At the turn of the decade, a glut of opinion pieces decried the death of the subculture. Mostly white, middle-aged rock journos moaned that there were no proper ‘scenes’ anymore. That fast fashion and Spotify had killed youth movements. That everyone dressed the same, in some version of post-Libertines skinny jeans and tees. That individuality had died in the 1990s with Britpop.
Roll on eight years and the NME’s dead, the kids have never dressed more disparately and, like a renegade master, the nineties are back once again (if you get that reference, you’ve probably already got the look in your attic). Where once you needed some knowledge to pick your Blur fans from your Oasis fans, today’s style tribes come pre-branded.
By embracing logos in a way not seen since the days when Tommy Hilfiger sold in shops other than TK Maxx, it’s easy to pick the skatewear kids from the high-fashion set, the wannabe grime MCs from the Rafsessives.
All of which makes logomania at once a trend that anyone can jump on, and one that’s fraught with peril. Unlike in the nineties, when logos were a slightly less gauche way to flaunt your wealth than wearing a coat made of cash, this time around they embody a convoluted blend of irony, status, lack of status, in-joke and fashion knowledge. Get it wrong and you’re your dad in the Supreme queue. Get it right and you’re Jonah Hill in Palace, quietly breaking the internet.
Here are four key ways to be the latter.
The OG logo move, both back then and right now, is the branded tee. “Gucci kick-started this trend [in recent years] with its logo T-shirt,” says Luke McDonald, a stylist at online wardrobe service Thread. Though street- and sportswear brands have never abandoned their graphics, the luxury brands had steered more minimal since the noughties as customers preferred a subtler display of wealth.
“But that doesn’t translate well to Instagram,” McDonald says. “Logos do.” Gucci’s tee, while still nosebleed expensive, let consumers buy into the hottest brand in fashion without shelling out four figures. Plus, everyone could see what you’d bought and where it was from.
Labels high and low followed suit. “At the moment, you can’t have too much,” says Nick Eley, head of men’s design at ASOS. “There’s a real trend for all-over or huge, oversized logo prints.” These are not for wallflowers. You are, in essence, paying a brand to act as their advert, so make sure your go-to is more than a pretty picture. “You should pick a label that feels authentic to your style and lifestyle,” says McDonald.
Logo clashing is doable, but tricky. It’s better to give your chosen brand the spotlight unshared. “I would treat logos in the same way I treat prints,” says Chris Hobbs, menswear fashion editor at MatchesFashion.com. “One at a time, otherwise your outfit will start to wear you.” If you look like an F1 driver, dial back.
There are always ways to dip a toe into any fashion trend, even one that’s as look-at-me as this. On the high street, the approach tends to be OTT – the logos themselves have less clout, so their owners need to go big lest the punters go home. But among the labels with more cache, even those that have long been logo-shy have leaned into the trend. Albeit gently.
“The subtlest way to approach logos is to pick a label that doesn’t visibly brand their product,” says Eley,” but which has a particular sign-off or print that is immediately distinguishable.” Think Burberry’s check, recently reintroduced after being binned in the noughties because of its popularity among the less-well-heeled, and Margiela, with its signature stitches.
For a pocket-money take on that approach, look for either tonal logos – think a white-on-white Stan Smith, or black-on-black Nike swoosh – or stick to trousers, where the branding is subtler. Joggers in particular, with the logo relegated to the side stripe, tick off two trends at once.
“You can also restrain the impact of your logos with layering,” says McDonald. “Under a plain hoodie or an open shirt, you just get the flash of a logo on a tee.”
Let’s make one thing clear: all logos have some sense of irony. Those worn in earnest are too thirsty to be tolerated; today, status is earned by not looking like you care about status at all. Confused? Good. Because that’s the headspace you need for Gucci’s self-inflicted bootlegging, by which the brand flogs price-of-a-suit T-shirts with the word ‘GUCCY’ written on them.
Fair cop. Your correspondent once purchased a Palace tee in which the enormous rear logo reads ‘Placae’. It seemed funny at the time, but is in reality obscene. Also, no one has ever noticed the typo. However, ridiculous as all this might seem, it does introduce the one thing that’s never been fashion’s strong suit. “Fun,” says Benns. “Gucci is having fun with its typography. And I think that’s interesting.”
For those without the bank balance for knock-off versions at luxury prices, the streetwear world offers the time-honoured logo flip. “It’s always been about democratising those brands and the things they represent,” says McDonald. “It makes them accessible and relevant to street culture.” Bowlcut Garms does a number of neat brand mashups and Sports Banger has reworked everything from Helly Hansen (as Hackney Hardcore) to the NHS and Nike logos.
Gucci doesn’t make its billions from the stuff in Jared Leto’s wardrobe. Rather, it’s the accessible, affordable products that let everyone else buy into the brand without a call to Wonga.
“That used to mean fragrances,” says McDonald. “But now, every brand has a range of lifestyle accessories, from phone cases to lighters to keychains, all of which have the logo front and centre.”
