots and gang wars. Recently, Baguio City mayor Mauricio Domogan was so alarmed about the situation that he called for an intervention for these youngsters.

The hypebeast groups are quick to clarify, however, that they’re not violent by nature; they’re just fun-loving teens, hankering for self-expression, whose reputations have unfortunately been tarnished by a few bad eggs. Fair enough. 



But before these hypebeast gangs rose to popularity in the local scene, what exactly does hypebeast mean anyway?

Hypebeast finds its roots in streetwear culture, although there are no hard and fast definitions on what constitutes one. The term was first popularized in 2012 by rapper Trinidad James in his song, “All Gold Everything,” which goes: “Hypebeasts we know aboutchea’ / Don’t buy shoes unless they popular.”   

But it's been around far longer than that. Founded in 2005, the popular online magazine HYPEBEAST, with 5.5 million followers, presented insight into the so-called hypebeast lifestyle and aesthetic. The generally accepted definition is that it’s slang for someone who is a “beast” (or obsessed) about hyped-up fashion brands, and will thus undertake whatever means to achieve that hype. 

Urban Dictionary defines the term as: “A kid that collects clothing, shoes, and accessories for the sole purpose of impressing others. Although the individual may not have a dime to their name, they like to front like they are making far more then everybody else. Equipped with mommy's credit card the [hypebeast] will try his hardest to make sure he has every pair of [Nikes] he saw Jay-Z wearing on 106 & Park.”

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The term has been ascribed to (usually) well-off youths, who are hell-bent on purchasing popular and high-end streetwear brands such as Supreme, Stussy, and Billionaire Boys Club, as well as expensive kicks coveted by sneakerheads. They camp out overnight to await the next sneaker release by Yeezy or Drake, turn their nose away from brands that haven’t been hyped up online, and constantly show off their sneaker and snapback collections. 

These hypebeasts also spend much of their time curating their social media image by projecting a certain lifestyle, counting the likes from every OOTD posted. It’s commonly considered as an insult to be called a hypebeast—generally the urban version of a “social climber.”

How the term reached a different audience and was redefined is anyone’s guess. Our best hunch is that it’s simply the natural progression in the trickle-down nature of fashion. So, hypebeast: rambunctious teens with a desire for self-expression or urban designer brand wannabes? Take your pick.

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Sam Beltran
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