With 2015 nearly in the books, it’s time that we pay homage to the designers and labels that are shifting the definition of what menswear is today. Skate-inspired designs—ranging from Palace’s South Bank staples to Gosha Rubchinskiy’s post-Soviet skater muses—prove that "sportswear," which dominated 2014, has grown to incorporate a variety of niches and subcultures especially this year.
It also doesn’t hurt that there's now a New York Fashion Week dedicated to menswear, proving that the industry is one of the most interesting and innovative corners of the larger fashion world. That’s no joke either. From the minimal luxury of Lemaire’s collaboration with Uniqlo, to the grungy rocker aesthetic of Jerry Lorenzo's Fear Of God, men’s closets are becoming as diverse as the audience itself. But above the shifting tastes, trends, and designers—which, at times, has seemed more like a game of musical chairs—there’s a selection of brands that have truly stood out among the rest. These are The Best Men's Style Brands of 2015.
Related: The Best Men's Style Brands of 2016
Italian powerhouse Gucci has been around for a long time. But depending on who you’ve talked to in the past few years, it hasn’t been a high-level fashion brand for a minute. 2015 was a different story. Since appointing 13-year veteran Alessandro Michele as its new creative director, Gucci has thrust itself back into the spotlight with a unique brand of gentle androgyny and a retro point of view. The connection Gucci has with the luxury consumers of today is still going strong, just in a slightly different direction—like its $2,000 goat hair slippers that made plenty of headlines this year. —Sean Thompson
If there was one fast fashion brand that dominated the conversation this year, it was H&M. Following in the footsteps of the hypetrain that was the Alexander Wang collaboration released in November 2014, H&M turned in an entirely different direction with Balmain. With the social media savvy of creative director Olivier Rousteing and the Balmain army, H&M barely had to do any work to make it a success. They just sat back and let the anticipation build as stars like Gigi Hadid, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner wore the clothes before anyone else. The end result? A collection that crashed the website, sold out in minutes, and is still available on the secondary market for prices nearly as high as Balmain's main line. That collection alone puts the Swedish powerhouse on the list, but it definitely didn’t hurt that H&M’s ability to knock off pieces from Fear of God or Yeezy Season 1 for a much lower price brought in throngs of customers who couldn’t afford the real thing. —Skylar Bergl
Kith isn't just about sneakers anymore. Of course Ronnie Fieg went into 2015 with some bangers—starting off with an Asics Gel Lyte V and GT-II—and really never looked back. But this year was all about expansion. With the Sakura Project opening his reach into the "land of the rising sun," Fieg used the opportunity to not only release new sneakers, but to collaborate with L.A. designer John Elliott. Fieg also tapped Nick Tershay to drop a Kith collab with Diamond Supply Co. But that's not all Fieg did with the Golden State, using the region as inspiration for Kith's West Coast Project (L.A. pop-up shop included).
But Fieg is a New Yorker at heart, and he didn't leave the five boroughs without product to salivate over. Kith helped launch Nike's NikeCourt line just in time for the U.S. Open. Collaborations were king for Kith as usual, with the brand tapping fellow New Yorkers Aimé Leon Dore and the New York Yankees (yes, you heard us right) for some of the most hyped-up gear this year. But perhaps Fieg's biggest move in 2015 was the expansion of Kith's Brooklyn location, which now includes the Kith Treats cereal bar.
While that resumé is enough to impress any sneakerhead or fashion insider, Kith also spent time adding to its apparel offerings throughout the year. When it comes to
sneaker culture menswear, Kith's incredible 12 months is a reminder that Ronnie Fieg is one that you just can't count out. —Gregory Babcock
Bar none, Lemaire is one of the best brands coming out of Europe. Pioneered by the husband-wife power couple that is Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran, Lemaire has made itself stand out by making luxe-as-hell designs that blend into nearly anyone’s wardrobe. While that’s no small feat for any designer, Lemaire’s tenure as the creative director of womenswear at Hermès reminds us that his skillset is more than up to the task. Since leaving Hermès to focus on his eponymous label in 2014, it’s been nothing but one incredible collection after the other.
But while the design duo may not be on your radar just yet, their blockbuster Uniqlo collaboration (which was so well-received there's already Holiday 2015 and Spring/Summer 2016 collections confirmed) has garnered new fans in cities across the globe. Considering that the collection was effectively a more affordable—but still incredibly faithful—recreation of the label’s recent collections, even shoppers on a budget had something to brag about Lemaire. —Gregory Babcock
11. John Elliott
John Elliott proved his concept in 2014, but cemented his status in 2015. Not many brands can say they kicked off the year with a fashion show that featured signature LeBron 12s and Kanye West posted up in the front row—then kept the momentum going with a series of highly covetable drops. One of the label's best releases? A dust-colored collection that completely obliterated any and all of its imitators. John Elliott has positioned himself asthe guy for high-fashion casual clothing—signature side zip Villain hoodies and Escobar sweatpants included. It's the exact reason he's become a favorite for pro athletes, like Nick Young, Victor Cruz, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Rudy Gay—all of whom attended the label's inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s show draped in John Elliott garments.
