Bootlegs are counterfeit merchandise sold under the guise of the real thing. They are made to look as real as possible, which fools some and ultimately deters others. Nevertheless, bootlegs proliferate the Canal Streets of the world and many websites are devoted solely to the selling of totally inauthentic products. Most of them are made in China and sold at a fraction of the price of their officially-branded counterparts. And you know what?


I have built up a small collection of bootleg items, part of which I have showcased in this photoset, creatively entitled "Bootlegs." Bootleg Gucci, bootleg Louis, bootleg Tommy, bootleg NBA logos—all of them are super cool to me, the main reason stemming from the questions surrounding their existence. Who made these things? And why? My mind wanders and wonders, and eventually explodes with happiness thinking about how any particular bootleg came to be.

What I prefer to think is that bootlegs are a means of sticking it to The Fashion Man. They're a big "F-U" to some of fashion's biggest corporations, who more often than not represent a distant and unattainable reality that few people can actually relate to. Sure, we've all heard about the kids who save up $700 to buy a real Gucci belt from Barneys so they can let their pants sag with swag, but those well-disciplined young men are a #somewhatrare breed. And besides, why vomit $700 into the pocket of an established company when you can politely burp $40 into the hand of some random dude on Canal? After all, the purchased products really don't differ much in appearance.

The factories that once produced or currently produce bootleg products are, as far as I'm concerned, the realest rebels since Roosevelt's Rough Riders. (I have no idea if that reference makes any historical sense. "Rough Riders" just sounds super rebellious). And who better to rebel against than the big bad fashion-y people of fashion, with their firm, but sweaty grips (too much moisturizer) on the prices one must pay for a "true" taste of luxury? Bootleggers are simply serving a piece of the fashion pie for the rest of us. And, as they say, everybody's gotta eat.

Similar to my opinions on crazy back pockets, bootlegs are cool simply because they exist.

Not only that, but isn't it admirable the great lengths these hero-criminals have gone through just to make a counterfeit, like reworking sports logos in MS Paint, slightly distorting the G's in the Gucci monogram and even straight up switching the letters in the LV print (I have a matching jacket and pants that reads "VZ")? Who knows if their efforts are fueled by the sweet satisfaction of rebellion or something much more money-centric in nature. I'll be the first to admit that it's probably the latter, but a boy can dream, can't he? Of course, in many ways, we all view bootlegs as a means to feed off of the success of big name brands like parasitic, imperfect, money-hungry copycats, but I choose to believe that someone, somewhere is doing it for the sake of the little guys, doing it to give a little luxury to those who can't necessarily pay for it.

I'd be remiss to mention that the American fraternal twin, or younger cousin, maybe, to China's bootlegging Mecca was once Dapper Dan's Harlem headquarters. He managed to get his hands on those Gucci, Louis and MCM-printed fabrics (mostly fake, of course), turning the illegitimate textiles into beautiful pieces of clothing that even Louis V himself would applaud (maybe). Dapper Dan made those well-to-do, we're-too-good-for-you brands something that all his boys could get their hands on and, in many ways, I think he improved upon the existing designs. He brought Italy's Gucci and France's Louis Vuitton to New York's city streets, a place far-removed from gold-plated Milanese and Parisian ateliers filled with nice ashtrays and good art or whatever.

Similar to my opinions on crazy back pockets, bootlegs are cool simply because they exist. Perhaps these feelings stem from my overall distaste for the exploitative, commercial side of the fashion industry or, really, the fashion industry in general, but I honestly think that there is something worth revering in this world of fake merchandise.

I, too, understand that one may make the argument that bootlegs are a terrible thing because the work conditions and wages in China are piss poor and that these products are being produced for mere pennies and dimes and it's important to never support that system. But, just for once, can we appreciate something for its idealistic virtues alone and not get all political?

And, I, too, too, realize that bootlegs are as common today as they were 10 or 20 years ago (see: fake Hood By Air, fake Supreme, etc.), but um, those are terrible and gross and don't buy them.

But, oh man, the older stuff, the stuff that doesn’t really have a place in modern streetwear or menswear, that's the good stuff. That's my sweet cherry pie. Cut me off a slice, baby, 'cause daddy's about to have himself a feast.

Alex Lee is a street style blogger and designer living in New York City. See more of his work here and his clothing collection, XXBC, here. Follow him on Instagram here.