The year was 2004. Supreme, still an underground skate brand (“if you knew, you knew”), was looking to open a flagship on the West Coast. The store would be only its fifth retail outpost. James Jebbia and co. wound up on North Fairfax Avenue, part of a sleepy Los Angeles neighborhood known for the businesses that served its mostly Jewish community. The brick-and-mortar was unlike anything anyone in the area had seen. Inside the white building, which had Supreme’s signature red box logo hanging above its doorway, was a full skate bowl that overlooked the front of the shop.

At the time, Melrose and then La Brea were the primary shopping destinations in L.A. But that was about to change. Supreme’s move, coupled with the cheap rent, created a chain reaction: Soon, many of the most popular streetwear brands at the time planted their flags on Fairfax, between Rosewood and Oakwood, replacing the Jewish businesses. The HundredsHLZBLZCrooks & CastlesDiamond Supply Co.Huf, Hall of Fame, and Alife were all now in one spot.

By the late 2000s, Fairfax had become a destination for kids interested in skateboarding, hip-hop, or street culture. Celebrities, artists, designers, locals, and tourists all visited the neighborhood to shop or hang out. Special product releases and Black Friday blowout sales generated lineups that snaked down the block. Thousands of people flooded the street for block parties thrown by the brands. Music videos were shot on the strip. It was where anybody who was into skateboarding and streetwear wanted to be.

As the years went on, Fairfax exploded. Odd Future—the mainstream rap group made up of kids who hung out and worked at the streetwear and skate shops on Fairfax—introduced the area to a new audience. Seemingly overnight, retailers and businesses who weren’t from the culture were opening brick-and-mortars on the block to capitalize on its heavy foot traffic.

Fairfax had grown into the mecca of streetwear, with only Harajuku in Tokyo and Lafayette Street in New York coming close. But today, it’s viewed as more of an outdoor mall than a cultural hub. What’s more, a few of the original streetwear shops, like Huf (they shut down their first store in 2011) and Crooks & Castles, have closed.

So what happened? This is the story of how a subculture transformed an unassuming Jewish neighborhood into the epicenter of streetwear, and then how that mecca became mainstream. This is also the story of the people who built Fairfax into a streetwear destination and the obstacles they faced, the chaotic lineups, the unforgettable celebrity sightings, and the lasting legacy of the block.

The Players

Bobby Hundreds: Co-founder, The Hundreds
Keith Hufnagel: Founder, HUF
Tyler, the Creator: Rapper
Dennis Calvero: Co-founder, Crooks & Castles
Na’ama Givoni: Founder, Reserve
Wiz Khalifa: Rapper
Ben Baller: Jewelry designer
Seth Rogen: Actor
Sal Barbier: Pro skater and founder, SLB
Alex Olson: Pro skater and founder, Bianca Chandôn and Call Me 917
Ricky Li: Founder, Tried & True; former general manager, Flight Club Los Angeles
Nick Diamond: Founder, Diamond Supply Co.
Lanie Alabanza-Barcena: Co-founder, HLZBLZ
Arsen Salatinjants: Founder, Hall of Fame
Rob Cristofaro: Founder, Alife
Jesse Villanueva: Former creative director/head of marketing and special projects, Alife
Jerry Lorenzo: Founder, Fear of God
Jacqueline Canter: Owner, Canter’s Deli
Anwar Carrots: Founder, Carrots
Guillermo Andrade: Founder, 424
Na-Kel Smith: Pro skater and actor
Bam Barcena: Co-founder, HLZBLZ; creative director, Rokit
Dom Kennedy: Rapper
Brick Stowell: Documentarian
Melody Ehsani: Founder, Melody Ehsani
Angelo Baque: Founder, Awake; former brand director, Supreme
Curtis Buchanan: Photographer; former buyer and manager, Supreme L.A.
Dominick DeLuca: Founder, Brooklyn Projects