For the man looking to rep the logo trend without going all fanboy, it’s the gentlest way in. For the genuine fanboy, it’s the most affordable.
The word Gucci is almost as heavily ingrained in the lexicon of fashion connoisseurs as the word fashion itself. It’s a name synonymous with luxury, glamour and style – which is probably why people are so keen to have it plastered all over their chests.
The respected Italian fashion house has been one of the key high-end labels spearheading the logo trend, and also the one having the most fun with it. Pick from printed tees, hoodies, bags, trainers and more, all boasting that big-ticket green and red branding.
If the logo trend is all about irony, then no brand is a better example than Virgil Abloh’s acutely self-aware Off-White. Abloh’s imprint has received almost universal praise for its tongue-in-cheek use of branding, logos and labels – perhaps most notably recently in its collaborative effort with Nike, ‘The Ten’.
He must be doing something right. After all, you don’t get named creative director of one of the most esteemed high-fashion labels on the face of the earth – Louis Vuitton – for not having your finger on the pulse.
There are few brands that can get away with flogging a pair of plain white socks emblazoned with their logo for just under £100. Balenciaga is one of them.
Ever since Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia – a man known for his love of bold logos – took the reins of the Spanish luxury label, not-so-subtle branding has become one of its calling cards. Think embroidered baseball caps that cost more than your rent, politically-themed pool sliders and plenty of nods to popular culture.
When you take the nineties resurgence into account, it’s hardly surprising that Tommy Hilfiger’s legendary flag logo is flying high once again. Tommy was a staple fixture in the world of fashion 20 years ago and with a little help from the vintage resellers of the social media generation, is now back in full force.
Block colours, bold fonts and nineties styling are what it’s all about. And at manageable price points, adding a dash of Hilfiger to your wardrobe won’t leave you living off super noodles until payday.
It’s always been about the logos at Calvin Klein. When that now-iconic branded waistband first peered over the top of a pair of jeans, a legend was born, cementing the Calvin Klein font as a symbol of style and sex for men all over the world.
Today it’s more than just nice underwear, though. The American label has taken that same typeface and applied it to tees, hoodies, outerwear and more, staking its claim as one of the leading brands in the logo trend.
With little more than a small red tab, sewn onto the back pocket of its jeans to denote where they came from, Levi’s has hardly been a brand renowned for its heavy use of logos. However, in recent years, that’s all changed.
Many of Levi’s casual offerings now feature the brand’s sportswear logo, which first made an appearance at the 1984 LA Olympics. Its T-shirts are quickly becoming as iconic as their denim siblings, making now as good a time as any to get involved.
In less than a decade, London-based label Palace has gone from fledgling skate brand to fashion royalty. Its unique sense of humour and beautifully designed ‘triferg’ logo have made it the imprint of choice for clued-up skaters, streetwear connoisseurs and fashionistos alike.
The Palace logo and font face have become common sights in skate parks, at fashion weeks and on the shoulders of the hip-hop elite. And with seasonal drops that see the streets of Soho jammed up with hypebeasts from London and beyond, there’s only one other label that comes anywhere close…
Undisputed king of logos, Supreme is well known for its unfaltering ability to slap a bogo (that’s ‘box logo’ for the uninitiated) on anything – like, literally anything – and have people dropping their life’s savings to get their hands on it.
That instantly recognisable white-on-scarlet trademark is one of the most famous logos in fashion, made all the more coveted by the amount of sheer dedication (and money) it requires to obtain.
The logo thing may be what’s hot right now, but California-born street/surfwear originator Stussy has been on it since day dot. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Shawn Stussy’s eponymous label in the first place, we might not be sat here writing this at all.
Known for its graffiti-inspired script logo, Stussy was the brand that pioneered heavy branding and made it one of streetwear’s calling cards. Plus, unlike similar labels, clothes aren’t produced in deliberately limited runs, so getting your hands on a piece is actually an achievable feat.
When it comes to bold logos, the big-hitting sports brands have been doing it for longer than most. Adidas’ trefoil logo and three stripe trademark have become two of the most recognisable designs in the history of, well, design.
Worn as a badge of honour by hip-hop heroes such as Run DMC in the eighties, Britpop stars and terrace lads of the nineties, and pretty much everyone else since, the Adidas logo is one of the all-time greats, making it one of the easiest to wear, too.
Nike’s logo couldn’t really be any simpler, but therein lies its beauty. The Swoosh has permeated every part of the world and you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who doesn’t instantly know what it is. Because of this, it’s an obvious go-to when it comes to getting yourself involved in the logo trend.
The Oregon-born sports label is known for slapping its mark on everything from tees to trackies, sneakers to socks – making it the perfect way to embrace the logo look without going too left field.
It may have been founded almost 100 years ago, but thanks to today’s obsession with logo-laden sportswear, Champion is now more relevant than ever before. Due to a number of recent high-profile collaborations, the American heritage brand has become a favourite in streetwear circles, while still counting athletes and sportsmen among its customers.
Think hoodies, tracksuit bottoms and tees in its signature reverse weave fabric, all featuring a hearty dose of in-your-face branding.
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