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 logo-mania 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.
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