This article was originally published on June 21, 2011.
When Complex first asked me to select the Top 50 Streetwear Brands of All Time, I thought the following:
1) This is gonna get me into a lot of trouble,
2) but I wouldn't want anyone else to write this,
3) so, sure.
As Co-Owner of The Hundreds, it's a catch-22 for me. Anyone I leave off the list is gonna be peeved, and anyone on the list who's not #1 will be pissed they're not higher. Anywhere I place our own brand on the list is gonna be scoffed, and I'm gonna look like I'm playing favorites, hating competitors, or riding bias.
Worst of all, streetwear, more than any other industry or scene, is overrun with ego and insecure males, so friends and rivals alike will take issue with this list (and me). It's gonna be an awkward MAGIC. But I'm okay with that, as long as streetwear is properly upheld.
The first challenge in creating this list is defining streetwear. True traditional streetwear is a genre of contemporary apparel, united between sportswear and military looks, and is one that speaks to a spectrum of subcultures (skateboarding and hip-hop mostly). Vision may have coined the term "streetwear," but Shawn Stussy was the one who created its modern embodiment. So to all the misled who think streetwear is an urban expression, having to do with the literal streets, you gotta remember streetwear was instituted by a surf company. Stussy took a multi-faceted, subculturally diverse, Southern California lifestyle-based T-shirt brand and mimicked the limited feel of a high-end luxury brand. And those are the two most integral components of what makes a brand streetwear: T-shirts and exclusivity.
Every line on this list, with a few exceptions, has built their brand off T-shirts, not catering specifically to just an urban or skate audience, and initializing their distribution through selective channels. Sales distro and image are what ultimately constitute a brand as streetwear, not the art or design.
The final requirements to being one of the "Greatest of All Time" are influence and longevity. Streetwear is an endurance game. It's easy to make a hot T-shirt, show up on the back of the newest rapper, blow out in mall doors; but nearly impossible to last for 10 years, let alone 30.
The second challenge to writing this article is personal, and that's staying unbiased. I promise I've done my best to maintain journalistic integrity and objectivity throughout this list. There are close friends of mine that didn't make the cut, and some brands on here (especially in the higher ranks) whose staff and owners I outright despise.
I hope you can find some value in the list, and remember, just because I said it, doesn't make it true. And just because you don't believe it, doesn't mean it's not.