Over the last few years, there has been something strange in men’s fashion. It is becoming more difficult to distinguish between streetwear and high fashion. In recent seasons, historic haute-couture houses have partnered with skatewear brands. Labels that used the same platform until recently to produce razor-sharp tailoring or trench coats are now sending hoodies down fashion week runways in harness bags and hoodies.
Many believe this crossover is the end of streetwear. However, it’s not impossible to see how the fashion world has changed. The brands that have long championed this style are still doing their thing.
We’ll be highlighting the top streetwear labels and explaining why they are worth keeping on your sartorial radar.
Needles, a subsidiary of Japanese fashion house Nepenthes and the brand that gave rise to Engineered Garments is a streetwear-leaning fashion line that takes Japan’s obsession for Americana to the next level. The brand’s collections combine American military and traditional western styles. They also remix and modify classic Japanese designs using Japanese textiles. Needles Velour Tracksuits have enjoyed a huge popularity among fashion insiders as well as A-list rappers. The label’s appeal is not likely to diminish, considering that it has been in business since 1988.
- Pop Trading Company
Pop Trading Company in Amsterdam was founded as a skate shop that sold a variety of hard-to-find brands as well as other cool items. Pop Trading Company is one of the youngest names on this list, having launched their own clothing line in 2016. Despite its lack of heritage, the Dutch label quickly became one of the most exciting new players in the scene. It is a menswear brand that has been influenced by skateboarding.
Although Palace is the most popular streetwear brand in Britain today, we made our mark in the UK way before Lev Tanju even saw the London skate label. Maharishi is a great example. This brand was Britain’s first foray into streetwear. It was a camo-loving, Asian-inspired and hip-hop-influenced melting-pot. Maharishi was not only a pioneer in style but also had and has a strong focus on fair trade, which is a central part of everything it does. Maharishi was “woke” long before the term “woke” was even a thing. In today’s world, its style and ethos are more relevant than ever.
Streetwear in its purest form would not have been possible if it wasn’t for Shawn Stussy, a Californian surfer, and his 1980s line of graphic T-shirts. It all began when Stussy started writing his surname with a marker pen on his handcrafted surfboards. The logo quickly found its way onto t-shirts, hoodies, and everything else.
- Supreme NYC
If you ask anyone to name a streetwear company, chances are Supreme will be the first to pop off their tongue. Supreme, a New York brand that transcends all others, revolutionized the market by using “drops” to release new products in limited quantities. Fans waited for hours to grab the iconic box logo, even if it was a brick or an assyrctray.
Palace could easily be described as the embodiment of London’s gritty, skateboarding scene. The UK label has grown from a small imprint that made skateboard decks and T shirts to become one of the most recognizable names in men’s fashion in just ten years. On drop day, you can find five-panel caps paired with velvet smoking jackets or snakeskin loafers in their webstore.
Although it is true that streetwear was invented by the Americans, Japan is the most serious. Nippon’s most proud export is Neighborhood, which makes dark and moody streetwear. It has collaborated with many heavyweights like Dr. Martens, Converse, Dr. Martens, and even Timex, a budget watch brand.
Kanye West and Virgil Abloh were the first to work at Fendi. Off-White founder Virgil Abloh quickly rose to prominence, becoming one of fashion’s most recognizable figures. The designer is now the head of Louis Vuitton’s menswear division. However, he still manages to have his own label and poke fun at the industry with tongue in cheek branding and an uncanny sense of irony.
With a little help from Nike, legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hartfield, Michael Jordan changed sneaker culture with the introduction of his signature footwear line. The Jordan brand has been a staple of streetwear since its inception, producing some of the most iconic trainers ever made.
Patta, a Dutch streetwear brand, began as a limited-edition line of graphic T-shirts. The tees were initially sold in a boutique selling multi-brand products, but Patta started to grow demand and transform into a streetwear brand. The brand is now a household name thanks to a series of high-profile collaborations it has had with everyone from Nike to Carhartt.
A handful of brands have gained respect across all areas of casual menswear. Nike, an Oregonian sportswear giant, is one of these brands. Nike is a king of streetwear.
