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14 NYC Streetwear Brands

New York City has been the epicenter of fashion for centuries, but in the new millennium, haute couture and Fashion Week have become increasingly passe. In fact, the average Manhattanite simply scoffs at the banality of runway shows and all the industry try-hards. Because media spectacle often trumps actual design, real fashion experts have turned to New York’s streetwear as the paradigm of what’s actually on-trend.

Streetwear, as opposed to formal wear, is both minimalist and maximalist: bold patterns and striking statements juxtaposed with sleek lines and clean silhouettes. New York’s skate and hip-hop culture — in turn, sometimes borrowing from the history of punk and goth fashion, which also both have long NY traditions — are the principal influences on the style. But as streetwear evolves, it’s increasingly borrowing from the highbrow world in what influential designer Luca Benini called a “cross-pollination.”

There’s a sort of irony in that what once defined casual cool is now painstakingly crafted, studied, and dissected. Nor is streetwear always affordable anymore, with luxury brands charging thousands of dollars for limited edition ready-to-wear collections. 

In New York in 2020, the development of streetwear has become increasingly schizophrenic — with the popularity of normcore reaching its zenith in 2014 (giving way to an endless onslaught of the ’90s and ’00s nostalgia) and an ever-intensifying atmosphere of political strife, NYC’s streetwear landscape is less coherent and more confusing than ever. Do these brands want to capture the zeitgeist? Is the emphasis more on ingenuity than design? How much can designers capitalize on cultures from yesteryear? And why are the price points always skyrocketing?

The extent to which streetwear is even worn anymore has now become a question. Are some brands’ ultra limited-edition wares simply traded instead of actually utilized? If streetwear is simply a collector’s item, what does that mean for the future of fashion?

We might not have answers to these existential questions, but in celebration of streetwear’s true home, we’ve curated a list of the best NYC brands we could find. The emphasis here is on actual wearability over clout.

1. Supreme

Let’s get this out of the way: could a discussion about contemporary streetwear — or New York streetwear — even be had without mentioning Supreme? Although the brand’s high-priced and ultra-limited edition lines have become fodder for endless knock-offs and the subject of snooty fashion derision, the unique visual language of Supreme endures throughout the world. The ubiquitous clothing line has even become its own form of cryptocurrency amongst certain circles. That’s how you know you’ve really made it.

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www.supremenewyork.com
2. Money Green Merch

Power to the stoners! Money Green Merch, a small clothing brand attached to a budding hip hop label, is selling socially conscious activist wear that makes not-so-subtle political statements. Weed’s not quite legalized yet here in NYC, but you can get ahead of De Blasio and Cuomo on the matter with this merch.

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https://www.bigwolftrap.com/merch
3. SABIT

High-end fashion line SABIT specializes in hand-made and specially tailored garments: “We enjoy making clothes. This is the energy of our products,” reads the company’s sparse mission statement. The label’s kimono-style jackets, bombers, and college-branded sweaters aren’t cheap but the level of craft and care in each garment is worth the price.

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http://sabitnyc.com/shop
4. 5boroNYC

As per their name, 5boroNYC is paying homage to this great city’s distinctly idiosyncratic sections. A sendup to classic New York pride, the brand’s hoodie, hat, and t-shirt designs range from graffiti-influenced to normcore. The label’s boards are wonderful, brujeria-inspired sendups to the indomitable spirit of the Big Apple. A nice bonus is that all the products are made in the USA.

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https://5boronyc.myshopify.com/
5. Privilege NYC

A few motifs run through the collections currently on sale at Privilege NYC: the “Saints and Sinners” micro-collection features corrupted religious iconography, while the Lafayette products are rife with the imagery of the French Revolution. The cosmology of the brand is a bit scattered, but the designs are striking nonetheless. Clock their retro polos while you browse the more contemporary shirts, shorts, hip packs, and sweaters.

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https://pvlgnyc.com/
6. Stay Cool NYC

The appropriately named “Stay Cool NYC” brand correctly describes its products as “retro-futuristic chillwear.” The 90’s nostalgia is apparent in every item, and the adorably whimsical air-brush graphics are masterpieces. It’s certainly more sugary than the average streetwear, but it’s all incredibly cute.

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https://www.staycoolnyc.com/
7. Kid Super

Kid Super has plenty to offer by way of politically-minded casual wear, but it’s the label’s hand-painted and embellished whimsical jackets and matching pants that are the standouts of the line. Many of the doodles on each item come from the head designer, Colm Dillane’s fine art practice.

“This [brand] was the perfect way to encapsulate my, and I think many others’, relationship to New York City,” reads Kid Super’s manifesto.

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https://kidsuper.com/
8. Public Housing Skate Team

With President Trump increasingly comparing urban areas to warzones, the militaristic imagery of this brand’s streetwear takes on overtly political overtones. Doodled bullet-proof vests and surveillance helicopters paint an ominous picture of inner-city life, but offer a sparse message of justice. See: the Pitbull Foundation t-shirt which asserts, “Don’t judge a dog by its breed.”

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https://www.publichousingskateteam.com/
9. Ronin Division

Named after Japan’s wandering warriors, Ronin Division brings a sleek, understated design philosophy to their smartly color-blocked and very limited edition jackets and tees. According to their mission statement, the brand is “looking to define the culture and experiences of the ruthless vagabond.” Sounds like a strong streetwear philosophy, if you ask us.

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https://www.ronindivision.com/collections/frontpage
10. Awake NY

“Awake NY is a reflection of the diversity that has defined the city’s cultural landscape. Simultaneously classic and contemporary, Awake NY evokes both the changing aesthetic vibrancy and timelessness of New York,” reads the brand’s website. Indeed, the brightly colored tees, flannel button downs, sweatpants, and hoodies are evocative of the brightest parts of New York’s concrete jungle. No stranger to anti-authoritarian statements, the “In God We Trust, In The President We Don’t” tee is likely to be a hot item this Summer — for obvious reasons.

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https://awakenyclothing.com/collections/spring-2020-online
11. Nine One Seven

Emblematic of a specific kind of post-vaporwave, post-internet psychedelia, Nine One Seven (named after the outdated yet still-pervasive NYC area code) is clearly a child of early 00’s skate culture aesthetics. More flirtatious and cartoonish hoodies and sweaters provide a juxtaposition to the brand’s bizarre offerings.