Drop in collaborations with Kith and Bergdorf Goodman and it's not surprising that John Elliott's California label has reached major global success. As the brand continues its domination into 2016, the only thing it’s leaving behind is the “+ Co.” from its name. —Gregory Babcock
Virgil Abloh has come a long way from the days of #BEEN TRILL# and Pyrex Vision, and has truly stepped out from Kanye West's shadow this year. Off-White's womenswear line gained a huge co-sign after being named one of eight finalists for this year's LVMH Prize. On the other hand, his men's line is maintaining a steady stream in popularity, and has really become a celebrity favorite (see: Future, Justin Bieber, Big Sean, Jay Z, and even Queen Bey). When he's not DJing in Las Vegas, Brooklyn, and Miami, Abloh's steadily building Off-White. This includes the release of Off-White's first sneaker, as well as collaborations with brands like The Spaghetti Boys, Levi's, and The POOL Aoyama. Another year, another reminder that Abloh is one to keep an eye on. —Rae Witte
9. Fear Of God
Jerry Lorenzo’s California label may be on the smaller scale, but its presence is nothing but major. While Fear Of God has always embodied the “rock-n-roll” aesthetic that’s embedded in Los Angeles’ inherent style, his unique spin—which spans everything from ripped up jeans to completely modified vintage band T-shirts—has made him not just a favorite among celebrities, but popular enough to catch the eye of H&M and its shoppers. It’s likely why PacSun chose to get a slice of Lorenzo’s vision for themselves—manifesting in the much-hyped FOG collaboration collection, which hits stores this past November.
Sure, Lorenzo has friends in high places (cough...Kanye West...cough), but he’s hardly rested on his laurels, expanding his business in completely new ways. This includes creating a selection of sneakers—a first for the brand. Lorenzo’s marching to the beat of his own grunge-inspired drum, and clearly, that’s exactly how he likes it. —Gregory Babcock
The seminal skatewear brand and barometer for what’s popping with the hypebeasts of the day didn’t let its foot off the pedal in 2015. It felt like each week had a new release to anticipate, whether it was something quirky like the White Castle Vans or a hyped-up heavyweight like the CdG Timberlands.
Collaborations happened early and often, including illustrious fashion brands like Comme des Garçons SHIRT, Stone Island, and Undercover; true skateboard companies like Independent and Thrasher; American mainstays Vans, The North Face, and Levi's; the iconic New York Yankees, and British names like Clarks and Doc Martens. The long list doesn't even include Supreme's reliably solid in-house collections. Week after week, they inevitably sold out—even the ones that qualify as duds by the increasingly high standards that come along with being a Supreme product. The brand may have lost some of its previous "cool" factor because of the kids lining up every Thursday to flip the gear on eBay, but with such a reliably rabid fanbase, Supreme’s 2015 was nothing to shake a stick at. —Skylar Bergl
7. Our Legacy
The Scandinavian savvy behind Our Legacy has built the brand into one of the most consistent menswear labels in the past decade. It launched its own eyewear collection back in March, and Fall/Winter 2015 saw Our Legacy celebrate 10 years of existence with some of its most daring, wearable work yet, balancing some ‘90s nostalgia with trademark sophisticated minimalism, like a bit of hypercolor tones in its upcoming Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Our Legacy has the ability to put smart, exacting twists and details on basic pieces without overdoing it. In a world where the slightest change can be the difference between a brick and a banger, Our Legacy almost always comes out with the latter. —Skylar Bergl
6. Gosha Rubchinskiy
Is it even fair to call Gosha Rubchinskiy a designer and leave it at that? Rubchinskiy spent 2015 shooting internationally-seen editorials filled with Supreme just as much as he did designing for his namesake brand, including a Dover Street Market-exclusive collection with fellow Russian artist Timur Novikov. He also dropped a well-received art book and companion vinyl record.
