How Streetwear Culture Is Finding a New Identity in Cereal

Why drop culture is now floating inside your breakfast bowl.

Maitane Romagosa / Thrillist
Maitane Romagosa / Thrillist

It’s Saturday morning, and you’re in front of the TV. Dragonball Z is blasting, and a bowl of your favorite cereal is right in front of you, with a disproportionate amount of milk to cereal ratio, of course. And in that moment, you’re in the most exclusive place to be at the time -- a safe space where imagination and comfort food meet. This feeling has evolved over the years, and especially as the target audience has grown older and become more social media savvy. We’ve replaced the Saturday morning cartoon with IG/Tik Tok recaps, and we now reminisce over these days on Twitter feeds -- a sentiment that companies and Streetwear brands are now capitalizing on in the form of surprise drops and exclusive access to limited products. We no longer wait until 8 a.m. for the latest Power Ranger episode; we’re tuned in to the Nike SNKRS app for a fresh pair of shoes. 

The commodification of “drop culture” has often been popularized by Streetwear, but it has only just begun, being co-opted by the very brands that we all went crazy over as kids. Even as our attention has shifted -- we still can't forget the sugary sweet comfort food that fueled our childhood. Hip Hop superstar Travis Scott garnered mass attention for his rager-ready music -- his album Astroworld was one of 2018’s most successful releases, garnering him a GRAMMY nomination -- but he also has an ability to get his rabid fanbase to buy into his culture of exclusivity. To go along with his Nike/Air Jordan releases, he’s put out toys, clothing, and even a whole vehicle. But his collaboration with General Mills, and more specifically Reese’s Puffs, had his fans clogging online queues (and grocery stores) for a box.

This type of hysteria is nothing new for the extremely well versed collectors; a hobby that has become more need than niche in the past decade as streetwear and sneaker culture has become increasingly the status quo. However, the quest for Travis Scott’s cereal (with a bundle that comes with a special acrylic box) has skyrocketed more than ten times more than retail. Tyler Blake has seen the ups and downs of this culture, and has gained an eagle eye at finding the best deals for streetwear and sneakers through his platform -- a resource designed to help savvy veterans and newbies get the best deals on rare and hard to find goods.
“To be entirely honest, nothing surprises me anymore,” he said. “I’ve seen enough people pouring milk into their Oreo Jordan 6s to know that a literal cereal made for hypebeasts would pop off.” These aforementioned hypebeasts were scooping boxes up at lightspeed, with most believing that their box held a Willy Wonka-esque Golden Ticket to win a pair of Travis Scott’s coveted Air Jordans. This type of insane engagement is music to General Mills’ ears and money in their pockets. Blake agrees that the gamification is part of what streetwear culture has become; “These kinds of collaborations are low hanging fruit to reach who they feel their target audience is...If changing packaging and messaging helps sell more units, I can see why it would be so enticing,” he said, adding that “[including] someone like Travis Scott who has mass appeal both with music and streetwear influence and a perception that the product is limited and you have a literal recipe for success.”

This equation to success has been the inspiration behind the female-led and driven OffLimits brand of cereal, which mixes the Streetwear ethos of must-have releases with equally exclusive and hard to find ingredients and collaborations. Their eclectic branding is matched by their unconventional flavors -- one of them is anchored by the delightful yet rare ingredient of pandan, while the other is a collaboration with coffee brand Intelligentsia. Founder and CEO Emily Elyse Miller launched the brand this year with COO Michelle Lora (who has an extensive background with brands like Nike and Supreme) with a focus on “turning doodles to dollars” and supporting a product that not only tastes good, but has an infectiously rebellious spirit. “The day that Emily and I started brainstorming what our marketing play behind the brand was, we were like ‘this is a streetwear brand that just happens to be edible', said Lora.” I saw the rise of luxury within youth culture happening right before my eyes...and what I loved about everything was the constant messaging behind what these super successful Streetwear brands were doing.” 

For OffLimits, this messaging comes in the form of the characters that emblazon their boxes. Dash the rabbit is an “overachieving basic b*tch bunny” that turns your cereal to cold brew while the StockX browsing Zombie loves to veg out and relax. OffLimits sparks a creative and collective spirit -- the boxes come with exclusive toys, the same type that you would find in your childhood, which encourages consumers to collect by using self expression (and exclusivity) as a guide. And this is a major reason why you won’t see this product on store shelves. 

“Wholesale is completely dead in our eyes,” Michelle said. “We have zero interest in partnering with huge conglomerates if what they are looking for is to just sell our stuff on their shelves -- we love being the pioneers of doing something purposeful.” And this mantra of purposefulness is highlighted in the hyper focused digital only releases of their product, and their virtual “toy store” where you can trade in tickets earned from buying the cereal in order to get more exclusive merchandise. It’s a clever gamification that harkens back to the old days of collecting box tops and sending them in for prizes -- a trope that has since evolved into apps and raffles. And in a world that is now mostly stuck at home, these types of experiences are more comforting, and essential, than ever. Our favorite piece of nostalgia isn’t only found in the supermarket anymore, but it will probably be at our fingertips of a virtual market -- which is chartering a new adventure for those addicted to the rush of an exclusive release or for the inner-child who still needs their Saturday morning comfort food.

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Justin Davis is a writer/editor living in Long Beach who is looking for the perfect beat...and trying to cook the perfect spare ribs.