12. Alife NYC

Founded in 1999, Alife’s impeccably curated collection of sneakers showcases a particular paragon of on-trend footwear. From ultra-rare Yeezy’s to old-school Converse and limited edition collabs, Alife’s assortments of uniquely branded merch and specially assembled selections walk a fine balance between high-end designer loungewear and urban sensibilities, from a distinctly New York perspective.

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https://alifenewyork.com/
13. Tier NYC

Tier’s got the basic streetwear essentials: an assortment of French Terry cotton hoodies in various colorways including Easter pastels alongside basic shorts, socks, and tees. The brand’s offerings get a bit more sophisticated when you scroll down to their worker’s jackets and flannel button downs, which frequently have the eternal phrase “ART NEVER DIES” embroidered on them. Take note of the brand’s exquisite varsity jacket while you browse.

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https://www.shoptier.nyc/shop-1
14. Belief NYC

Aside from Staten Island, Queens is probably the borough that gets the least love — and it’s a shame! With an increasingly thriving nightlife scene and a rich history of powerful immigrant stories, Belief NYC is repping the maligned Astoria neighborhood through unapologetic and on-trend tie-dye and collegiate t-shirts and hoodies.

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https://shop.beliefnyc.com/collections/all
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Leaders Style

10 Korean Streetwear Brands You Need To Know About

Paris, Milan, New York, London, Tokyo…and now Seoul! Within the past decade, Korea has become a hub of emerging fashion. With Korean cultural exports on the rise, including the growing cultish following of Korean pop music in the West, the demand for the ingenuity of Korean artists is higher than ever. 

“Today, South Korea is the most influential country in Asia, with its energy and creativity, its youth culture and the pop music and TV celebrities, who have become incredibly powerful, even in China and Japan,” remarked Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, in 2017. “These are all great sources of inspiration…There’s also a business reason. South Korea is a fast-growing market, a very interesting one, now also open to the Chinese and Japanese who like to travel here for tourism. South Korea has become a top destination in Asia.”

We’ve seen Korean designers like Hyun Mi Nielsen praised as the future of haute couture, but the nation is more and more becoming associated with cutting edge streetwear, resulting from an “injection of Western culture within the country [that] slowly started to pave the way to the success of street style that we see today. Koreans grew more and more accustomed to the street style references from abroad, from music to images of celebrities and other influential characters snapped at the main fashion events, this sparked the growth of demand for the next trendy ‘must-have’ items,” according to The Korea Times.

In celebration of this growing market, we’re counting down the hottest streetwear brands from Korea.

1. Pushbutton

Deconstructed fashion — clothing that takes the essential elements of a given garment and re-arranges them into something new and avant-garde — was pioneered by Rei Kawakubo and her Commes De Garcons label over the past few decades. Korean brand Pushbutton is continuing that thesis with clever subversions of outfit essentials: jeans with discoloration over the crotch, oversized skirts created out of parts from jackets, trench coats flowing with an abundance of fabric. The playfully transgressive aesthetic is appropriately gender-neutral and effortlessly eye-catching.


“Pushbutton always strives to make a beautiful balance between opposite concepts, such as feminine vs. masculine and sexual vs. sporty,” said Park Seung Gun, the brand’s creative director, to The Klog. “I believe in this highly competitive society, with societal issues like youth unemployment, Koreans try to gain confidence through fashion and beauty. I’ve seen Korean youth on the streets with a very bold fashion sense and they’re very open to expressing themselves. I think Korean fashion is all about taking risks and not being afraid of being different from others, and personally, I believe Koreans have a strong ego that allows them to feel free to express their own style.”

2. D-Antidote

D-Antidote is putting slight cyberpunk twists on American sportswear in their mischievous streetwear lines. Introducing subtle variations on basketball jerseys and clever corruptions of Western logos, D-Antidote is fresher than your average gear. Their recent “Space Jam” themed collection is the perfect example of propelling classic athletic garb into the future with interesting proportions and unexpected colorways. Their collaborations with Fila have already helped reinvigorate the latter brand in this new decade.


“I think that the fashion here reflects the environment,” said D-Antidote designer, Hwansung Park, to Hypebeast. “For example, when I was in London, if I wore something vivid or colorful, it sometimes wouldn’t fit with the aesthetic of the city. Whereas in Seoul, all of the buildings, shops and roads are very modern and new. So it means that people can digest these kinds of flashy colors easier than in other cities.”

3. Ader-error

Ader Error has now collaborated with brands like Maison Kitsune, Puma, and G-Shock — meaning they’ve got some seriously legit brands backing them up. Their typical look puts an avant-garde twist on typical 90s tropes like chunky sneakers, oversized knit sweaters, and distressed denim — but don’t let the infatuation with decade fool you, their stuff is far more sophisticated than your typical nostalgia trappings. 

In 2018, GQ described Ader Error as “the world’s coolest brand.” 


“We started this brand to communicate with people,” a brand rep told the mag. “We started as a fashion company but we don’t want to just be a fashion brand. We aim to be techy, lifestyle and that little something more – a new type of business.”

4. Nohant

Nohant is definitely less eccentric than many of the brands on this list: inspired by French style and retro fashion, this line is best for rebellious twists on basics and essentials. Jerseys, polos, and sporty summer wear are updated for 2020 with interesting stitching and smart construction.

5. thisisneverthat

Almost indistinguishable from Western normcore brands, thisisneverthat (has there ever been a catchier name for a company?) sells distressed workman’s jackets, pre-shredded baseball caps, and pre-scuffed New Balance sneakers. The minimal-effort designs fit in well with the cultish popularity of utilitarian brands like Carhartt amongst urban fashionistas who pretend not to care about labels. W Magazine went as far as calling thisisneverthat “South Korea’s answer to Supreme.”

6. Post Archive Fashion

It’s no surprise given the company’s name that PAF specializes in zany post-modern streetwear. Reminiscent of early Gareth Pugh but with bolder color palettes and far more chaos, PAF brings a certain kind of high-brow chic to its bizarre line of ready to wear. 


“The fledgling label has developed its own design language through an in-depth study of its growing archive,” explains Hypebeast. “Its creations fall either into PAF’s conservative conventional ‘RIGHT’ category or into the ‘CENTER’ or experimental ‘LEFT’ garment series.”

7. Hyein Seo

With a sparse color palette and intricate silhouettes, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that Hyein Seo’s designs are reminiscent of early Fenty X Puma collabs: Rihanna’s been seen out and about in this brand’s looks several times and clearly cites them as inspiration (in fact, she might even be straight-up stealing from them). Either way, Hyein Seo’s been in several magazine’s brands to watch lists for years, which makes sense given their avant-garde yet imminently wearable sensibilities. Hyein Seo’s clothes have previously appeared in the States by way of VFiles.

