At The Freeze, we like to talk about all things hip-hop, and that includes fashion. One of the most recognizable brands in hip-hop is Supreme. The box logo has come to be a coveted symbol sported by artists, skaters and rebellious teenagers alike. But what is it about Supreme’s branding that gave them the niche they occupy today?
On the surface, they are commendable for being both a counterculture icon and a luxury brand. Their clothes are highly sought after and are often more expensive than their competitors, yet they exemplify hip-hop and skater culture. Kids who care about looking fresh with a few hundred dollars in the bank turn to Supreme to spend their money.
To this effect, the brand has received some heavy promotion from notable rappers; including Drake, A$AP Rocky, and most notably Tyler the Creator, who promoted the brand heavily throughout his career. Tyler has explained that he promoted Supreme because he developed a personal relationship with the brand as a skater. These grassroots beginnings from small skate shops to block rounding lineups is part of what gave the brand a foothold as a counterculture symbol. It’s what allows them to appear authentic.
Supreme’s power as a brand is twofold. In addition to the firm holding they’ve established in their niche, they’ve also managed to conjure self-perpetuating hype that keeps demand for their products high. Supreme products are unique and scarce. Many of their products are limited edition. In turn, this allows customers to define themselves through the brand. And it also creates a niche for collectors, who rigorously attend each new supreme launch so as not to be left behind. By using this model, Supreme has given the box logo an inherent value and created an entire subculture that organizes around their brand.
Many first gravitated towards supreme for the same reason as Tyler the Creator – for their skate shops. Supreme has been around since 1994 when their early skate shops were a hub for local skaters. Many gravitated to the store because of its uncompromising appreciation of their customers. Skating in off the street was not only possible but encouraged. Clothes are placed around the edges of the store in order to prevent accidents and to create an open atmosphere.
It is the cultural capital of the box logo combined with its authentic beginnings made Supreme what it is today. It was worn by the right people at the right time, giving it the buzz it needed to be seen by the masses. However, it also portrays images that create and maintain an ethos of being on the pulse of what’s ‘cool’. To wear supreme is to be respected both for being affluent and for being culturally savvy. So before you question someone who spends $200 on a shirt just for the box logo, keep in mind that it isn’t just a piece of fabric, it’s cultural capital.