Let's be realistic, the obsession with wheel fitment and stance is more than just a passing fad. Like it or loathe it, it's been the catalyst for a series of heated discussions on this forum and others around the world. Followers and devotees have spawned a fleet of dedicated fan-bases in a short space of time such as Stanceworks, Hellaflush, Rimtuck and Slamburglars to name a select few.
The exact genesis of the trend is hard to pinpoint, with the essence of the style tracing back to several sources. For all intents and purposes, ‘Stance’ as it stands now is a fashion; it’s lineage does however have some roots in the practical use of wide wheels with low offset. It was commonplace decades ago in motor racing, and it has endured in motorsport as competitive racecars often benefit from the wider track. Having said that, stance is not a direct descendant of this one influence.
The use of stretched tyres is now synonymous with the current stance movement, but it was first fashionable amongst modifiers in Japan adhering to the conventions of bosozoku/bippu/shakotan and kaido racer styles. In European car culture we saw wheel fitment become the ‘in thing’ amongst dubbers. This fad was picked up on and spread to the VW scene stateside, and some of the current stance trend has stemmed from both these roots.
No doubt that Japanese car culture on the whole was the biggest influence behind the origins of the trend; but the current incarnation of stance as a fashion statement and movement has birthed solely from the USDM re-articulation of these Japanese styles.
I would argue that to say the Japanese did it first is not entirely accurate; same goes for the Europeans. Certainly there were trends in both places that lent some techniques to the current movement, and they have had cars with a similar look in the past, but responsibility for the widespread popularity of 'Stance' lies with the market in the United States.
Import culture in the US is now in it’s second generation. The first generation can be defined quite accurately by the scene outlined in the film, The Fast & The Furious. This glorified adage to import culture was heavily built upon the aspirations of many modifiers at the time. The scene there has come of age, and I would now say that the stateside import culture is in it’s second generation. The stance movement is firmly rooted in this second phase.
Stance by current definition is concerned with both ride height and wheel fitment. Schools of thought on good stance vary greatly, and this can be attributed to the large number of influences affecting it’s current guise. To some the practical implications of wide stance on handling and performance are defining, to others it is about the tough appearance of a wide car, and to others still it is about being the most outrageously low and aggressive with their wheel and tyre combo.
The subculture has birthed it's own phrasebook of slang and jargon. The words ‘stance’ and ‘fitment’ for starters, along with ‘tuck’, ‘poke’, ‘stretch’, ‘scrub’, ‘flush’, ‘static’ and any number of synonyms for ‘lowered’ (i.e. ‘sacked’, ‘slammed’, dumped’, ‘decked’, ‘railed’, ‘dropped’ etc.)
There are several other fashion elements that have come through in this new generation of US car culture alongside the fitment trend. The most prominent are rat-rod styling and retro influenced accessories, along with the enduring trend of quality JDM wheels and parts. Currently the sports compact scene is particularly obsessed with crazy engine builds and/or conversions.
In Australia our import culture has changed significantly over the years. Generationally I would say that it looks similar to the United States, with two separate stages in it’s history. The first of these was much more closely linked to what was happening in Japan at the time, whereas our second generation is more influenced by USDM trends than we might care to admit. The conversation in this thread is mostly concerned with the more recent incarnation of stance as a phenomenon, but no doubt discussion of this new wave of USDM culture will take place here as well.