8. Mahagrid

Tye dye t-shirts, striped polos, skate decks, baseball caps, and board shorts: skateboard culture has clearly made its way to Korea with this brand’s line of 90’s inflected streetwear. Far more accessible (and affordable) than the couture collections featured elsewhere on this list, Mahagrid’s offerings are legible within the tradition of ultra-cool action sports.

9. Rocket X Lunch

Take the understated sensibilities of the ‘90s skate culture and add in a dash of Lynchian paranoia: Rocket X Lunch’s latest line of clothing, which uses the motif of the doppelganger throughout a collection of outwear, introduces a sinister theme to their wearable wares. Their latest designs take aesthetic cues from paranoid psychedelia, ‘60s British mod culture, and traditional stoner apparel in equal measure.

10. 99percentis

99percentis seems to specialize in post-apocalyptic outerwear that fits perfectly in the aesthetic universe of The Purge (if those films hadn’t been specifically about America’s glorification of violence). Balancing creepy, cute, and cool, the destroyed masks, jackets, and pants are battle-ready and immensely intimidating. Helmed by a designer mononymously known as Bjowoo, the brand’s anarchic outfits have previously been worn by Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber.

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Leaders Style

15 Underground Clothing Brands You Need to Know

Fendi, Gucci, and Prada are all fine and fun to name drop in rap verses, but real fashionistas know what’s up beyond the big brands. Now that print-at-home services have become par for the course, entrepreneurial designers can start their own brands without millions of dollars in backing — and fashion overall is better off for it.

The democratization of the fashion world means that there’s a new designer debuting clothes every few minutes — and that it’s becoming harder to sort out the tripe from the treasures. With Instagram ads constantly bombarding our feeds with new lines — many of which are straight-up stolen designs — we’ve taken on the task of figuring out who to pay attention to.

From New York, to LA, to Tokyo, here are the best upcoming underground clothing brands we could find:

1. Alien Body

Alien Body — Electronic musician Pictureplane became a cult sensation around the world for his aggressive, punk-inflected noise pop. Now, he’s taken his unique aesthetic in a sartorial direction with Alien Body, his eccentric line of darkly glamorous streetwear. The Brooklyn-based brand blends post-nu-metal styling with darkly glamorous and paranoiac imagery. Looks like it’d be worn by SoundCloud rappers on the gothic end of the musical spectrum. — Eric Shorey

2. Warren Lotas

Warren Lotas – LA-based designer Warren Lotas doesn’t exactly make his clothes easy to cop — most of the time his shop is password-protected, and even his most high-priced items (his hoodies sometimes go for at least $1k) sell out almost instantly. The pre-planned scarcity is obviously an intentional marketing strategy, and it’s hard not to covet those with the dedication to track down each item. Lotas is obviously inspired by street art, basketball fashion, and motorcycle culture — his sketchily drawn designs often borrow images from horror movies or gangster iconography. — Eric Shorey

3. Rucking Fotten

Rucking Fotten —There’s an undeniable charm to Japanese horror posters, and this aesthetic is precisely what streetwear brand Rucking Fotten has mined for years. The graphic hoodies, shirts, and sweatpants re-imagine contemporary horror classics as Asian imports with striking color palettes and surreal imagery. Although each collection is ultra-limited edition, you can subscribe to their new releases by buying up a “Slasher Pack” — which essentially functions as a carefully curated shirt of the month club. Best worn in October, but looks great all year. —Eric Shorey

4. Little Whip

Little Whip – Give yourself over to absolute pleasure: Little Whip’s sex-positive line of BDSM-inflected streetwear features a darkly, subtle graphic design inspired by dungeons and kink. The sweaters and shirts are unisex and feature a bevy of morbid imagery that’ll have you begging for more. Their lookbooks are uniquely hype-stylized erotic nightmares, reminiscent of the films of Bruce LaBruce and Kenneth Anger. — Eric Shorey

5. Ten Yards

Ten Yards — Brooklyn-based DJ and designer Sam Branman has become a go-to couture creator for New York City nightlife’s most esteemed drag performers, including Drag Race champion Bob The Drag Queen. Ten Yards is perhaps best known for his flirtatious, nerd-culture inspired jockstraps but he’s more recently ventured into gorgeous, handmade bomber jackets, sweaters, and overalls. His fashion shows regularly feature a gender-inclusive cast of club kids and performance artists, making them the most exciting presentations on a DIY budget. He also does custom commissions for ludicrously reasonable prices. — Eric Shorey

6. Tripp NYC

Tripp NYC – The suburban punk style that was so thoroughly lambasted in the early ’00s has, through a predictable cycle of retro fashion, become a chic choice amongst rappers and streetwear icons. Their signature split-leg bondage pants were omnipresent in the early days of Hot Topic and have since been copied by Billboard-topping rappers like Lil Uzi. It’s unclear how Tripp has managed to survive all these years, but a new generation of tastemakers are now embracing the outlandish colors, patterns, and over-the-top accessorizing made popular by this legendary company so long ago. — Eric Shorey

7. Neighborhood

Neighborhood — Curated selections of streetwear collaborations and original designs, Neighborhood has an interesting aesthetic mix of understated and edgy illustrations and clever nods to avant-gardism. There’s a delightfully deconstructionist design philosophy to this Japanese brand that’s far more clever than the un-subtle trends of US-based brands. It’s not exactly cheap — especially considering conversion rates and shipping prices — but it’s probably worth the investment for something more unique. — Eric Shorey

8. BLVCKSCALE

BLVCKSCALE – Perhaps this brand’s biohazard designs are a bit on-the-nose for the current political moment — but the line’s minimalist goth aesthetic is a counterbalance to the more outlandish and noisy sartorial choices on this list and is a good juxtaposition to more popular goth streetwear companies whose overwrought designs have become frustratingly ubiquitous. The toned down and more subtle Satanic iconography is almost work-appropriate, despite the inherent darkness. — Eric Shorey

9. Profound Aesthetic

Profound Aesthetic – Founded by Faraz Zaidi, Profound Aesthetic mixes elements of high fashion with recognizable streetwear tropes. Their clothes have been sold in Urban Outfitters and worn by celebrities like Rihanna and Kenrick Lamar. However, their Zaidi is mostly a behind the scenes figure of the brand. There is no “about” section on their website yet they have been releasing seasonal collections for the past decade. They almost always have several clothes on sale, sometimes as much as 75 percent off, worth checking out such as their Scripted Open Windbreaker, Garden Chino Pants which are covered in violets and roses, and their well priced Fringe Biker Jacket which for under eighty dollars. — Seth King

