We’re big fans of streetwear and here’s our list of the 10 greatest/most influential brands to ever grace this planet. This is gonna become a regular feature for us – bringing you a list of the 10 Greatest of, well, whatever we feel is worth talking about really. Let’s talk quickly about exactly what defines ‘streetwear’…
True traditional streetwear appeals to a spectrum of subcultures (skateboarding and hip-hop mostly). Stussy was one of the pioneers of apparel using the term ‘streetwear’ to define what they were putting out. They were a Southern California lifestyle-based T-shirt brand that unconventionally mimicked the limited feel of a high-end luxury brand. Those are the two most integral components of what makes a brand streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity. Every line on this list, with a few exceptions, has built their brand off T-shirts, while speaking to their audience directly through unique distro channels.
One final requirement to consider is influence and longevity. Streetwear is an endurance game. It’s easy to make a hot T-shirt, have it show up on the back of a celeb only for you to disappear into the ether. It’s tough to keep it going for 10 years never mind 30 or more.
10. Crooks & Castles
Since 2002 their no-holds-barred approach has gained them notoriety and a reputation for being a powerhouse within the industry. They came out swinging at the onset of the all-over-print craze with their “Chains” hoodies and Medusa tees. It grew out of the “villainous lifestyle” during the 80′s and 90′s in Los Angeles where gangs were everywhere – the hood, the city, even middle suburbia. This is where they got their inspiration and this is what guides these Crooks forward from year to year.
‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’ Trainerspotter grew, interestingly not from t-shirts, but sneakers, more specifically early 80′s Nikes. Since their formation in 2002 old school Nikes have acted as their source of power, resulting in a global customer base from their UK beginnings to the USA, France and Japan. You’ll find their garms stocked in the most directional stores of each city, Trainerspotter is rapidly evolving and continually offering more detailed garments, telling more inspirational stories but never compromising the brand ethos.
What streetwear aficionados tend to forget is that sneakers play as much a role in the culture as skateboarding or hip-hop. In fact, Dunk collectors largely inspired the third wave of streetwear that transpired in the latter half of the 2000s. After travelling to Japan, Eddie Cruz and his partner James Bond (not 007) were overwhelmed by the market and fashion culture there where they found sneakers manufactured by the major brands that they had never seen before in the US market. The rest is history and Undefeated are now one of the most majorly hyped brands out there who no longer simply make sneakers but have pushed their excellence through into sought-after clothing.
Okay so the name isn’t very searchable, don’t type ‘anything’ into Google and expect to find what you’re after, but it’s damn clever. The term was coined originally by Undefeated’s Eddie Cruz but A New York Thing is very much Aaron Bondaroff’s baby; his unqiue vision is behind everything they put out. A-Ron has for a while been the unofficial face of Supreme and the official voice of what’s cool in the streetwear scene. Keep your eyes fixed on this rising company as their influence is only going to grow and grow.
It was impossible to grow up in the 1990s skate and street era and not run into the name Keith Hufnagel. His Stussy affiliation gave him the initial foot in to the design community, allowing him to go on and establish his namesake brand. Since shifting their set up from San Francisco to L.A. it hasn’t affected the consistency of their clothing to the point where HUF is now a globally admired street brand.
5. 10 Deep
Whenever people talk about modern relevant street brands 10 Deep always comes up, and for good reason. Owner Scott Sasso is more of a fashion designer than a plain streetwear enthusiast, meaning the collections are seasonally themed and structured more in the style of mainstream fashion labels. One of the biggest talking points is 10 Deep’s versatility; their apparel can just as happily furnish the fashion discerning man or the skateboarder. Forget everyone and listen to yourself – going strong since ’95 and showing no signs of slowing any time soon.
4. A Bathing Ape
No amount of excitement surrounding new collection drops quite matches those of Bape. Fans don’t just look forward to them, they go crazy. The company actively enforces limited access to their products, are set against wholesale, making them an exclusive commodity that you can only buy directly from the source. They catapulted themselves, and cult streetwear, into the mainstream in the 2000s due in large part to their garments appearing on the backs of tastemakers. The successful collaborations with Carhartt, Casio, Beastie Boys, Pharrell, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Odd Future (to name a few) haven’t exactly hurt either.
The reason we’ve specified Carhartt UK is because, although known stateside for their workwear, the Europe division is built upon a framework of streetwear, using cuts that are closer to those of conventional street/skate worlds. Their Work In Progress collection in particular is deeply embedded in street culture with camo prints, chinos, casual shirts and caps. This European domination is sure to last for a long time and rightly so.
You don’t invent the genre and last over 30 years (three waves of streetwear) by sheer fluke. It all started in 1980 with a signature and ever since that signature has been written across every streetwear brand since. Their influence is unparalleled, if Supreme is the mentor then Stussy is the master. However, due to the plucky youngster’s meteoric rise they have pipped Stussy to the post. It was a tough choice, but there it is.
It’s the brand that needs no introduction. It says so much about streetwear that the best streetwear brand in the world isn’t actually streetwear at all. And that’s Supreme. Supreme is a skateboarding and lifestyle brand from New York, and since it’s inception in the late ‘90s it has become the undisputed king of cool. At the core they have built around two main ingredients – exclusive, limited distribution (to wear Supreme, buy from Supreme) and product of the highest quality.