Street Style in America: An Exploration. By Jennifer Grayer Moore. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2017. 380 pages. Acid-free $94 (ISBN 978-1-4408-4461-4). E-book Available (978-1-4408-4462-1), call for pricing.

While I am not one to pay too much attention to fashion or clothing trends, I do find myself interested in urban culture and subculture, which is what this book is really about. Rather than simply documenting the varied dress and outward appearance choices of inner city Americans, author Jennifer Grayer Moore, an art and design historian, provides a more nuanced account of how diverse urban populations have evolved over the years, paying particular attention to how each have inevitably developed a “look” or certain visual traits that to some extent play a role in defining who they are.

Part 1 consists of four chapters in which “street style” is examined in its sociocultural historical context and how the mass media, fashion and clothing industry, and personal self-expression all play important roles in understanding its proliferation. Here, Moore is careful to acknowledge that “even the street style of recognizable style groups (including subcultural styles) is neither static nor homogeneous . . . [it is] constantly evolving and is subject to an infinite number of personal interpretations that written documentation may inadvertently belie” (3). She also makes the clear distinction between street style and fashion, noting that in fact “some street style is definitively a form of antifashion” (4). These opening chapters ought not to be overlooked by researchers looking for information on one or more of the specific groups covered later in the book, as they are critical to framing the lens through which subsequent entries are examined.

Part 2 contains thirty-four A–Z entries spanning “American Street Gangs” to “Zoot Suit.” Each is accompanied by a parenthetical reference to the approximate years the style was, or has been, in existence, for example, New Wave (Late 1970s–Late 1980s). Entries are substantial, most being five to six pages including further reading suggestions. Some of the more extensive entries are broken down into sections, duly acknowledging their diverse subgenres, styles, or coinciding social movements. For example, “Hip Hop” contains sections on “Fly Boy Style,” “New Jack Swing,” “Militant and African Nationalist,” “Gangsta Style,” and “Ghetto Fabulous.” Where applicable, Moore explains how certain styles rose from the “street” level to greater circles of popular fashion.

Finally, part 3 contains a photo gallery of American street style with black-and-white images coinciding with the entries in part 2 and, as such, appear in alphabetic order. Each image is paired with a paragraph-length description on the opposite page. I don’t see why these were not just included in part 2 alongside their full entry counterparts, but this is a minor grievance. Also, it is unfortunate that only one image is provided per entry. Some could have really benefited from additional images showing various representations of the style.

A search of WorldCat show this to be the only title cataloged under what I would consider its most appropriate subject heading, “Urban youth—Clothing—United States History—20th century,” thus evincing its uniqueness. While many of the individual urban subcultures and styles covered in this volume have been given serious scholarly treatment of their own (too many to list), Moore’s book is the first to bring them together in a reference-like compendium. It would serve as a great starting point for serious researchers of urban studies or fashion history, as the further reading suggestions and bibliography are quite extensive. I believe there would be something of value here for upper high school through graduate school students. In the library stacks, it would be equally at home among the HTs as it would in the GTs, but that’s a call I’d leave up to the catalogers.—Todd J. Wiebe, Head of Research and Instruction, Van Wylen Library, Hope College, Holland, Michigan


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