10. Palace Skateboards

Palace Skateboards – Palace has been around since 2009 and ever since their first drop they have become a staple in the hip-hop community. After finishing college Levent Tanju founded Palance after fooling around with graphics and spending his days just skating around. Once his friends became enamored by his work – he realized it was time to expand. The brand caught the attention of Marc Jacobs for its nineties aesthetic and to this day is still the leader in the streetwear industry. Their website is constantly being updated with new collections but they are hard to purchase as they sell out rather quickly. If you’ve got some cash lying around, check out their Planet Black Jacket, Stuff Jacket, and their patchwork Das Water Shirt.  — Seth King

11. Strip Mall Couture

Strip Mall Couture – Strip Mall is one brand probably not on anyone’s radar – and they don’t want to be. Their website is littered with messages like “don’t’ contact us” and “don’t follow us” yet their minimalist aesthetic will make you stand out in any crowd. Their work is ironic and cheeky, one t-shirt, which is now sold out is called “You Get What You Pay For” and sold for nearly five hundred dollars. Yet Strip Mall isn’t trolling, and I’m constantly intrigued by their mysterious work. I can’t tell whether or not to take them seriously or not yet I owe two of their shirts. Go figure. If you’ve got thirty dollars to spare, grab their Order Form shirt and your friends will almost certainly think your crazy and enigmatic – and what’s better than that? — Seth King

12. Pleasures

Pleasures – If you’ve been on Grailed – you’ve heard about Pleasures. Founded by Alex James in 2015, the brand has not only become popular among resellers but has even caught the eye of Urban Outfitters. Their designs are known for being grungy and associated with the SoundCloud rap era. Over the years, the brand hasn’t been afraid of court controversy – he even put Kurt Cobain’s suicide note on the back of a jacket. Since he was a teenager in high school, James was always down to push the limits of what was “appropriate” to wear. Yet his risky graphics yet have grabbed the attention of Wiz Khalifa and Kylie Jenner. These days they are innovative designs such as their Waves polo and Wonder track pants which will almost certainly catch the eye of any hypebeast. — Seth King

13. FuckThePopulation (FTP)

FuckThePopulation (FTP) – If you’ve paid attention to the SoundCloud rap era – you’ve heard of Fuck The Population. Run by the ominous “Zac”, who no one seems to know, the clothes have been worn by everyone from Xxxtentacion and the $uicideBoys. Zach is known not to give any advance notice of a drop. If you really want his clothes – you will have to constantly have to check back in on the site. This model has created a cult following around his work and FTP usually sells out in under fifteen minutes. His clothes are meant to piss people off and even the police have expressed their frustration for the brands’ work. There are currently no clothes available on his site, and I can’t tell you when they will be. That’s part of the appeal. Every piece is rare. Yet if you really want some of his iconic FTP logo shirts – look on Grailed and be ready to take a hit to your wallet. Over time, if you need the money, you can always resell their clothes for more than you purchased them. — Seth King

14. Menace

Menace – Menace is one of the hottest brands right now in LA. The brand was founded in 2013. Creator Steven Mena doesn’t care about hopping on trends or keeping up with the industry and that’s exactly why his clothing is always ahead of his competitors. If you have something nefarious you need to protect, they sell a bible safebox but if you get caught – don’t blame it on me. Yet before they were the darling of the underground scene, they were a humble brand selling their work on Karmaloop. Most recently they have worked with Absent, another upcoming brand, to offer their audience both an Absent logo ring and a Menace logo ring which is rare to see from streetwear brands and producing jewelry isn’t easy. But my favorite piece they have right now is Menace’s Hell In A Cell hoodie – and it’s not hard to see why Mena is perhaps one of the most talented designers out today. If you’re in LA, you’ve probably already seen them around. — Seth King

15. Asspizza

Asspizza — I don’t have to tell you about Austin Babbitt. You should already know about Austin Babbitt but if you don’t, you may know him as Asspizza – the most enigmatic and beloved young designer in New York City. Austin first became somewhat famous when Rolling Stone did a mini-doc on his rise but he was already being hailed as the savior of the New York scene with his confounding designs. — Seth King

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An Ode to ‘Fruits,’ the Japanese Streetwear Magazine That Shaped Style

There’s no doubt that Japanese culture is filled with specific idiosyncrasies, some of which can be traced to its history as a deeply isolationist empire. Following World War II and America’s injection of a kind of hyper-capitalist ethos into their more traditional society, the strains of what appeared as bizarre to Westerners were hyper-boosted. Add onto that post-nuclear anxiety, impossibly speedy economic recovery and growing technological prowess, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for certain kinds of eccentricities.

This dynamic is perhaps most apparent in Japanese fashion, where elements of the country’s conservative attitudes consistently clash with a fever for newness. This extreme tension was captured most explicitly in the influential fashion magazine Fruits—a periodical that would eventually become deeply important around the globe.

Fruits was founded by photographer Shoichi Aoki, who in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s took to the streets of Tokyo to document the everyday styles he spotted in Japan’s most major metropolis. What Aoki found was a handful of ultra-specific micro-subcultures that were virtually nonexistent outside of that city—although, ironically, it was the publication’s international popularity that caused bastardized versions of these styles to be imported to the United States and beyond. In 2001, Western publisher Phaidon collected some of the magazine’s best images into books that garnered cult popularity in urban and suburban teens looking to Japan for counter-cultural inspiration. Certainly, Americans were drawn to what they biasedly perceived as “wacky”—and it was clear that these images in no way represented Japan as a whole—but its influence expanded nonetheless.

The images from Fruits remain absolutely striking to this day, and the styles captured are having a resurgence as everything from right before and after Y2K is living a second life in this current retro fashion cycle. The Japanese youths who created their own colorful interpretations of goth, grunge and punk cultures—which in some cases were morphed into their own new subcultures, like the visual kei, lolita and ganguro styles—should properly be hailed as major influences on the contemporary streetwear landscape. Harajuku, a small district in Tokyo filled with unique shopping destinations, quickly garnered a reputation as a hub of extreme fashion.

