Detroit is America’s most ever changing and innovative city. So it should come as no surprise that it has a style of clothing named after it!
Detroit streetwear isn’t just another casual clothing line. It emerges directly from the city’s unique culture and history and embodies Motown’s quintessential vibes – the things that make the city unique. As such, it is a heady mix of grunge, “scary,” casual, minimalist, laid-back, Avante Garde, and reflective.
Detroit is a stand-out city. Its importance to the world is on a par with the likes of ancient Carthage and modern-day Sydney. It deserves more than to be forgotten to the annals of time. It demands respect!
That’s why Detroit streetwear is such a powerful movement. It allows people all over the country – if not the world – to pay homage to this great city. Wearing it is a way to share in the city’s pain and support it during its plight! Even if downtown Detroit is a shadow of its former self, people’s style choices make every day let its legacy live on. Motor City, we won’t forget you!
Detroit streetwear got its start after the financial crisis. In 2008 and 2009, the city’s unemployment rate rocketed, and many people left town for pastures anew. The factories closed, and the old companies shipped jobs overseas where labor is cheaper. Eventually, the economy started to fail – something that would have been unthinkable fifty years ago!
In the 1960s, Detroit was America’s most prosperous city. It was the home of the global auto industry and made some of the world’s finest cars. Vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper rolled off the city’s production lines. And even today, it still produces more than two-thirds of American-made vehicles.
Once the jobs started disappearing, the city took a turn for the worse. As factories moved overseas, it threatened to rip the heart and soul out of Motown. Hundreds of thousands of people left, leaving a void you can still see on the cityscape today!
Detroit streetwear emerged in this context. From 2010 to 2015, dozens of brands came onto the scene, all providing ways for people to mourn Motown’s fall and celebrate the city for what it is today. There’s something noble about how Detroit handled its economic and social pressures! Many brands are simply trying to find ways to honor that suffering and find a light in the darkness!
In a sense, Detroit streetwear is a coping mechanism for consumers. People don’t want the city to fade away without a fight. It seems like a tragedy. The soul of Detroit must live on until the economic good times return – which they absolutely will!
Detroit Streetwear And Why It Demands A Cult Following
You can get a sense of why Detroit streetwear would have such a cult following in this context. Over the last twenty years or so, what has happened to the city has been nothing short of tragic! People want their clothing choices to remedy that deficit somehow. It wasn’t the residents’ fault that it went through such hardship. It was a function of forces outside of its control. We don’t pity Detroit – we celebrate it!
Streetwear brands coming out of Detroit are some of the most exciting anywhere in the world. New brands are launching all the time, and people all across the nation appreciate the style.
At root, Detroit streetwear tells the story of the city itself. It’s a mixture of surf and skate culture, hip-hop fashion, and even some haute couture. The style is fundamentally relaxed, consisting of denim bomber jackets, baseball caps, sneakers, beanies, and sweatshirts. But it is rarely plain. Almost always, wearers of Detroit streetwear print clothes to make social or political statements.
What’s happening to Detroit right now is driving more people to adopt these fashion statements. As politicians fight over their response to COVID-19, the city’s residents are suffering and losing their livelihoods! More people are becoming unemployed, unable to put food on the table simply because they can’t open their businesses!
Detroit streetwear, therefore, is all about saying things that we need to say. Wearers turn themselves into walking billboards, telling everyone that they’re not happy with the status quo and that things need to change!
And that’s fundamentally why Detroit streetwear demands a cult following. You need to be the sort of person who cares about both the history and future of Motown. And you have to be prepared to put yourself out there with the clothing choices you make. If you wear Detroit streetwear, you’re not afraid to speak the truth. If making a statement with clothes is what the city requires to change its trajectory, then so be it.
Each brand has its own unique way of generating a cult following. Some focus on making direct political statements. Others are more interested in evoking the city’s old-time spirit, resurrecting its culture, and bringing on a new golden age.
What they all have in common is the unwavering commitment of their customers. Choosing a Detroit streetwear brand isn’t something you do absent-mindedly. It is a purposeful and conscious decision you make based on your values! That’s why the brands have such loyal followers: both customers and clothiers share the same goals.
Detroit Streetwear Brands With Cult-Like Followings
The sheer number of Detroit streetwear brands hitting the big time is quite impressive. We are witnessing the industry develop in a way nobody ever expected. It’s a beautiful story about how something positive can emerge from even the direst of situations.
Fear!itself is a brand that began in 2020 by Kenneth “W!ZZ” Gwinn. Gwinn was sick and tired of politicians fighting among themselves while ignoring how the fallout of the pandemic was crushing people’s livelihoods! It seemed like they were ramping up their use of fear to hitherto unforeseen levels. What was needed was a brand that channeled this knowledge and shared it with people in the community.