One of Rubchinskiy’s biggest moments of the year had to be at the 2015 MTV VMAs, where A$AP Rocky wore pieces from the brand's Fall/Winter 2015 collection. It’s hard to say for sure if A$AP Rocky directly influenced 2 Chainz and Kylie Jenner, but the Harlem rapper was definitely one of the first—if not the first—celebrities to be up on Gosha. Celebrity fans aside, Rubchinskiy also solidified his status among the fashion crowd, as well-respected publications, like Nick Knight's SHOWStudio, took notice. From the Russian skaters who inspire his work, to the menswear nerds who turned his Tommy Hilfiger logo-flipped gear into a sell-out collection, Gosha Rubchinskiy is a name to continue watching in 2016. —Gregory Babcock
5. Rick Owens
Whether he was trying to or not, Rick Owens couldn’t stay out of the headlines. For his men’s Fall/Winter 15 show in January, he sent models out with their dongs exposed. Then came men’s Spring/Summer 16, when he punched a model who used the runway as a platform to express his political beliefs, and his women’s Spring/Summer 2016 show, which featured gymnasts walking the runway while fastened to one another in some, well, provocative poses. You couldn’t go a week without hearing about something Owens had done—a feat only a handful of brands can pull off without it feeling oversaturated. This year has only seen the devoted cult of Owens disciples grow exponentially. Whether that’s because of Owen’s ability to spark a serious conversation about gender norms and sexuality, or simply because the gear is fire, who knows. But 2015 may have been Owens’ best yet. —Skylar Bergl
Stüssy is like your childhood best friend who becomes an A-list celebrity, but doesn't get brand new on you. This year alone, the OG streetwear brand collaborated with some of the best labels and retailers in the menswear world: Dover Street Market, Trés Bien, Fragment Design, SOPHNET., Union Los Angeles, and Slam Jam. But it also released solo collections that were just as strong, and something skaters, streetwear heads, and dudes just getting into the culture can get behind. While some streetwear brands have fallen to the wayside, Stussy has 1,000 percent found the formula for being relevant and staying true to its roots. 35 never looked better. —Karizza Sanchez
3. Stone Island
It certainly helps your profile when guys like Drake and Travi$ Scott rock the brand heavy, but to assume that Stone Island only attained fashion relevance recently is unfair to the label’s 30-plus year history. Founded by Massimo Osti and currently run by CEO and creative director Carlo Rivetti, the brand has a distinct focus on technical innovation in conjunction with aesthetics—making every garment a true combination of style and substance.
But if Drake’s or Scott's co-sign wasn’t enough to get dudes intrigued about the Italian label’s product, a Supreme collaboration effectively thrust Stone Island into the spotlight of a completely new generation of fans. With a recent retrospective in NYC, the brand honored 23 years of apparel innovation, while laying the groundwork for a brand new storefront this side of the Atlantic. Considering that all of Stone Island’s flagship stores reside in either Europe or Asia, this is a big deal. It’s not just in your head or on Instagram, Stone Island has finally landed stateside. —Gregory Babcock
Maybe (maybe) you could have gotten away with not knowing about Palace at the end of 2014. But in 2015? There’s no way you haven’t seen some iteration of the English skate brand’s tri-logo. Starting with a strong Spring/Summer 2015 collection at the top of the year, the brand expanded into a full-on brick-and-mortar in its native London. While both are milestones for obvious reasons, they also directly affected the brand for the foreseeable future, with the Spring/Summer 2015 lookbook establishing the glitchy aesthetic style that has come to define future Palace lookbooks, and the store...well, having your own retail location speaks for itself.
But Palace didn’t stop there. Returning to collaborate with adidas twice, the label has expanded far beyond the graphic tees that helped establish it as one of skatewear’s standouts. From its fans (we see you A$AP Rocky) to its online shop descriptions, the hype surrounding this brand is well-deserved. It’s been building year-over-year, but it’s safe to say that 2015 is when Palace truly went “internationale.” Now if only Palace founder, Lev Tanju, could actually get his hands on his own merchandise… —Gregory Babcock
adidas doesn’t have to chase Under Armour or even compete with Nike in basketball. The brand has carved out its own place in the game and made a name for itself by turning athletics into a lifestyle. The result: A loaded roster of partnerships with accomplished designers, creatives, and entertainers.
Following up a strong 2014 that saw debut clothing collections with Pharrell, Nigo, Barbour, and Palace, adidas topped every single one of these collaborations just two months into the year when it unveiled Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 1. The highly anticipated Fall/Winter 2015 collection, comprised of men's and women’s apparel, debuted during New York Fashion Week in a space filled with the who’s who of the entertainment and fashion industry. For adidas, who had already aligned itself with Rick Owens, Raf Simons, and Jeremy Scott, the showcase further strengthened its presence in the high-fashion world. It’s been embraced on the runway the same way it was embraced by hip-hop in the ‘80s. Just like West's adidas sneakers, the collection released to select retailers in the fall and quickly sold out of key pieces.
There was also a bit of a resurgence with adidas as the tracksuit came back in a major way. The Tiro, a tapered polyester soccer pant, was essentially adidas’ answer to Nike’s Tech Fleece pants. The style connected adidas back to its Franz Beckenbauer roots and came at a perfect time with athleisure at an all-time high and tracksuits back on the rise.
Despite the high-profile collaborations and the special projects, at its core, adidas is simply doing what it's done best, and that's embracing the intersection between fashion and culture. —John Marcelo