It’s no secret that this generation — as in, the late teen and early twentysomething set — has an undeniable knack for pushing boundaries. They're activists for equality and unapologetically authentic in everything from their sexuality to their personal style. For them, clothing isn't just something you throw on — it's a straight-up reflection of individuality.
So it's hardly surprising that sportswear is Gen Z’s preferred outfit foundation. It’s easy to dress up or down, hip and cool, and so damn comfy — that is to say, it’s a natural fit for reflecting one's true colors. Whether it be incorporating girly touches to balance out tomboy vibes, mismatching PUMA kicks to complement an eclectic personality, or sending a not-so-subtle nod to the '90s, these three young New Yorkers make a convincing case for our greatest shared philosophy: You do you, folks.
Jada-Renee Bland, 18: Born and raised in the Bronx, high-schooler Bland's side gigs include modeling and working part-time at a streetwear store.
Why the affinity for streetwear among you and your peers?
"I think it's a reflection of my generation's desire to be free. We don't care about looking super put-together all the time. The relaxed, sporty look is a comfort thing, and we're all about comfort."
Tell us about your personal style.
"Because my style can be pretty tomboy-ish, I've been adding feminine pieces like corset belts, delicate jewelry, and handbags to balance things out. I'm not big on makeup, but I'll put on some lip gloss or a shiny eyeshadow just to dress things up."
Who or what inspires the way you dress?
"My friends inspire me a lot. We go shopping together pretty often, so if there's something I'm not entirely sure about, they'll usually encourage me to get it and help me figure out how I can style it. Social media also plays a big factor. It inspires me to try new ways to wear things and give them my own spin."
What does fashion mean to you?
"For me, it's a way to set myself apart and stand out — it's my identity. For my generation, personal style is a symbol of creativity and really gives you the opportunity to express who you are."
Genesis Vega, 19: Petite model Vega (she's exactly 5 feet) is a full-time high-school student and creative director that lives in the Bronx.
What's your go-to aesthetic?
"I would say that my style is very quirky and creative but not in an over-the-top way. I'm always mixing sporty pieces with feminine, girly things — I just love the contrast. It feels very '90s."
What do you find is the easiest way to take a simple look up a notch?
"Simple things like pulling your hair back in a cute bun or adding big hoop earrings can completely change a look. You might not be feeling too great about an outfit, but tiny tweaks here and there can really make a difference."
You're a self-proclaimed sneaker girl. Tell us more.
"I feel most confident when I'm in sneakers. I'm very casual and don't like to dress up very much — I definitely have more sneakers than heels and boots. These PUMA sneakers are the perfect shade of blue and look really good with just about any color."
It’s not just you. Your peers lean more toward comfort than trends. Why?
"I believe it's because we all realize how important it is to find our own style (instead of copying everyone else) and be comfortable with that. Trends just come and go."
Kabrina Adams, 23: Adams is a model and content creator from Brooklyn, who spends her downtime skateboarding with her squad, The Skate Kitchen.
How would you describe your signature style?
"I'm very eclectic. I usually wear a bunch of bright colors, a necklace with a speaker on it (which is essential to keep the noise out when I'm skateboarding), and sneakers that don't match."
What's the story behind your mismatched kicks?
"Three years ago, I was in a rush to leave the house and had two different shoes on. I couldn't decide which one to wear, so I just walked out with one of each. I started to do it regularly and it became my thing. People are always complimenting my style on the street — some even ask for a picture!"
This is probably because it reflects your personality.
"I think it really shows that I don't care what people think — especially when it comes to how I dress. I wear stuff that I like, and I'm not worried about what someone might say about my outfit. I don't let the negativity influence my style or my life."
Why do you think teens and twentysomethings share your DGAF attitude?
"We just realize that we don't need to look like everyone else or follow trends. We wear what's authentic and comfortable to us. Most of the stuff I wear doesn’t fit into a certain category. It's cool to do your own thing — we get that and appreciate it."