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New York Times - Hoodies

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Hiroko Matsuike for The New York Times

New York Times - Hoodies - 0

Why libraries have New York Times in their archives? One reason because it always keep up with the trends. On today's edition, an article titled You Got a Problem With My Hoodies? described the current trend in urban apparel. Some honorable mention included Leroy Jenkins, BBC, RECON and etc...

The story after the jump...

Published: April 27, 2006

ON a recent Saturday the SoHo street-wear store Union was so crowded that there was a line to get in.

"Kids can't wait to drop $400 on a sweatshirt," Ricky Saiz, a salesman, said of the shop's hottest item. "We sell $4,000 worth of them a day."

These are not just any pullovers. Made by Billionaire Boys Club, a brand owned by the musician-producer Pharrell Williams and Nigo (of A Bathing Ape (BAPE) , the cult Japanese label), they are electric Easter egg-colored sweatshirts covered with garish images like dollar signs and diamonds. Think of a mutated version of the ubiquitous Vuitton Murakami rainbow print.

"The patterns are like children's wallpaper gone out of control," Mr. Williams said.

Allover print, a staple of women's wear, turned up on the men's spring runways at Miu Miu and Comme des Garons, among others. But if the look has not necessarily taken off with the fashion set, an extreme version of it has made a surprisingly swift and visible dent in hip-hop and street wear, trappings that since the early 1990's have had a regimented "if you look tough, you are tough" aesthetic.

This particular urban "allover" mania makes use of pastel and neon colors and imagery not usually associated with men's apparel (or even adults', for that matter). The prints are disarmingly childlike, even infantile; you can easily imagine them as footie pajamas.

"When I was a kid, my parents couldn't afford a lot of stuff like that," Mr. Williams explained of his designs. "I'm reliving my childhood in clothing. This generation is like that. We all hit our 30's and want to be kids. We like breakfast cereal beyond breakfast hours, and we're into SpongeBob."

Even camouflage, the one venerable allover print for street wear, has been remixed by A Bathing Ape (BAPE) in baby blue, pink and lemon.

"I wasn't thinking about appealing to the hip-hop market, although it is what I listen to and am influenced by," Nigo, the Bathing Ape designer, said by e-mail. "I think that the original inspiration for the look comes from luxury brands. Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi monogram prints, which were only applied to luggage."

Bradley Carbone, an associate editor of the hip-hop style magazine Complex, tried out an explanation. "It's a parody and an aspiration to be a luxury product at the same time," he offered.

The designer Bernhard Willhelm has used intricate graphics as a motif in his sportswear for years. "These influences are coming from Japan," he said. "Street culture is really living there." And now street-wear consumers here shop like their Japanese counterparts. They scour shops for T-shirts and sneakers as if on a scavenger hunt or line up outside stores for a new release. It is not cool just to have an item; it's also about what you had to go through to get it.

The do-it-yourself uptown flash of the early 80's the Members Only jackets, enormous Gazelle glasses and trucker caps which was so well documented in "Back in the Days," the Jamel Shabazz book of man-on-the-street photographs, has been thoroughly mined in sidewalk fashion. Now the late 80's, which were characterized by more intricate styles of clothing specifically created for a hip-hop consumer instead of a pieced-together amalgam, are ripe for revisiting.

"Versace came out with prints in crazy colors," Mr. Willhelm remembers of that time, "and somehow this look was picked up by the hip-hop guys. Twenty years later, it's back." Can high-top fades be far behind?

"If you look at the history of hip-hop style and street-wear fashion," Mr. Carbone said, "there has always been an element of obnoxious colors and outfits, like tracksuits with matching sneakers. These new kinds of allover-print T-shirts and sweatshirts provide that flashiness."

Supreme, a skate shop on Lafayette Street, did print shirts using iconography like gold chains a couple of years ago, but it was not until Billionaire Boys Club paired the colors with outlandish drawings that the trend started to sweep, and small labels like 10.DEEP followed with their own renditions.

Recon, the graffiti-meets-military-theme outpost on Lafayette, had an unexpected sidewalk hit in an allover money hoodie that looked like a sheet of counterfeit bills with skulls replacing the presidents' heads.

"We have a humor about stuff," said Amy Lee, the designer at Recon, "but we try not to be too goofy-looking." The money hoodies sold out entirely. Recon is now selling T-shirts printed with a street map of Manhattan, and Ms. Lee's allover print in the works has soldiers shooting one another.

For many customers these intricate sweatshirts are surrogate bling and instant status. The price for a hoodie may be exorbitant one usually starts at about $200 but it is far more affordable than a gem-encrusted medallion necklace from Jacob the Jeweler. The Billionaire Boys Club pieces are released in carefully limited editions so that the demand outnumbers the supply, la Cabbage Patch Dolls in the 80's. Only 300 of any of its garments are made for sale worldwide; only about 40 of any sweatshirt style make it to New York shops.

"The allover-print hoodies are the most exclusive pieces," said Gavin Caro, a devotee of the new look. "If it is wack, then your line is wack." Mr. Caro, 20, was wearing a black sweatshirt with paisley swirls from The Hundreds in Los Angeles. It was a special edition in which you dye the paisleys yourself; he chose purple.

Chris Hostos, a marketing director for Pepsi, buys a new hoodie weekly; his latest acquisition features crickets and butterflies. "If I walk down the street," Mr. Hostos said, "I will probably get 20 people looking at me going, 'What are you wearing?' " He looked down at his floral-patterned hoodie made by the Los Angeles designer Leroy Jenkins and added, "I can wear flowers, no problem."