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Fashion & Beauty

My Problem with the Scumbro Movement

The scumbro’s mantra for dressing badly is having a moment - but it isn’t built to last

As defined in none other than the infamous Urban Dictionary, the scumbro is ‘An evolution of normcore. The scumbro is a hypebeast who wears streetwear brands like Supreme and Adidas but also Vermont mom brands like REI and Patagonia… and may even sneak in some Gucci.’

The scumbro has been on the rise in the last few years, no doubt bolstered by the explosion of logo-heavy street brands like the aforementioned Supreme and Patagonia, but also Palace, Stussy and A Bathing Ape to name a few. The movement has also gained traction due to its male celebrity advocates, with many streetwear enthusiasts looking to the likes of Jonah Hill, Shia LaBeouf and even Justin Bieber for inspiration. And now this enduring trend has even permeated the most revered fashion houses such as Lacoste, Gucci and Chanel, who have bought into the trend with their collections and collaborations with streetwear brands.

“It gives me the same kind-of nausea you get when you’re sitting on a train backwards as it moves forwards.”

In fact, much of the scumbro’s newfound relevance has been blamed on the sudden emergence of comic Pete Davidson, following his whirlwind engagement to Ariana Grande. Davidson, best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, has always been close to the spotlight since he started work on the popular satire show in 2015 but only now has he been truly propelled to the highest echelon of celebrity scrutiny. And as a result, his daring wardrobe choices have been subjected to close analysis as he continues to advocate the rise of the garish streetwear favoured by his fellow scumbros.

But my problem with the growing scumbro movement is its sheer incongruence. Trousers that look four sizes too big swallow up chunky, garish sneakers, defeating the point of shoes in this ensemble altogether. A t-shirt, also oversized, features a brash, obscure logo perhaps referencing some fictitious basketball team based in Portland, Oregon. And while you’re there, add a trucker hat in offensively-bright neon featuring yet more ironic graphics. It gives me the same kind-of nausea you get when you’re sitting on a train backwards as it moves forwards. Oddly, it now seems a part of the trend to mix these ‘brave’ pieces with bold offerings from high-end brands like Versace and Lacoste, making eye-wateringly expensive clothing look disgustingly bad.

For the likes of Diplo and Shia LaBoeuf, further frustration stems from their attempts to normalise themselves through scumbro culture. For LaBoeuf, who has become more and more adverse to the invasive nature of modern celebrity, his vision of scumbro contradicts itself. LaBoeuf carefully blends together Average Joe staples like hiking boots, fleece and baseball caps in muted tones to disappear into the crowd before whipping out those infamous pink leggings to completely obliterate the mood of his day-to-day wardrobe. With Shia there is a great sense of trying to look like an everyday person. But the problem with that is that his look can become too pedantic for what it’s trying to achieve.

“Pivoting on trends that are not naturally aligned to your personality, outlook, or culture makes Bieber’s ensemble look too put together, even though scumbro is trying to achieve the exact opposite.”

As for Bieber and Hill, and even Jared Leto’s worrying Gucci obsession, the showy nature of their scumbro attire varies in success. For Hill it works better because of his background and organic popularity. Hill has the Los Angeles skate scene instilled into him because he has absorbed it naturally. Plus his work on adored cult comedies Superbad and 21 Jump Street as well as beefier, artistic films like The Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball makes Hill’s wardrobe seem more intelligent and artistically inclined no matter how ridiculous it may seem.

As for Bieber, a highly-polarising figure, his chameleonic position in pop culture presents obvious problems in regards to his attempts at scumbro. Bieber has experimented with a number of trends since his teen idol explosion in 2010, thus contradicting Hill’s genuine relationship with streetwear. Pivoting on trends that are not naturally aligned to your personality, outlook, or culture makes Bieber’s ensemble look too put together, even though scumbro is trying to achieve the exact opposite.

The underlying problem with the scumbro look is that it tries to achieve an accessible look that is quite frankly not financially accessible to everyone. For brands like Patagonia and Stussy, t-shirts can cost £50+ and jackets rarely dip below three digits. For all of its flexibility, veering from Hill’s flamboyance to LaBoeuf’s nonchalance, the scumbro movement is inching closer to a total fashion house eclipse with both its price and aesthetic. The ubiquitous labels continue to strike collaborative deals with the most exciting streetwear brands and many of these muscular fashion houses are skipping that step altogether by incorporating scumbro trends into their new lines.

But perhaps the biggest blockade to scumbro nirvana for those peering vicariously at Instagram posts of Jonah Hill in Palace or Pete Davidson in Balenciaga, is the overall collective lack of celebrity. Davidson, buoyed by the brute celebrity of Ariana Grande, has showed how reinforced popularity can help you hijack a position of influence. No matter how well we imitate scumbro perfection, the fact that most of us we’ll never possess that crucial celebrity clout ironically prevents scumbro from achieving its central goal – attainability.

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