Streetwear with out any streets
Whilst out in Dubai, we were extended an invitation to Sole DXB. For those who don’t know, Sole DXB is a two day celebration of streetwear culture, just outside of the main hustle and bustle of the city of Dubai. It incorporates different artistic mediums to create an educating and enjoyable experience for those who attend. This years event was exploring the theme of B-boy culture; for those who don’t know, B-boy culture originated from the breakdancing scene in NY. It incorporated dance, graffiti and rap to produce a voice that would transcend countries and become that of millions, in the face of oppression.
When I was initially told about this streetwear festival in the middle of a desert, you can imagine I was dubious as to what to expect. For starters, how can you have streetwear in a desert with no streets? Streetwear was born in the streets, and continues to evolve there too. If there are no streets, then surely it follows there is no street culture? When you think of streetwear, you think New York, London, Tokyo. You wouldn’t naturally think Dubai. So why host a streetwear festival in a place that is generally lacking in streetwear?
When we arrived at the festival first, they screened a film they’d made about Dubai’s streetwear culture and relationship with it. They’d documented groups of creatives within the community in Dubai, talking about and explaining how they came to being involved within it. It was really quite eye-opening to see that an appreciation for the sub-culture had been fostered so far from home. After the film, we ventured around to the front of the set-up, to findNike had a full size basketball court next to their installation – a huge red Nike box on top of an open store (which was filled with OG Chicagos, Uptempo and other basketball influenced kicks).
Adidas had a Future House instalment that’s definitely worth a mention. The whole installation looked futuristic (never would have guessed by the name(!)), with a spaceship theme both inside and out. Inside featured a really cool tubular display alongside a breakdancer. Not sure as to what breakdancers do aboard space ships, but nonetheless, it looked cool.
Amongst the two installations were smaller shop fronts for brands like DEUS, Stüssy and Level Shoes. Each store front had been uniquely kitted out to reflect the look of the brands – for instance DEUS featured a motorbike in their installation.
Between the shops and stalls were the private sellers. The shoes on offer were pretty much the same anywhere you go; Yeezys, rare Jordans, Airmax, etc. What was great for me to see though, was the abundance of Jordans, in comparison to normal anyway. For some reason the UK doesn’t seem to show a lot of love for the Jordan, at least nowhere near as much as the likes of Germany or France. Dubai seemed to be very much as caught up in the fascination with the brand as myself -#JordansAren’tDead.
Something which I haven’t seen be done before at an event like this, is to have live radio broadcasting from the event for the duration of it. I thought it was a great idea to get members of the streetwear community together to talk on the event and current affairs within the culture.
Towards the end of the day, the feeling of being at a ‘sneaker event’ would quickly transcend into one aligned with an open air concert. Headliners included Stormzy and Skepta, and that was greatly appreciated by the attendees. I’m sure the crowd there showed just as much love and thirst for two of the grime scene’s biggest acts than any event I’ve ever been to in London (aside from the ones filled with mad suburban 15 year olds in Nike caps, TNs and spray on skinnies).
I asked one of the guys behind Sole DXB as to how you could have streetwear in a place with no streets. He simply replied: “Streetwear doesn’t just live on the streets anymore. It lives online. As long as we have access to that here, streetwear can thrive”. So there is some food for thought… is streetwear exclusively restricted to the streets anymore?
All in all, I’d like to say thank you, Sole DXB. You managed to amplify a small but growing sub-culture to a place previously alien to it, and successfully create an event that intertwined the existing ‘streetwear culture’ with one more renowned. Don’t get me wrong, Sole have a lot more they can achieve, but for something so young and far our there, they really hit the nail on the head.
Words and photography by Tayler Prince-Fraser
Editing by Daniel Hawksworth
Video by Aria Mark