For those who grew up worshipping Fruits’ pages, it’s easy to see how deeply the Fruits brainworm dug its way into the zeitgeist. It’s not hard to spot the nods to Fruits in unfortunate places, like Hot Topic’s cheap Lolita dress rip-offs or the ubiquitous watered-down rave wear of Coachella attendees. But it also crops up in more opulent attempts at the lush and dramatic versions of dark glamor now seen in the second wave of nu-mutal and high-end haute couture—or in the revitalization of cyberpunk from brands like Dior. The gender-bending ethos of the Fruits children now deeply informs queer culture in the United States—so much so that recent pictures from New York’s nightlife scene are somewhat indistinguishable from Fruits’ more extreme imagery.

Fruits would ultimately shutter in February 2017. It was clear to Aoki that the colorful teenyboppers who roamed Harajuku’s streets had grown up—and that the youth of this new decade are far less inclined to extreme self-expression in the same way. “There are no more cool kids to photograph,” he said in an interview that announced the magazine’s end. Luckily, intrepid Instagrammers are now archiving Fruits looks on social media, preserving the legacy in a more up-to-date medium, and pages like the Tokyo Fashion Instagram continue in the Fruits tradition. 


Japanese streetwear has (for better or worse) since become much slicker, far more muted and streamlined in terms of color and construction, and increasingly organized around luxury brands. In fact, “Japan accounts for up to 30 to 40 percent of some global luxury brands’ profitability,” according to a 2017 study. The days of Fruits have come and gone, but—if you know what to look for—it’s obvious that we couldn’t have arrived at our current moment without Aoki’s vision.

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Leaders Style

Inside Tyler, The Creator’s Intriguing Style Evolution

When I was growing up, I was fortunate enough to watch Tyler, The Creator grow from a rebellious teen that was making outrageous music to a Grammy Award winner. While I enjoy his music, what really grabbed my attention was his style. It’s no secret that Tyler has been setting trends ever since his first televised appearance on the Late Night Show with Jimmy Fallon. The Supreme box logo hoodie would go on to become a wardrobe staple—and one of the most desirable pieces in streetwear. But this wouldn’t be the only mark Tyler would leave on the fashion world.

Tyler, The Creator’s Style Come Up

During his come-up as an artist, Tyler rocked bold colors paired with doodled Vans Old Skools. Patterns were a staple in his wardrobe: Whether it was polka dots, checks or stripes, he would wear it. The multi-media artist isn’t afraid to express himself, and his style shows that. What I love about him is that he dresses for no one but himself.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The Golf Wang Phase

Later on, the artist started venturing more into fashion by introducing his own brand label, Golf Wang. The company became a lifestyle to his hardcore fans, which allowed them to dress like Tyler. There was a period where Tyler was a real poster boy for Golf Wang, and knowing what kind of effect he had on his fans helped him grow the brand to what it is today. To this day, you can still spot him wearing Golf Wang, his staple “G” logo hat never leaves his side, and he always wearing in one-of-one pieces that don’t get a public release.

Golf Wang
Golf Wang Fall/Winter ‘14 Lookbook

Post ‘Flower Boy’

Fast forward to 2018, and Tyler shows a different side of himself. After the success of his album Flower Boy, it felt like he evolved overnight into a more mature figure that would pivot from extremely loud colors and patterns to a more sophisticated yet fresh streetwear look. More elevated footwear paired with cropped pants would become a staple look for Tyler and naturally would become one of the most popular style choices across his fanbase.

Tyler, The Creator from his song ‘What The Fuck Right Now’

I know they see me. Pants got a flood, lil’ bit Katrina. Oh, you wearing Vans and Supreme this season? Stop lying to yourself, me the reason.

Tyler didn’t make any media appearances until he announced his newest project, IGOR. Once published, Tyler was ready to come out of the shadows and do his press run for the album. I was thrilled to see how his style had shifted. Seeing him go from loud T-shirts and wild patterns to tailored blazers and sweater vests signaled that Tyler had reached a different level. Don’t get me wrong, he still keeps it casual by pairing polo shirts with sneakers, but the way he was executing these looks were still more mature than anything we’ve seen from him before.

Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Dior

Nothing lasts forever, and in the current stage of streetwear’s popularity in the mainstream media, we are bound to see a shift. Sneaker culture is shifting towards more formal footwear like loafers, hoodies are traded for blazers and wearing suits is cool again. Seeing Tyler follow this progression just solidifies that this shift is really happening, and I am here for it.

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Leaders Style

The Impeccably Clean Japanese Streetwear of Netflix’s ‘Terrace House’

In 1992, the idea of filming strangers living together in a house was a radical postmodern revolution. MTV’s The Real World would change the course of television history, essentially catalyzing the creation of a new Warholian genre, now somewhat ironically known as reality TV. Almost 30 years later, as producers struggle to spin reality TV into something fresh, it turns out that going back to the basics was what the medium needed all along. Terrace House, a Japanese reality TV program co-produced by Netflix, returns the genre to its roots with its endearingly minimalist conceit.

Modern Reality TV Style

Terrace House and The Real World are almost identical in premise—what happens when people from different backgrounds are forced to cohabitate?—but while most Western reality television focuses on bombastic conflict and spectacular explosions of emotions, Terrace House offers the quieter moments of contemplation and serenity. Instead of fighting, the characters spend most of their time making small talk, cooking together, planning friendly outings and sometimes falling in love.

There’s a hypnotic dullness to the show for sure—Refinery29 writer Cory Stieg even compared its soothing qualities to ASMR—but there’s something compellingly predictable about how perfectly boring the program can be. And the emotional payoff is often devastatingly heart-wrenching: Viewers have been blindsided by the sincere romances that, although often banal, through gorgeously shot cinematography are rendered as existential parables of the human condition.

Netflix

Terrace House has been almost universally critically acclaimed, but in all the reviews of the show, I couldn’t help but notice that one aspect was starkly under-examined: How the hell is everyone on it dressed so well? Nylon and Jezebel have covered the delightfully eccentric womenswear of the commentary panel (Japanese television shows often have a group of hosts dissecting the action between scenes), but the topic of Terrace House menswear is wildly under-examined.

The topic of Terrace House menswear is wildly under-examined.

Fashion Brands on Netflix’s ‘Terrace House’

The oversight is a shame because Western streetwear aficionados would do well to study the shockingly clean and often starkly simple fashion choices of the Terrace House roommates. Because the show takes place largely inside their bizarrely brutalist living space, much of what the cast is seen sporting is cozy and comfortable loungewear—and the omnipresence of sleek athleisure also reflects Tokyo’s growing fitness fanaticism and the city’s specific obsession with cardio workouts. Although clothes are seldom the topic of conversation for the characters, it’s stunning how unequivocally put-together everyone looks at any given moment. 

Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Nike and Supreme are the brands that are most often on display in the show. Still, the mixing and matching of labels are consistently depicted with a kind of effortless cool that Americans (who tend toward flashier forms of conspicuous consumption than Japanese fashionistas) have trouble approximating. Muted color palettes (most of the outfit choices don’t venture beyond white, black, beige and gray) keep these expensive labels from seeming too ostentatious.

Netflix

Indeed, Japan has become one of the largest markets for luxury brands in the world. “Over half of local luxury executives surveyed by McKinsey viewing Japan, which accounts for as much as 30 to 40 percent of some global brands’ profitability, as a growth engine and profit generator,” concludes Business of Fashion writer Kati Chitrakorn. This trend is apparent not only in the cast’s clothing but in the rather chic ready-to-wear of almost every civilian in the background as well.

Where Terrace House cast members excel is in both emotional and sartorial restraint. Whereas American style gurus often bask in power-clashing, color-blocking and excess, Terrace House members are wise enough to pick only one statement piece per outfit—usually a smart jacket or hoodie or dashing hats and berets with slightly louder sneakers. Unlike in the United States, ill-fitting or boxy loungewear seems rare—even their joggers are mostly slim fit. And on the infrequent occasions in the show where formal wear is appropriate, the group’s men prefer skinnier cuts and streamlined silhouettes. Boldly patterned button-downs with splashes of brighter colors—the kinds the Queer Eye men are such unfortunate proponents of—in general, are avoided.

Influences on Japanese Menswear

One big influence on Japanese menswear seems to be skateboarding, snowboarding and surfer culture, the ubiquity of which was a surprise to me in the series. Western urbanites have certainly become fixated on the trendiness of brands like Thrasher and Stüssy, and the fad has rubbed off on the cosmopolitan men of Tokyo, as evident in the well designed graphic imagery of even non-branded items (although without the sometimes Satanic imagery).

Gaijin tend to put a lot of misplaced emphasis on utility, as evidenced in perpetually sloppily dressed cities like Boston and Philly, who excuse their bad fashion by pointing toward neverending inclement weather and their slavish devotion to local sports teams. Japan’s more temperate climate allows for more exploration in terms of functional outerwear—but what Terrace House teaches us is that there’s plenty of ways to stay comfortable while still looking stylish.

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Leaders Style

Who Knew the New Pope Was a Style Gawd?!

The clandestine operations of The Vatican are largely obtuse to those without faith. Still, the organization’s opulence remains an object of fascination for fashion scholars and style industry insiders, as evident with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s ostentatious Heavenly Bodies gala and exhibit in 2018. Only two years before that, Paolo Sorrentino’s bizarre vision of Catholic leadership enraptured audiences and critics alike. His HBO series, The Young Pope, explored a world in which a trendy but deeply fascistic and power-hungry American (played by Jude Law) ascended as the leader of the Church — but as he introduced sweeping conservative policies and performed a slew of miracles, a more moderate wing of the Vatican plotted to have him removed. The show abruptly concluded when Pope Pius XIII inexplicably collapsed. Now, Sorrentino is revisiting his transgressive interpretation of the spiritual world with a continuation of Pius’s story in a follow-up miniseries confusingly titled The New Pope.

HBO

What made The Young Pope stand out as a TV show was its high art aspirations: Sorrentino’s absurdly gorgeous cinematographic eye complemented the dark tale of corrupted faith. The story explored the Catholic Church’s entrenched global power and their history of atrocities, including sex crime coverups and the persecution of homosexuals while simultaneously investigating the existential turmoil of spiritual leaders—all set to a soundtrack of sweeping orchestral music, minimalist synthpop and contemporary disco. It was Sorrentino’s sleek styling that made the show stand out—and the extravagant costuming throughout the program was a huge part.

Now, in The New Pope, universally beloved thespian John Malkovich has taken on the part of Sir John Brannox, an uber-wealthy cardinal who, through a series of internecine manipulations from Vatican higher-ups, has become Pius’s unlikely replacement. Brannox acts as a perfect foil to Pius: where Law’s character had been bombastic and despotic, Brannox is melancholic and whimsical. But will Brannox’s new position of power drive him mad?

HBO

“When we read the new scripts, we noticed that each character had evolved so much that we were forced to renew the type of costumes and go in completely different directions,” costume designers Carlo Poggioli and Luca Canfora told GQ, adding that the “boisterous and accursed” aesthetic inspirations for Brannox included Oscar Wilde, the Duke of Windsor, Prince Michael of Kent and David Bowie. 

From the moment the audience is introduced to the harp-playing Brannox, it should be immediately apparent that this vaguely queeny character is an emerging style icon. Dripping in wealth and regality, Brannox’s stylistic smarts perfectly compliment his depressive personality and display a smart, mysterious sensibility. 

Brannox’s color palette exudes majesty: maroons, beiges, arrogant blacks, deep blues, eggshell whites, purples, mauves, and forest greens are the dominant hues — all colors that have traditionally been associated with royalty and poise. The textures: lots of expensive velvets, shiny silks, and thick wools. Accessories: abundant, but somehow not tacky. The fit: Either billowing or slim-cut—harking back to the gothic tropes (no wonder he’s a Marilyn Manson fan!) of vacillating agoraphobia and claustrophobia. The patterns: Ornate and hyper-intricate paisley and houndstooth.

HBO

“The prints were made by one of the last craftswomen who still carry out fabric printing by hand using wooden molds,” Poggioli and Canfora explained. “It was made in a small workshop in Venice by two elderly sisters who work very little nowadays, but who accepted to produce it for us because they’re both devoted Malkovich fans!”

Similarly, much was made of Pius’s red Louboutin’s — but Brannox couldn’t be bothered with such garishness, which is why he switched out the loud red leather for a softer and subtle velvet damask.

A key aspect of Brannox’s character is his lilting and ambiguous effeminacy; he regularly receives calls from Meghan Markle asking for outfit advice. When an advisor notices his sartorial supremacy, she asks if he’s gay—to which he responds with a resounding and inconclusive belly laugh. And Brannox’s styling matches this kind of quizzical androgyny, calling to attention the already confusingly gendered nature of most papal robes: He’s usually seen sporting heavy emo-inflected eyeliner (a detail which had been emphasized in the script itself!), and his flowing coats are almost dresses. Is he intentionally genderfucking—or just pleasantly eccentric?

