Most guys don't shop. We "buy." In fact, we buy with such force we don't call it purchasing — we call it copping. As in: "Dude, when I saw the Supreme x Comme Des Garcons Timberlands were dropping this week, I copped so hard my phone crashed to keep me from flourishing."
Translation: "I bought a pair of $238 limited-edition waterproof polka-dot embossed boots but was almost unsuccessful because of a connection problem with my cracked iPhone 4S — since I would rather spend my money on clothing than upgrade my phone."
In the menswear world, there's a long-standing obsession with certain brands like A Bathing Ape, Supreme and pretty much anything Kanye West touches. Most of the time, this is met with confusion, disgust or apathy from the women in our lives.
Sister: "Why would you pay $78 for an iPhone case with a monkey on it?"
Lady friend: "Are you really asking me if I think a Volkswagen GTI hoodie would make you more attractive?"
And so on and so forth. Largely, it started with sneakers, and then we started obsessing over other things… like hoodies with side zips and Nike sweatpants that fit like our favorite pair of skinny jeans. For some reason, product sold in limited numbers plus subversive design rooted in skate, punk, hip-hop and other facets of street subculture is would-be cool guy catnip. And that's not only true of dudes: Women have long been a part of the culture, buying up all the smallest sizes and racking up Instagram likes from creeps and "nice guys" who want nothing more than to slide into her DMs.
For the streetwear initiate, here's a primer on all the big-name and cult brands menswear guys are constantly drooling over, and why they're cool.
This label is patient zero for the whole streetwear movement. In the '80s, Shawn Stüssy made a killing selling his own version of Chanel's linked logo (conjoined S's instead of C's) on bucket hats, baseball caps and varsity jackets. He peaced out in the '90s, but today the company that bears his name channels that legacy into collaborations with Nike, shops like Dover Street Market and old-school labels like Carhartt.
A Bathing Ape
This Japanese brand blew up in the early 2000s thanks to its hoodies printed with proprietary simian-themed camouflage and hoods embroidered to mimic the painted noses of WW2-era fighter jets. What guy doesn't want to look aerodynamic? A Bathing Ape also made the full-zip hoodie a streetwear trend and is known for its BAPEsta shoes, which were inspired by Nike Air Force 1s and came out decades before Phoebe Philo's Céline homage to the iconic kicks.
Founded in 1994 by James Jebbia, the seminal skate brand has become a cultural powerhouse. Who else can get Damien Hirst to design skate decks and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons to collaborate on Timberland boots? The perennially cool label has a penchant for bridging the gap between generations, too, whether it's working with Larry Clark on a collection inspired by his film "Kids" or putting Neil Young and Kate Moss's likenesses on T-shirts that instantly sell out. Sure, plenty of the kids buying the product hadn't heard of these people before Supreme came along — but they do now.
This relatively new London skate brand has made waves for its cheeky attitude and distinctively British wit. Just look at the product copy on its webstore, where the description for a Thinsulate bomber jacket includes the line "ON THE DANCE FLOOR LOOKING LIKE THE GUY OUT OF THE FANTASTIC 4." The writing reflects the charisma of Palace founder Lev Tanju, who pens much of the hilarity himself. What with American cool guys' current obsession with pulling off the "British Roadman" look, Palace's current reign doesn't look like it's going to be challenged anytime soon.
Co-founded by Alex Olson, an archetypal skater dreamboat (see: "The Enduring Appeal of a Sk8r Boi"), Bianca Chandon stands apart for its pared-down design sensibilities and unique connection to the '70s club scene. The brand embraces the pansexual culture of clubs like Larry Levan's Paradise Garage and Studio 54, drawing inspiration from the drag scene to promote a more accepting stance towards LGBT culture in skate. And it does that by making covetable, cool T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts.
Virgil Abloh is a designer inspired by everything from mid-2000s streetwear like ALIFE and aNYthing to architects (Mies Van Der Rohe) and graffiti artists (Terrible T-KID 170). His clothing has taken up the torch of translating what's popping in the street and putting it on the runway. Sure, his other gig as a globe-trotting DJ and Kanye West's creative director helps fuel his increasingly eclectic influences, but considering that Abloh managed to convert Cathy Horyn into "a huge fan" and nab a prestigious LVMH prize nomination, it's evident that his screen printed military jackets, distressed jeans and self-described Céline-meets-Air Force 1s aesthetic represents everything relevant about fashion's current obsession with street culture.
Before A$AP Rocky wore his sweatsuit emblazoned with a mashup of the Tommy Hilfiger logo and the flags of Russia and Communist China to the VMAs, Rubchinskiy cut his teeth as a stylist and only later transitioned into design. That was clearly the move, though: Rubchinskiy's work caught the eye of Comme des Garcons President Adrian Joffe, who gave him the lift needed to take his line to the next level. In addition to his Cyrillic flips on logos like Hilfiger's, Rubchinskiy has gained attention for his collaborations with Vans, the Russian artist Timur Novikov and for his photography, which gives him yet another creative outlet to express his vision. Plus: He opened the Vetements show at Paris Fashion Week last season, wearing a reimagined DHL T-shirt.
This Japanese brand remains relatively under-the-radar in the U.S. but is steadily developing a strong following. Established by two retired soccer players, Nobuhiro Mori and Keiji Ishizuka, it's become one of the streetwear cult's newest status symbols, with its embroidered satin bomber jackets and Virgin Mary screen printed hoodies fast becoming must-have grail pieces for discerning style nerds.
Antisocial Social Club
The brainchild of Neek Lurk, recovering Internet forum addict-turned-marketing guru at Stüssy, Antisocial Social Club is a line for the ever-anxious online set. Line up the Xan bars and put on one of his curved-brim baseball caps, T-shirts, hoodies or coach's jackets to pledge your allegiance to every other person who follows @sosadtoday. The tongue-in-cheek line is the spiritual successor to Neek's previous line, which parodied Hood By Air and Been Trill with printed tees emblazoned with "Been Azn" and "Hood By Azn," riffing on early-2000s Asian-American Internet culture, which you can thank for the onslaught of Blingees.