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Hood by Air: Deconstructing The Boundaries Of High Fashion
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Hood by Air: Deconstructing The Boundaries Of High Fashion

Picture of Michelle F.H.
Updated: 12 December 2015
Hood by Air, the brainchild of designer Shayne Oliver, is a standout New York-based luxury label in the world of classic menswear. Hood by Air is often described as an androgynous cult brand, a blend of streetwear and high fashion. With the initials ‘HBA’ splayed across oversized T-shirts and jeans, Hood by Air attracts the New Yorker ‘boy’ who is playful, curious, and comfortable in his own skin.

Since his first collection in 2007, Oliver has aimed to bring new and complex ideas to the runway and the streets. The core of his philosophy is to decontextualize a clothing trend in popular culture and redefine its use aesthetically and culturally. He consistently presents binaries in his fashion aesthetic: casual yet glamorous, punk yet well-tailored, and comfortable yet head-turning. His Spring 2016 collection pushes the limits of eccentricity with partitioned blazers and pants — a patchwork of fabrics resembling the careful yet eerie construction of Frankenstein’s monster. More shocking, however, are the accessories. The models suck on pacifiers while others wear constricting bling-studded mouthpieces. Social commentary takes the literal form of shiny buzzwords, including ‘COOL’ and ‘ICON,’ which are embedded above the models’ eyebrows.

The Spring 2016 motif of infantile glamour branches out of Oliver’s longstanding conversations with the fashion industry. He wills his audience to be daring and reveals not just the luxury but also the sense of community in a logo. This collection is appropriately titled ‘Galvanize,’ as it is arguably Oliver’s most shocking runway stint yet. Even Oliver’s Fall 2014 collection ended with an energizing performance by several models who danced and twirled their hair. His shows are spectacles with an atmosphere of intrigue that is heightened by his choice of accessories and piercing soundtrack.

Oliver orchestrates performances on the runway. It should not come as a surprise, then, that his clothes attract performers, not just celebrities like Kanye West and A$AP Rocky but also individuals who care about fashion and want to make a statement. Many of those who wear Hood by Air post their latest outfits on social media platforms or on their personal blogs. His fans are confident, bold, and dress well. They seek other personalities who feel similarly. With 399k followers on Instagram, Hood by Air is blurring the lines between high fashion and ready-to-wear. As Oliver said in an interview with Vogue, ‘There’s a lot of that element. I’m trying to make punk into ordinary. Looking back at my childhood, these things that I thought were so extreme, clothes from St. Mark’s or whatever, now I look at it like any old pair of jeans.’

Reaching new heights of popularity with each passing collection, Hood by Air soon became associated with ‘fuccboi fashion.’ Loosely defined, ‘fuccboi’ refers to a boy of ambiguous gender with an unconventional fashion sense. His ‘mindless’ taste in clothing is often assumed to result from a lack of originality, someone who wears brand names for the sake of it or who mimics their famous idols. In 2014, Oliver reclaimed the term by releasing a short film titled ‘FUCCBOI’ in conjunction with his fall collection. He stars in the video himself, sending the message that a ‘fuccboi’ knows what he’s doing and looks beautiful while doing it too.

With a Swarovski award for Menswear at the 2015 CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), Oliver’s success is just beginning. His clothes are born out of both design and idea. Oliver’s severed and genderless garments question the definition of high fashion, of casual wear, and of the personal identity of its wearer. He weaves his own past into his clothing and fashions new philosophies with every collection. With Oliver, the glamorous future of Hood by Air is limitless.

By Michelle F.H.