Streetwear is huge. There is an massive amount of brands that may be starting up, reinventing themselves, falling into obscurity, rising to prominence, or becoming stagnant or worse *shudders* uncool . It can be intimidating to try to get a grapple on things, especially when, as positive and friendly as it can be, streetwear culture has always involved throwing shade and chirping bad fits. So, consider this list a list of the brands you should probably get to know if you want to seem like you know what’s good. This list isn’t meant to be a look at emergent brands. There are plenty of amazing, uber-talented designers out there doing great work, but I’m more interested in providing a brief list of brands that, whether obscure of not, have arguably become part of the establishment of men’s streetwear in the Canadian context.
CYC Design’s Reigning Champ and wings+horns
I would consider this list a failure if I failed to mention at least one Canadian brand. However, this doesn’t mean Reigning Champ or wings+horns should be considered shooed-in on the basis of their Canadianness. Both brands are separate entities but connected to through not only corporate ownership, but a similarity in vision. Reigning Champ makes basic sportswear with an attention to intricacies (whether that be the high-quality materials they’re made out of, or the specificities of how the underarm of a pull-over sweatshirt should fit). Also being sourced from Vancouver, I jokingly refer to it as masc4masc Lululemon. wings+horns, Reigning Champ’s more fashion-y and luxurious sister brand, takes inspiration from Canadian landscapes, military garb, and Japanese designs to produce simplistic men’s clothing that stands out for its intricate details. I adore both these brands. Their clothing manages to offer both unique and modest fits. Individual items effortlessly compliment more avant-garde fits, and would look totally natural and cohesive worn head-to-toe.
I have a weird relationship with Vetements. When the post-Margiela brand first began to turn heads in the last couple years, I didn’t know how to interpret it. My friends and I didn’t know how to make sense of Vetement’s bizarre proportions and ironic designs, especially in the context of the enormous price tags the emerging brand demands for its good. For whatever reason (whether the hype got to me or my tastes have changed or both), I’ve fully jumped on board the Vetements bandwagon. The brand isn’t just for men, but I feel like talking about contemporary men streetwear brands and not acknowledging the influence of Vetements would make my list incomplete. Vetements is loud, impossible to ignore, and is probably why you suddenly find yourself drawn to looser, grungier styles. I don’t think its fair to attribute all the trends associated with Vetements as the brand’s unique invention (their proportions, underground subculture references, and garment deconstructionism are by no means entirely new), but they’ve definitely been the driving force in changing popular aesthetics. I’m still not sure how I feel about spending over a grand on a cotton hoodie (especially when the brand’s head designer himself said he would not pay full price for his clothes), but I can appreciate what Vetements is doing. Personally I think Vetement’s ideology means that the knocks-offs and parodies of their clothes are actually cooler to own than the real products, but this is a conversation that would merit another article.
What if you took east-coast prep and put it in a blender with skater culture? The results are two-fold: first, much to the chagrin of skater kids, you get sorority girls who wear Thrasher tees; secondly, you get NOAH, which has burst onto to the streetwear scene due to its unique take on conservative WASPy styles. NOAH takes a subversive, rebellious take on one of the most stodgy styles imaginable. It’s not the first brand to mix youth culture with prep (in fact, fans of Tyler the Creator’s GOLF brand will probably find much of NOAH’s offerings agreeable). Get on the hype train before NOAH basics sell out 30 minutes after every drop.
It’s wise to think of Gosha as the second coming of Supreme. Taking inspiration from youth cultures and Soviet-era symbolism, Gosha’s designs look like something you’d see on a gang of Eastern European teenagers. Accessories adorned with Cyrillic script and hànzì characters are common, as are nylon track jackets and sportwear that channels communist vibes. Gosha is an intensely hyped brand, and its logo’s items will sell out almost immediately after being offered by retailers. If you’ve noticed fuccbois looking like they’re prepping to seize the means of production recently and didn’t know why, Gosha is the answer.
Somewhat similar to wings+horns, John Elliot is known for high-quality, detailed takes on menswear basics. But where wings+horns takes inspiration from Japanese designs, military gear, and the Canadian landscapes, John Elliot borrows from sports culture and is increasingly leaning towards more luxurious and glamorous styles. Some of his items have become ubiquitous in the streetwear world (e.i. the iconic Escobar sweatpants and Villian Hoodie), but he’s increasingly introducing more experimental items. It’s been interesting seeing Elliot go from small streetwear brand that mostly carries unique basics to one of the most recognizable names in streetwear that has become legitimized in the fashion world (and seen its prices increased to accommodate its new status). Interestingly, I have noticed the brand become less talked about as its become more popular, with the new L.A. darling Fear of God (a brand with surprisingly similar styling to Elliot) become more hyped.