There isn’t much of a street wear culture in the city where I grew up (I have talked about this in my own blog in a post called For the Love of Sneakers). There are trends when it comes to clothing and style but there is no such thing as a street wear and hype culture. If you still don’t know, I was born and raised in the Philippines before coming to the US 6 years ago and I lived in Bacolod City, the City of Smiles. Bacolod is an hour plane ride from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which is probably the area that most people are familiar with.
A month ago, I had to go back home for personal reasons but while I was there, I was able to interview Austin (@austinlaspinas), a 19 year old architecture student and a trap and hip hop DJ known for his sick beats and his fit. I was curious to find out how he was able to get into the streetwear culture and rock it in a society where it is basically non-existent.
Austin’s obsession began with the Jordan Son of Mars in the Hornets colorway that was gifted to him by his mom back in 2013. With this sneaker he began to be more conscious of his style and that gradually propelled him into the Western streetwear culture. Among his favorite brands are Anti Social Social Club, Supreme and Off-White.
With the city being so small and only a few people rocking the clothes that is so commonly seen daily in the streets of New York and Los Angeles, Austin said that it was a bit of a struggle to get the items that he wants since it is not readily available. Aside from stand alone brand stores like Nike and Adidas there’s no streetwear and lifestyle stores. If there is any, he would have to travel to other islands and cities in order to find them. Nike Outlet and Factory stores for example, are only a handful in the Philippines with more than 7,000 islands.
“Take the Space Jams for example,” he said, “it was released in Bacolod way later than everywhere else internationally and when we got them, men’s sizes weren’t even available. They were only in youth.” For Austin to be able to purchase the sneakers that he wants, he would have to check his hook ups in Cebu and Manila (cities in the Philippines) which has a bigger sneaker inventory. Although he did say that a lot of these sneakers sit on the shelves anyway because there really isn’t such a big market for them.
Sole Slam Manila (@sole.slam) started off as a sneaker convention and has now evolved with the launch of their own concept store and merchandise. According to Austin, this is the biggest store where you can get your hands on the latest and hottest streetwear and sneaker release. But Sole Slam isn’t accessible to Austin who lives in a different area in the Philippines.
Austin’s stepsister lives in New York and she is one of his hook ups. She would line up for pop up shops to get him the latest gears. I must say, she is a wonderful sibling because I personally don’t have the patience to do these kind of things.
Being a part time DJ, Austin relies on the money that he gets from gigs to fund his lifestyle. Austin said that he would wait online for merch drops from his favorite brands like Supreme and Anti Social Social Club and together with his friend, they would get it shipped to the Philippines for the crazy shipping price of $40-$50 that would usually arrive within 2 weeks. Austin would also purchase or pre-order from local resellers.
His favorite artist is Kanye and Austin was able to watch him perform in 2016 during the Paradise International Music Festival in Manila. He was able to score a Pablo shirt which unfortunately wasn’t in his size but he was able to flip it for twice the amount he got it for. The Air Yeezy Red Octobers is something that he wants to get for himself and in his opinion it is the best sneaker that Kanye ever came up with.
Austin took a time out in buying sneakers with his last cop being the Reebok x Kendrick Lamar Perfect Splits. It is a versatile sneaker which I can understand why Austin really likes this one. The silhouette is a classic and the black and white colorway practically goes with any fit.
Earlier during the year, the sneaker and streetwear community in the city held a meet up and with the group being modest in size, they were able to establish friendships across the board as people who share the same hobbies and interests. Austin names his friend, Justin Bedonia (@justinbed_) as the biggest Air Jordan 1 collector in the city.
“It is hard to be a hypebeast in a city that doesn’t have that kind of culture but I see this as a hobby. I have 4 more years before I complete my degree in architecture and that is my passion. Being a DJ and a sneaker and streetwear enthusiast is my hobby and I want to keep copping and rocking the items that I want. Rock don’t stock is what I go by.”
I can totally understand Austin’s sentiments. This is the city where I, too, grew up and there was never a hype culture to begin with. Looking at the current situation, I think this is already way better than how it was when I left 6 years ago. Artists, celebrities and social media plays a huge role when it comes to the style influence of the current generation. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress of my little city when it comes to the streetwear, sneaker and hype culture in the coming years.