“Homeless Chic” on the Rise

Attention all owners of worn out t-shirts and torn, baggy jeans: your unwanted clothing may now be in vogue.

Throughout the movies and media, the homeless are often depicted wearing frumpy, outdated, washed-out clothing. After working with the homeless individuals for more than 20 years, we at Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida know this image is often far from the truth. Even so, “homeless vogue” has become an inspiration for famous fashion designers and models who have taken these “trendy looks” into stores and onto the runway. We are using the opportunity to express our opinion on this recent fashion trend.

Last fall, Barneys New York drew attention from fashionistas as store mannequins were posed lying across a park bench with newspapers covering their face (check out the Change.org post here).

Popular fashion designer Vivienne Westwood has also drawn quite an audience looking to dress down their wardrobe with the launch of her homelessness-inspired men’s line. At Westwood’s product launch last January at Milan’s Fashion Week, models strutted down the runway covered in cardboard boxes, bearing sleeping bags around their necks.

 In addition to the launch of these clothing lines, fashion models have been encouraging this trend. Aspiring model Erin Wasson created a lasting impression in 2008 by claiming, “The people with the best style for me are the people that are the poorest. Like, when I go down to Venice beach and I see the homeless, like, I’m like, oh my God, they’re pulling out, like, crazy looks and they, like, pulled [stuff] out of like garbage cans.”

Even now, “homeless chic” has continued to gain popularity. Recently, a homeless man from Ningbo, China has stepped out into the scene. Going by names such as “The Beggar Prince,” he has grown an abundant fan-base for his atypical homeless style. Wearing cotton, leather and down jackets, he has become an internet icon and trend-setter for those obsessed with the look of poverty.

However inspiring and harmless homeless chic may seem to some, exploitation of the homeless is often overlooked. When these individuals promote this trend as an acceptable fashion, their actions only solidify the stereotypes homeless individuals are trying to escape. The image of the homeless in baggy, worn-out clothing simply doesn’t fit today’s reality. Homelessness can and does happen to men, women and children from all walks of life, and many of these vulnerable individuals do not fit the stereotypical picture of homelessness.

Take a look at some of our clients here and decide for yourself: do they fit the stereotype of homeless chic?