Hype – A Homogenising Global Street Culture

Ryan O'Toole Collett, a London-based photographer on Singapore's street culture.


"Street culture today has an array of meanings," London-based photographer Ryan O'Toole Collett quips. "Depending on where you are in the world or even within a city, the street culture can vary massively between generations, social classes, and different subcultures." 

On his recent two-week-long trip to Singapore, the 31-year-old traced the quotidian lives of a group of young creatives called Youths in Balaclava.

At first glance, one will realise that this group of youngsters nestle comfortably into what is now known as "hype kids", also the global street style phenomenon perpetuated by social media platforms in the likes of Instagram. 

To Collett, the "hype" culture is simple. Participants of this style tribe married "markers of status and street credibility" such as logos, conspicuous skateboard brands, and high-fashion labels into one. It's altogether a genre of street style now. 

The reigning street culture was, in fact, made possible by social media. "Today, a lot of "hype kids" are inspired by photographic records of the '80s and '90s hip-hop style. The internet has given access to these records. Localised styles from different periods of time are now being re-imagined by people all over the world," Collett continues. 

While digital media came to be the source of this "hype" street culture, it has also cyclically spawned a homogenous global "hype" culture. "It increasingly shapes the way that street culture is developing worldwide."

One of the hallmarks of the current street culture is perhaps the diversity rampant in urban cities such as London and Singapore. "I think street culture in London, like in all cities, is representative of the different people that inhabit the city and the vast number of influences that have helped shape it. London is full of diversity and this can be seen in different areas that have strong cultural connections the countries from which people have migrated over time." 

It is strikingly similar to the cultural melting pot that Singapore is. "The cultural diversity and sense of cultural acceptance was very refreshing when you consider that so many places today are becoming increasingly scared of outside influences," Collett observes. 

These people from all walks of life and cultures and buying into the same brands, same clothes, and the same few Instagram street style accounts.

"There are similarities when comparing the mainstream fashion and street style of both places, and big brands are worn everywhere." Collett continues, "Instagram influences everyone now and lets them re-imagine visual street culture from other places, adding the things they like to local trends, creating new styles that feed back into the global network of street culture."

Ryan O'Toole Collett's photographs are available at Dover Street Market Singapore.