HBO

When Brannox is elected Pope, taking on the name Pope John Paul III, he is forced to swap out his moodier outfits for more traditional robes, which are (despite the solemn martyrdom required of his position) dripping in gold and jewels. The color palette changes to crisp whites and robust reds, colors that indicate his purity and power.

Brannox begins his Papacy with a message about love, but questions remain as to whether his socialite proclivities will turn him into more of a celebrity than a leader. Considering the excellent costuming the series showcases so far, it will be interesting to watch as John Paul III’s outfits change to reflect what’s happening in the rest of the story—or if he’ll abandon his Louboutin’s in search of something more.

HBO

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Leaders Style

The Best Concert Merch from Recent History

While modern fashion seems to be a force that is ever-changing and always evolving, the concert T-shirt is a piece that has stood the test of time—and remains in the wardrobes of the most fashionable. 

A quick scan of the current “it girl” or “it boys” Instagram account will likely highlight a few vintage Grateful Dead or Rolling Stones T-shirts. And while the fabric may be a bit distressed or possibly frayed on the sleeves and necklines, these pieces seem to get cooler with age. 

Now, just as classic rock concert tees have become staples in mainstream fashion—so has tour merch from more contemporary musical acts over the past few years. Artists like Drake, Kanye West, Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky and others have all contributed to the fashion world with their own tour merchandise.  We take a look at some of the best in recent times.

6. Chance the Rapper’s 3 Hat (2016)
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for EIF

5. Drake’s REVENGE shirt (2016)
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

The “REVENGE” T-shirt (with the yellow font) is one of the more iconic pieces of Drake-related merchandise. Dropped in the midst of his iconic “Summer 16” tour—one year after his notorious beef with Meek Mill—Drake’s choice of font style and color on this tee gave me serious “Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western” vibes. And, as for the choice of “REVENGE,” with regard to Drake merch? I’m not sure any artist’s music makes me want to ruin an ex’s day like Drizzy’s. Well done.

4. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ shirt (2017)
Grailed

All over the DAMN. LP, you can find references from K. Dot (to himself) under the moniker of Kung Fu Kenny. And that’s why I love this piece so much. Kendrick went with a yellow shirt with mandala designs and Chinese logograms. With tour merch being so commonplace, it isn’t easy to find originality and a message within pieces. Neither is the case with Kendrick’s merch from the DAMN. tour.

3. Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Is King’ (2019)

While Kanye’s Jesus Is King album didn’t get much fanfare, the merchandise surrounding the release was much more well-received. Kanye did a great job capturing the vintage “soul” style he was going for—with the minimalistic design, font choices and inclusion of catalog numbers. The (royal) blue West chose is quite similar to Yves Klein’s “international bleu,” which is nice on the eyes, and the navy—contrasted with the gold text— lends itself well to his vision, as well.

2. Travis Scott’s ‘Astroworld’ (2018)
shop.travisscott.com

For an extremely limited time, Travis “La Flame” Scott released a ton of merchandise to promote his new album Astroworld—and from soup to nuts, this is some of the coolest music apparel on the market. Including a tie-dye tee, a denim jacket (with motorcycle patches) and a variety of tee shirts, sweatpants, ballcaps and more (like grinders), Travis Scott’s big Astroworld release is still one of the most in-demand tour merch packs out there.

1. Kanye West’s ‘Pablo’ (2016)
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Bravado

I’m not sure there’s a single bigger merch release than Kanye’s The Life of Pablo tour gear when it hit the streets four years ago. Kanye opened around 21 pop-up shops around the globe, which is truly a feat in moving merch. According to Kanye they moved more than “$2 million worth” in just two days at a pop-up sale. In typical Kanye fashion, the Life of Pablo clothing line and album were debuted at Madison Square Garden during NY Fashion Week. As I’m sure you know, the resale on these pieces—which were created in collaboration with artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt—was through the roof.

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Leaders Style

Brkln Bloke Is the Sidewalk Streetwear Brand Making Waves

A bloke is a British slang for a man or a fellow. If you’ve lived in Brooklyn in the past ten years or so, you’ve probably seen or run into the Brkln Bloke himself. His real name is Wayne Fortune, and he is the man behind one of New York City’s most unique streetwear brands. 

Fortune hails from London, where his entrepreneurial spirit was born out of a love for performance and dance. He earned his first check at 13 by dancing for Adidas and immediately spent it on Jordans, which he enjoyed on the walk home from the store—until his mother made him return them because of their absurd price tag. 

Brkln Bloke has built its brand presence through a series of pop-up stores around New York and has become well known its disruptive street pop-up concept in multiple Brooklyn locations. Fortune creates an engaging and compelling boutique shopping experience that stands alone in this format. His raw hustle and “ground-up” style of connecting with consumers has embedded the Brkln Bloke brand as next in the minds of customers, locally and globally.

Fortune is one of those guys who naturally exudes a balance of self-confidence and humility that draws you in. His clothes, brand and the decisions he makes about where and when you see him embodies this aura. 

The designer and founder has lived in Brooklyn for a decade and has resided in many different neighborhoods but now calls an apartment within walking distance of Prospect Park in Prospect Leffert Gardens home. We tracked Fortune down on the streets and asked him our most pressing questions.

Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm
https://sarahjacobs.photoshelter.com/index

ONE37pm: You’ve lived in the states for a while now, what was growing up across the pond like?

Wayne Fortune: Growing up, hip-hop culture was everything. If I had any extra cash, I was buying the latest Big Daddy Kane album or trying to get my hands on some Jordans. Hip-hop culture was so expressive with colors—graffiti on the jeans. It’s certainly changed a lot, but the ability for customization is always something I understood.

You were living in Atlanta before New York. What made you move north?


Fortune: It took me three tries to live in New York before I found the right rhythm. In order to get that, you have to understand your community and feel the energy of the people. I was looking at the cultural evolution of Brooklyn, thinking, “Where is this going to go?” But in Atlanta, I spent a ton of time on Peter Street. You’d be in the studio and Nas would be right there, Young Jeezy is over there and the manager is in the car listening to new music. You can actually feel and touch people. I always wanted to maneuver in a way that was through genuine connections, because I believe you can move quicker and smarter that way. I used that energy and took it to Brooklyn.

Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm
https://sarahjacobs.photoshelter.com/index
Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm
https://sarahjacobs.photoshelter.com/index

How did you come up with the name BRKLN Bloke?

