Strong Branding: The Story Behind 7 Iconic Streetwear Logos
Behind every great brand is a powerful logo, and behind every powerful logo is an unforgettable design. A good logo grabs and holds onto your attention, and makes a brand immediately recognizable.
In the world of fashion, there are a few tried-and-true, timeless logos that reach from the streets to the runways. Your favorite brand’s logo defines their signature identity, and the truly great logos transcend the brand itself to establish their own unique place in street culture.
Today we’re paying homage to those iconic signature logos. You’ll learn the backstory behind how the logo was created, what it stands for, and where its inspiration was drawn from. Let’s get right into it.
The most famous mark in streetwear today, Supreme’s iconic red/white box logo is inspired by the artwork of American conceptual artist and collagist Barbara Kruger. Supreme founder James Jebbia has openly expressed his admiration for Kruger and her work, much of which heavily featured the same red/white color scheme and Futura Bold Itallic font that Supreme used for their iconic box logo, with bold statements like “I shop, therefore I am” and “Money can buy you love”.
Unfortunately, Kruger doesn’t care for Supreme drawing inspiration from her art style, referring to them as “a ridiculous clusterf*** of totally uncool jokers” in 2013 … but the New York stalwarts and their iconic box logo have taken on a life of their own thanks to their wild popularity and cultural relevance.
Palace, the infamous British skate brand founded by Lev Tanju in 2010 is known around the world for their signature tri-ferg logo. It’s a “penrose triangle”, an impossible object and optical illusion that was originally created by Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvärd in 1934.
British graphic illustrator Fergus Purcell put his own unique spin on the object by plastering Palace’s now-famous signature Helvetica font on it three times. It’s a classic case of letting the iconography make the brand recognizable: the logo offers great clarity and is not fancy or overdone, just simple, clean, and eye-catching, much like most of Palace’s clothes.
A Bathing Ape
A Bathing Ape has used a myriad of logos and fonts since their inception in 1993, but their most iconic is their “College” logo, designed by founder Nigo and lead designer Sk8thing (current head of Cav Empt), which uses a big, bold variation of the classic (you guessed it) “College” font. The ape head logo is a nod to the brand’s initial inspiration: the 1968 film Planet Of The Apes, as Sk8thing came up with the concept for the brand after binge-watching all 5 of the original Planet Of The Apes films.
What does A Bathing Ape stand for? It’s short for “a bathing ape in lukewarm water”. In Japanese culture, most people take daily baths in warm water … so to stay in a bathtub full of lukewarm water is to complacently overindulge. This poked fun at the laziness and opulence of the younger Japanese generation of the 1990, which just happened to be A Bathing Ape’s own customers. Negative reinforcement can be a very real thing when paired with a great logo.
The Hundreds’ iconic “Adam Bomb” logo is a great example of when streetwear was more playful and fun in the golden age of the 00’s, when bright colors, big logos, and all-over prints ran the world. Bobby Hundreds has stated that Adam Bomb is a representation of how The Hundreds has structured their brand so they can never truly explode, saying “We never blow out, go way mainstream, and just always keep right under the surface. We’re, like, right about to get there, but we never actually do…”
Another fun fact: the classic unaltered black Adam Bomb logo pictured above has never been printed on a t-shirt that was made available to the general public. The only way to get your hands on one is to be given it as a gift by Ben or Bobby Hundreds. Now that’s rare.
Anti Social Social Club
There’s no brand on this list that’s more polarizing than Anti Social Social Club, but you can’t deny the power of their simple, effective typography logo and clever brand name. Founder Neek Lurk has stated that he doesn’t overthink anything he does with his brand, he just goes with what feels right to him at the moment … and ASSC applied a simple, slight warp effect to the straightforward Fritz Quadrata font to get the desired results for their signature logo, which you see on the backs of sweatshirts and tees worn by members of their club of introverts.
Kanye West’s Pablo merch took the streetwear world by storm in 2016, and it was all about the big, bold font. Everywhere you looked, the gothic font (known as Gothic Typeface) popularized by Cali Thornhill DeWitt adorned hats, jackets, and tees. DeWitt had used the same font/design on previous works of art, and it caught the fancy of the notoriously temperamental and obsessive Kanye West, who commissioned DeWitt for his Pablo designs.
Lines for merch at pop-up shops and concerts seemingly stretched for miles, as a modernized version of a classic typeface became the hottest font of the year, spawning a seemingly endless (and still expanding) amount of knock-offs. If a classic gothic Olde English font is the language of the streets (ever since Eazy-E’s iconic Compton hat), then DeWitt’s Gothic Typeface is the new language of rap.
Thrasher’s loud, cartoon-esque logo certainly makes a statement. The “Banco” typeface it uses was considered corny and overdone when it released in 1951 , but after Bob Marley used it for his “Natty Dread” album in 1974, the once-mocked font was invigorated again.
When Thrasher was founded in 1981 it made Banco iconic, by associating it with hardcore street skating and occasionally dousing it in flames for effect.You don’t have to be able to skate to appreciate a good logo … and that just may be why you see Thrasher gear being represented in so many different subcultures nowadays, from to fashion to music and beyond.
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