Since capturing the attention of mainstream music fans with his polarizing and rebellious antics in 2010, Tyler, the Creator has cultivated a unique and loyal fanbase. Tyler’s music has evolved from the violent lyrics and cockroach-eating visuals he offered up on Bastard and Goblin to the experimental and much more mature sound you hear on projects like Flower Boy and Igor. And as he’s grown as an artist, so has Golf Wang, his streetwear line.
Golf Wang, a flip on the collective’s Wolf Gang title, kicked off in 2011 when Tyler and the Odd Future crew were gaining notoriety. It was a step above their regular merch, which was mostly Gildan blanks printed with graphics like cat heads with laser beams shooting from their eyes, the doughnut logo, or OF member Lucas Vercetti’s teenage face. But it maintained the group’s ethos with plenty of fluorescent colors and youthful graphics. Golf reflected what Tyler was capable of with full creative control, and it perfectly represented the then 18-year old. It quickly becoming his fanbase’s uniform.
It wasn’t just another instance of a rapper putting their name behind a brand either. Since its inception, it has been co-designed by Phil Toselli who spoke on the rapper’s creative process in a 2016 interview with Hollywood Reporter. “It’s funny to watch him, because he’s not trained in any way. He just has wild ideas that he taught himself to make into reality. He’s very rapid-fire, bouncing off walls and hyper as shit. It just works.”
Tyler would wear Golf apparel as much as he wore Supreme back then. Many feel that by wearing Supreme and name-dropping James Jebbia’s legendary streetwear label in his lyrics (“Got a lot of that ‘Preme and I’m paying nada,” “New Preme shit got me feeling flyer than a bag of bees,” etc.), Tyler made it popular with a new generation of kids. Just look back at Tyler accepting his Best New Artist awards at the 2011 MTV VMAs in a tie-dye Odd Future shirt and Supreme five-panel for a perfect example.
Odd Future was still just a group of rebellious teens hanging out on Los Angeles’ iconic Fairfax Avenue when they got their first glimpse of the spotlight, and Golf Wang quickly symbolized the block’s youthful crowd.
Tyler’s fame was growing fast, and with that came an expanded focus on the clothing line. By 2014, Golf Wang had fully split into its own entity, separate from what the musician was known for. An Odd Future merch shop had operated for three years prior to this on Fairfax Avenue. Golf Wang’s first big partnership was with Vans. That resulted in multiple brightly-colored variations of the Era, which were released from 2013 to 2016. The Era is a low-top sneaker Tyler frequently wore with white tube socks, knee-length shorts, and colorful T-shirts. Tyler also started creating thematic lookbooks to accompany each each Golf Wang season. The apparel remained consistent, with each season feeling slightly more refined than the last.
Much like its leader, the brand has not come without its fair share of controversy. Golf Wang has been under fire a few times in the past for some of its graphics. Perhaps the most notorious was a T-shirt emblazoned with a rainbow Neo-Nazi symbol repurposed to promote anti-homophobia and anti-racism. It dropped in the Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Other polarizing images included a T-shirt featuring Donald Trump’s face with a doodled-on Hitler mustache above the words “We fucked up.” It was released in April 2016 ahead of November’s election. There was also a design from Golf Wang’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection that used an illustration of a person in blackface. As the brand ages, these types of instances have become less frequent, but they certainly matched Tyler’s unapologetic attitude and outspoken nature.
“The more I travel, the older I get, shit changes. I know I will be making suits in the future. I’ll make a pair of boots in the future. I’ll be making some old dude stuff in the future,” he told Vogue in 2015. “You gotta make what you know. I think that’s what a lot of lines lack. I put my personal life into my music, and I do it in my clothes, too.”
Golf Wang changed once again in 2016 with its first runway show at now-defunct Made L.A. Kanye West and Kendall Jenner sat front row. The show indicated how invested he was in his brand and its creative direction. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter that took place right before the show, he said: “Mostly everyone kind of hates my clothes, but it’s cool. My clothes are for someone going to Taco Bell or making an illegal deal that they should not be doing. Those are the people buying it. I fucking love that."
In more recent years, the colorful and playful nature of Golf Wang has remained, but the line has matured to include more cut and sew items like knit sweaters, work jackets, and button-ups sans the cartoonish doodles and branding that had become its calling card. For day one fans, those kinds of pieces still find their way into collections, though in an updated fashion like neon cheetah print socks or bubble coats covered in flames—a pattern that grabbed a lot of attention when it first debuted in Golf Wang’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection on a short sleeve button-up. It’s also on the cover for Cherry Bomb and has gone on to become a signature offering from the brand.
In late 2017, Golf opened a permanent flagship space on none other than Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. The store is still open and sells pieces from the collection along with the latest Tyler album merch.
Perhaps the most popular items to date have been from Tyler’s off-shoot Golf Le Fleur collection of footwear with Converse One Star. The partnership succeeded the aforementioned Vans collabs and kicked off in 2017 alongside his fourth studio album Flower Boy.
In a 2017 interview with Dazed, Tyler spoke of his departure from Vans saying, “Vans just wouldn’t let me grow. It was a ceiling and I was like, ‘Fuck this.’ Converse is allowing me to bloom, no pun intended, and it’s great.”
The original low-top design with Converse has gone on to hit shelves in a vast array of options covered in everything from glitter to faux crocodile skin. It has expanded to include Tyler’s takes on the Chuck 70 and even his own original silhouette, the Gianno, which debuted in 2019. The partnership has provided memorable apparel as well. A highlight has been the Spring/Summer 2019 collection which debuted via a vibey, lakeside video lookbook in June 2019. Golf Le Fleur was also responsible for his biggest collab to date, a Lacoste capsule that dropped in 2019. It was highlighted by a pink cardigan, which Tyler helped debut during a visit to the French Open, and featured various pastel garments like polos, pants, and T-shirts.
“Converse really just me to do whatever the fuck. If I wanna make an ugly shoe because I like Chanel bags, they allow me to do that,” says Tyler in a 2020 interview with Kerwin Frost. “They kinda let me do whatever the fuck, and I really appreciate it because a lot of people don’t have that freedom.”
Other collaborators have included sandal brand Suicoke, a relationship that began in 2018, as well as Jeni’s Ice Cream in 2018. They made an exclusive mint and white chocolate flavor to highlight Tyler’s love for the cold dessert. While not as in your face as a T-shirt covered in flying cats and doughnuts, it still channels the youthful side of Tyler that has made so many gravitate towards his works over the years.
Now 29 years old, it is clear to anybody who follows Tyler that he isn’t the same person telling fans to burn shit at live shows. But that doesn’t mean he’s abandoned that youthful attitude either, it’s just channeled in a new way. One thing has remained the same though, Golf is still a unique standout in a sea of sameness in streetwear right now. And based on Tyler’s career timeline thus far, don’t expect that to change. He will just keep making whatever he thinks is cool.