Gwinn saw an opportunity to make a political statement through clothing. There will always be scary things in the world, but we have to accept life’s realities and move forward. Once we allow fear to enter, we paralyze ourselves! We get stuck and must hand over our autonomy to politicians, many of which don’t have our best interests at heart!
Fear!tself, therefore, is simply channeling this idea. It’s taking people’s desire to avoid falling into the fear trap and turning it into something useful they can wear on their bodies. Currently, the brand mainly focuses on printed Detroit shirts but plans to expand its range in the future. The overall style is a combination of grunge and “scary.” It’s fighting the good fight, defending its corner, and giving passionate people an outlet to vent their frustrations.
The Wealthy Brand
The Wealthy Brand takes a slightly different tack from Fear!tself to generate its cult following. It’s not so much about making statements to resist government intrusion but instead making do with less.
The Wealthy Brand got its start at the height of Detroit’s post-recession economic downturn. Average incomes in the city fell from roughly $33,000 in 2009 to just $26,000 in 2014, leading locals to reevaluate what they meant by “wealth.”
Being rich isn’t just about having loads of money in the bank, many reasoned. It was also about community, healthy, and inner peace. The Wealthy Brand tries to capture this. Its original name was “Mentally Wealthy,” meaning that even if you don’t have many material possessions, you can still be bling on the inside.
The Wealthy Brand is popular in the minimalist movement. It espouses the values of affordability and simplicity. Millennials – a group wracked by two massive recessions – are particularly fond of it.
Two college friends, Kuddles “Kuddi” Hopkins and Rashad “Bald Jesus” Hosea, set up the label in 2016. It focuses mainly on original printed tees, but it also branches out into sportswear, socks, and hoodies. It’s popular because of its rebellious themes. Wearers might not have material wealth. But just like the city of Detroit, they have other types of value. And they’re keen to show it off.
Down With Detroit
Down with Detroit is a Detroit clothing company that got its start in 2006 – before the economic situation took a decisive turn for the worse. It began as a simple conversation on the bus between two school friends.
For more than 16 years, the idea remained on the backburner. But in 2003, the pair graduated and moved back in with their parents, beginning their search for “real jobs.” Unfortunately, finding such things wasn’t an easy task – as anyone fresh out of college in Michigan in 2003 will tell you. So the pair gave up looking for regular jobs and fell back on their old school bus idea instead.
Down With Detroit is now one of the most sought-after brands in the country. It demands a cult following because it embodies many of the struggles of people living in the city. The founders understand from personal experience how hard it can be to gain financial success! That comes across in what they sell.
Animated Collective is the brainchild of Ani Mayasandra, who set it up in 2017. Unlike the other Detroit clothing brands in this list, Animated Collective isn’t trying to make an economic point. Instead, it is trying to celebrate the collaboration, empowerment, and intersectionality of Detroit culture! All the many influences on the city are what make it unique.
The brand makes clothes that “empower and enable” those who may not see that they are already great in their own way.” It believes that streetwear clothing can be of the highest quality. It pays special attention to materials and currently bases its production in Los Angeles, CA. It also offers a fit guarantee, meaning that customers can return products that don’t suit their frame.
New Directions For Detroit Streetwear
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Detroit streetwear is that the story keeps changing. Things don’t remain static for long. Over the last few years, we’ve seen streetwear brands celebrating inner wealth, making political statements, and empowering communities. At the core of streetwear seems to be the desire to respect Detroit and make the world a better place. We can’t forget the past. But, we can channel it into building a better future!
Where Detroit streetwear goes over the next decade is very much down to what happens in the wider world. If COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns continue, you can expect brands to pick up on related themes. Some will highlight the robustness of Detroit (and perhaps other cities around America). Others, like ours, will talk about the importance of not falling into the fear trap!
We shouldn’t forget that there’s also a good chance the city of Detroit will bounce back economically. Already we’ve seen manufacturing jobs pouring into the midwest. It isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that the city will become physically wealthy (in addition to being mentally wealthy) in the coming years!
If that happens, the type of cult following streetwear demands will change yet again. We’ll see more revival themes and celebratory motifs. Thinking about Detroit won’t be a mournful or sorrowful experience, but a story of how a great city can come back from the brink!
Detroit Streetwear demands a cult following because of how it espouses the values of the wearer. When you put on clothes from a brand like Fear!tself, you’re saying something about yourself in a way you simply can’t when wearing mainstream apparel!
What’s more, you’re also tapping into a new and interesting subculture. The city of Detroit demands respect. It gave birth to the modern auto industry and Motown music and has a fabulous heritage. Detroit streetwear allows you to pay homage to that, align yourself with the city’s consciousness, and celebrate its life!