- Carhartt WIP
Carhartt, a brand that made high-quality workwear and apparel for tough conditions, was a US company for a long time. The label was reborn in Europe. You were more likely to see DJs or skaters sporting its products, rather than mechanics and carpenters. Carhartt’s response to its newfound fanbase came in the shape of Carhartt WIP (Work In Progress): a streetwear-orientated line that focused on ultra-cool designs, without sacrificing any of that trademark rugged quality.
- Polar Skate Co.
Streetwear and skate culture have been closely linked for decades. This is evident in the example of Polar Skate Co. The Swedish brand is a skatewear company, but it has also gained popularity in the streetwear world. You can expect graphic tees and cool outerwear from the Swedish brand. And, unlike many streetwear brands, you won’t have to worry about your wallet.
- BAPE (A Bathing Ape)
It’s hard not to think about Japanese streetwear when you think of BAPE. The label, which was created by Nigo, a DJ and fashion designer, has been a great way for teens to get into streetwear. It is known for its distinctive camo print and other bizarre design motifs (shark jacket anyone?). The brand is a respected and highly sought-after in alternative fashion.
- The North Face
Perhaps you are wondering what a brand dedicated to mountaineering is doing among a list of streetwear labels. The North Face is known for its knack for securing brand connections, which can lead to “grail pieces” from their products. TNF is a frequent collaborator with Supreme. TNF also has a tendency to enlist the help of renegade talent in creating new and interesting garments.
WTAPS combines military style, workwear styling and utilitarian design with street appeal. The unique design and instantly recognisable style of this Japanese favorite has made it a cult favourite. While you’ll find a lot of boxy cuts, loose-fitting hoodies, and baggy cargos, don’t be surprised if there is a Japanese Ivy-League tucked in.
Undercover, a Japanese label, is most well-known for its Nike-collab sneakers. But this brand’s roots go back much further than that. Jun Takahashi’s streetwear brand, a renegade, was an integral part of the cool Ura-Harajuku scene. It was also one of the first labels to make the transition between streetwear and “proper” fashion. Takahashi was heavily influenced from the UK punk scene. This can be seen in Takahashi’s output today in many of its more unusual designs.
- The Hundreds
Although you may not be able to recall a time when streetwear and high fashion were one and the same thing, The Hundreds can. This LA-based streetwear label was founded in 2003. This one was born in a time when graphic tees were the norm and the idea of a Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration would have been as impossible as Donald Trump becoming President. Despite all this madness, The Hundreds continues to do its thing, on its own terms. This is old-fashioned streetwear that’s simple and doesn’t pretend it’s something it isn’t.
Ronnie Fieg, a New York-based sneaker-scene legend, is the king of KITH. The store’s own label, KITH, has been a streetwear phenomenon in its own right, thanks to a steady stream of high-profile collaborations and the odd strange one. KITH has partnered with many brands, including Nike and New Balance as well as less-known ones like Bugaboo or Disney. It’s not just about trainers. KITH also offers a range of apparel, including box-logo hoodies, crews, and all the usual streetwear crowd pleasers.
Brendon Babenzien, who had his start at Supreme, left his position as creative director with a vision of a streetwear brand that would be different. Noah is the result, which can be best described as what Supreme and Polo Ralph Lauren would do if they had a baby. You’ll find the usual suspects: hoodies and caps, logo tees etc. You’ll also find a lot of the unusual. You don’t have to feel guilty about buying preppy items like loafers, rugby shirts, and sports jackets.
- CDG PLAY
Fashion types are most familiar with Comme des Garcons’ avant-garde collections, boundary-testing and bizarre runway shows. It’s all about the bug-eyed logos on T-shirts with crew necks and Converse All Stars. CDG PLAY is the streetwear-leaning side of Rei Kawakubo’s storied Japanese label. It takes pared-back wardrobe basics, and reimagines them with bold branding and offbeat design motifs. You can expect classic pieces such as hoodies and Breton tops, along with T-shirts and Breton tops, all infusing CDG personality.
- Cav Empt
Cav Empt’s streetwear label is one of the most interesting and original. It has clothing that looks like it came from a future streetwear time machine. This Japanese heavyweight makes streetwear for the thinking man. There’s something to do once the Supreme x The North face and box-logo hoodies have lost their appeal.