Fortune: I always liked Bloke because it’s an old British slang and it’s inclusive. It’s a love for your fellow man, speak-to-everybody type of vibe. I wanted to offer a modern statement. I had the chance to live in multiple places in Brooklyn and really connect and touch the people in different neighborhoods and communities.

What was the inspiration behind starting your own clothing brand?

Fortune: Growing up, I always wanted to dress clean. My mates and I were always competing to one-up each other. Eventually, we graduated to a real clean and simple look—that became the identity. That’s what success meant: where you got to a point where you didn’t have to pay so much attention to all the accessories of what you’re wearing you just simplified it. That’s the background for Brkln Bloke aesthetic and how I found my lane—just trying to be myself and what I thought brought cultures together.

What makes Brkln Bloke different from other streetwear brands?


Fortune: I really built the brand about the people, and I only want to showcase the people. That’s been my approach to everything that I’ve done. I’m from a time period where your uniqueness was everything. Everything I do at Brkln Bloke is more of a classic and sustainable look. The brand should represent the people, that’s who I’m doing it for. I’m doing it for the idea of culture, creativity and community.

Wayne Fortune of Brklyn Bloke

I’m doing it for the idea of culture, creativity and community.

Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm
https://sarahjacobs.photoshelter.com/index

How competitive is the New York City streetwear market?

Fortune: Unbelievably, stupidly competitive. I’m not an exclusive brand or a trendy brand. I don’t want customers lining up around the bloody building—my environment is all about something much more approachable and meaningful connection. My goal is to sustain that throughout the brand’s lifespan. I don’t want to compete with the Supremes of the world. The only way I can describe it is a classic and sustainable style.

What is your morning routine?

Fortune: I am up between 5 to 6 a.m., and I read or listen to an audiobook right away. I read a page a day of the author Og Mandino. After that, it’s going to be black coffee followed by a minimum 5K run outside. I get really focused on the run; I need that runner’s high. There’s just something I get out of running that I need. Then it’s off to work to do what I got to do.


What do you do to relax?

Fortune: To be an entrepreneur or a person that is driven by their passion is to live in a state of anxiety. Your mind is always triggered by something, especially if you’re doing it for yourself. So for me, it’s running—that is what allows me to keep me being Wayne and keeps me being able to do what I do.

What’re you listening to right now?

Fortune: Freddie Gibbs, Bandana; Dave East, Survival.

What advice would you give a future entrepreneur looking to get involved in streetwear?

Fortune: Try not to rush and try to soak up as much of the process as possible. Even guys that are technically ahead of me are making mistakes I would never make. Get one idea going and see if you can sell it 1,000 times. Then you know you’re in business. Once you have the product, all you should think about is positioning. I’ve only met people by being visible.

Where can someone find you?


Fortune: I’m currently in Williamsburg on Bedford Street and North 7th. You can find me on social media at @BrklnBloke.

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Leaders Style

What Skateboarding Taught Me About Style

“Do another kickflip,” my friend said. A gaggle of bug-eyed teens watched me under the blue autumn sky. The first day of our freshman year of high school had just ended, and we gathered in the parking lot of the skatepark across the street.

“Dude…ride around, just ride around,” my friend instructed. I did a lap. My friend threw his hands up. “You don’t have any style! That’s what it is. You have no style.” 

“You don’t have any style! That’s what it is. You have no style.”

I was stunned, and a little aggrieved—my friend didn’t even know how to kickflip. Who was he to criticize me? I had spent the summer in seclusion, studying the kickflip and had offered it to my peers for their respect. Instead, they dogged me.

At first, I didn’t understand, then I did. 

My friend—who was technically a worse skater but more thoroughly steeped in the culture—was right. I could land a kickflip and I could ride around, but it didn’t look beautiful. When I did flip tricks, I didn’t always land on the bolts—the board would hiccup and my heels would graze the ground. When I rode around, instead of throwing my foot out and arcing it back in one motion, I hobbled along like a geriatric. There was a lot more to skateboarding than just landing tricks. There was something that elevated it into art: style.

There are a few reasons one becomes a sneakerhead: through fashion, following others or by necessity. The third is the way for ballers and skaters. As soon as I began learning kickflips, my shoelaces severed and a gash opened in my shoes. Tennis shoes would no longer suffice. My mom took me to a skate shop, and I bought a forgettable pair of black, white and gray DC clunkers. But they were the first, and you always remember your first.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
My shoe game evolved with my skate game.

My shoe game evolved with my skate game. Each new trick—heelflips, frontside flips, the notorious tre—begot new shoes to replace the ones the feats destroyed. I got a pair of black És Ones, a classic shoe, the very first Nike Eric Koston shoes, baby blue Emerica Reynolds 3s, my favorite shoe of all time. These shoes stood out for their details. My Reynolds 3s had a faux-diamond earring in the eyelet, my gray-purple És-Chocolate collaboration mid-tops concealed a stash pocket and my Bryan Herman Emericas had “WUSSUP” and “HATERS” written on the heel.

My friends and I chattered about shoes constantly. I remember my friend Ethan coming into math class with a new pair of black Vans Half Cabs, an iconic skate shoe. They still had the fresh leather and chopped timber aroma. He took one off, and we passed it around, burying our noses in it, deeply inhaling like it was a skull filled with smelling salts. We nodded and smiled at each other.

Our fashion tastes climbed upwards to our legs, torsos, arms and heads. All of my favorite skaters like Jerry Hsu, Heath Kirchart and Eric Koston had a personal style, not just for tricks, but fashion. I was inspired by them and started ordering less typical apparel: high socks, corduroy pants, knit sweaters and flannels. I never felt like I was copying anyone. I took bits and pieces and combined them to create something new.


By the end of my sophomore year of high school, everyone respected my skating and my style. Kids’ eyes popped out when they saw my new shoes. Friends offered me money to buy the clothes off my back. I wasn’t the best technical skater, but I had mastered the four elements: my flip tricks got air, I pushed wood with grace, my style flowed like water and everyone knew I was fire.

As high school went on, kids dropped out from skateboarding and mastered different elements—they could breathe smoke, change mental states or down bottles of strong liquid. I left skating behind too. But skating never really left me. The principles I learned (and earned) endow my style forever. 

One could learn how to do every trick in the book—or one could buy every piece of designer clothing—and yet still lack style. One could just cruise around on a skateboard and have style. It’s not what you do—it’s how you do it. 

Beauty takes effort but looks effortless. It’s worth it to try.