From Gosha Talk to The Basement and Buying and Selling Raf Simons – welcome to menswear’s new digital frontier
Once the mecca of sought-after archive fashion, over the last few years, eBay has gone from being a treasure trove of vintage steals to a world of constant legit checks and sellers being called out for shipping fake stock. Driven by hype and the seemingly ever-growing resell market, the auction website has become a fashion wasteland. Slowly, people have begun to look elsewhere to cop limited editions they missed out on or to find the grail they’ve wanted for years.
As a result, new ways to buy and sell your clothes have been emerging. Depop was launched in 2011, and has come to be a major player sitting somewhere between eBay, Instagram and Etsy; Grailed has become a trusted space for resells of everything from high-end fashion to basic staples, and countless fashion-focused Facebook groups have been set up for buying and selling. There’s more to it, though – many of these groups have broken the bounds of second-hand retail to become genuine, active communities.
Probably the most famous of these groups is Wavey Garms, which has been transformed from a virtual space to buy and sell finds on Facebook to a shop in Peckham, a radio show and occasional festival stage. Similar groups have emerged all over the fashion spectrum, from those specific to certain labels (Supreme Talk, Palace Talk, Yeezy Talk), to general streetwear discussion groups (The Basement) and fan clubs for high fashion’s big names (Rick Owens Buy/Sell/Trade/Talk, Yohji Yamamoto or Buying and Selling Raf Simons). Any designer or label currently making waves is almost guaranteed to have a corner of Facebook that their devoted fans have taken over to discuss their movements.
“Any designer or label currently making waves is almost guaranteed to have a corner of Facebook that their devoted fans have taken over to discuss their movements”
All subcultures are built around a common interest, and these groups are no different – they’re just virtual. Members might have grown up in Denmark, New York or rural England, but these Facebook communities allow them to find like-minded people regardless of geography. They can get advice, sell clothes and swap ideas with people from pretty much anywhere. They’re incubators for new brands and ideas, and hotbeds of discussion about everything from mental health to the ascendancy of grime. With over 45,000 members, The Basement is the biggest and best for this; it’s gone beyond the message board and a place for selling sought after clothes to take physical form with a pop-up shop last year. These groups might have begun as online marketplaces, but they’ve become much bigger than that, and about much more than simply clothes. There are those who find online conversations being integral to building their offline confidence, or kids who find an accepting community that they might not have in their school or hometown.
These new groups are clearly an important, if overlooked, part of an emergent youth culture. However, with the focus largely on the male-dominated world of streetwear, they seem to be overwhelmingly masculine environments – you’re unlikely to find any posts about Raf Simons’ work for Dior in any groups dedicated to him. For Megan Munro, style editor of Complex UK and a member of groups like The Basement and Supreme Talk since the early days, these groups have come to be dominated by men because they don’t have anywhere else to turn. “I think that boys are often criticised for asking for opinions on things like clothes, girls, and personal issues, and these groups have become somewhere that they feel comfortable to do this,” she explains. Interestingly, considering the stereotype that fashion is a female domain, it seems as though what could be one of the most important (digital) subcultures of a generation has men and menswear at its forefront.
This obviously has its drawbacks, though, and while these groups are generally accepting and tolerant, the dreaded spectre of ‘banter’ and its connotations are never far away. Almost all of these groups have clear rules on racism, homophobia and other offensive remarks (generally it’s an instant ban from the group), but that doesn’t mean that some rogue misogynists and similar don’t temporarily slip through the net. “There’s been a real surge in female membership and activity,” says Munro, “but, with this, there’s been a rise in male members who ‘thirst’ after these girls. That’s got to be intimidating – posting a fit pic and wanting constructive responses and instead being faced with responses that vary from being asked on dates to some verging on sexist and misogynistic, plus an influx of friend requests.”
Obviously, the admins are generally efficient when it comes to deleting these comments and shutting down those responsible, but it’s hard for them to be constantly alert and make sure nothing gets through. Jake Hartwell is one of the admins who runs The Basement and, for him, enforcing the rules that make it “a safe, secure marketplace with no discrimination” is almost a full-time job: “It takes a lot of work… Ask any of the admins and they will tell you that they spend the majority of their days on the page,” he says. The group, though, generally keeps to their “strong core values” and, when people break the rules on discrimination, the members are the first people to call them out. “Thanks to the group it is often highlighted quite fast and those who do join to cause problems are quickly removed,” Hartwell says.
It’s often been argued that the internet and the easy access to information it provides has been the undoing of subculture as we know it, allowing for meaningful movements to be reduced to Tumblr trends. But that doesn’t mean that the various strands and passions of youth that first ignited these movements have been killed off. They’ve just had to adapt, like they always have. Meeting places have been vital for members of subcultures to come together and talk about new tracks or bands they’ve found, or to swap and sell the clothes that became uniforms of their culture and expressions of their identity. These Facebook groups are simply virtual versions of those spaces, which aren’t geographically constrained in the way that they might have been for past generations. Sure, these places aren’t as obvious or visible as Carnaby Street in the 60s or the Hacienda in the 80s and 90s. But like that punk club or goth hangout, they’re there – you just need to know where to look.