If you’re a regular reader of Highsnobiety, you might have seen our resident fashion editor, Alec Leach, argue recently that Cruz Beckham (son of footballing dreamboat, David Beckham) and Formula 1 champion, Lewis Hamilton, are a disaster for Supreme, after the pair were spotted wearing items from the brand’s recent collab with Louis Vuitton.
To use Leach’s own words: “Cruz Beckham and Lewis Hamilton are the least underground, least Supreme people you could possibly use to tease the Louis V collab.”
Hilariously, this statement earned him some abuse online, but that’s hardly remarkable: whenever we express any sort of opinion, some wet blanket somewhere will take offense and decide to kick up a fuss that only they care about. Such is the internet. But my focus here isn’t the response to the aforementioned article, it’s the argument itself.
In my view, Cruz Beckham or Lewis Hamilton or even Game of Thrones actress Maisie Williams couldn’t possibly subtract from Supreme’s brand any more than the brand’s fanboys already have. I think that the only person who could possibly make Supreme any “less Supreme” is Republican senator and fat Pee Wee Herman lookalike, Ted Cruz.
What my colleague is referring to here when he uses “Supreme” as an adjective is the aura of streetwise cool that the brand likes to project, but “cool” is a purely subjective quality. Supreme doesn’t fit within my definition of cool, but I know that many of my interests, like critical theory or social realist fiction, for example, are probably about as exciting as stamp collecting for most streetwear devotees.
I’m quite simply not Supreme’s demographic, but while I will admit that while Supreme’s brand image is arguably still quite cool, most of the people that buy its products definitely aren’t. Just look at the kinds of faces you might find queuing up outside its stores on drop day:
Many of them are mere children wobbling on the threshold of puberty. Fifteen years ago, long before the internet introduced Supreme to the lamestream, these kids would probably be devoting their under-utilized libidinal energies towards collecting Pokémon cards or other similar childhood pursuits.
While Supreme does an excellent job of projecting an archetypally “cool” image by employing arrogant, scowling skaters in its stores who invest a lot of concerted effort into treating customers with quiet contempt as a way of embodying the brand’s too-cool-for-school persona (not caring is such a clichéd signifier of “cool”), most of the people that buy the brand (but not all of them, obviously) don’t reflect that image at all. Supreme’s core consumer is not Jason Dill, it’s kids who look like they’ve raided his closet.
There’s a certain irony in this: by never advertising, by intentionally selling such limited quantities of items, thereby spurning the temptation of bigger profits, Supreme tries to give the impression that it doesn’t care. Its customers, on the other hand do care – desperately so. That’s why they queue up for hours to buy the brand’s products. It’s the consumer equivalent of stalking, which most definitely isn’t cool.
And therein lies the fundamental paradox of commodified cool. Through advertising, brands coerce us into lusting over their products. The deceptive trickery of branding imbues inanimate objects with desirable human qualities, so we buy Victoria’s Secret lingerie to feel more sexy. Or a Rolex watch to feel like we’ve made it. We don’t just buy products, we buy the feeling or the traits that those products represent. Supreme, obviously, represents cool.
Who is prepared to queue up for hours so they can buy cool? People who probably don’t feel very cool. People who few would regard as model avatars of cool. If the cast of Larry Clark’s Kids is the image that Supreme chooses to project, a 12 year-old Cruz Beckham with a cute cocker spaniel sat on his lap is the reflection that the market mirrors back. This has been the uncomfortable reality for years now, the only difference is that Cruz is too glaring of a mirror for it to be ignored any longer.
Does this diminish Supreme’s cool? Again, this is a question of individual perspective, but I would say yes. Cool is supposed to be effortless and unattainable, that’s key to its appeal, much like the exclusivity of luxury goods. Making cool accessible diminishes it, in the same way that Chinese bootlegs turn luxury into tack.
Supreme’s business model has been built by distilling its cool into product form. What the brand sells is this notion that its customers can be just as cool as Jason Dill, or its cold-shouldered employees, by buying those products. But that transfer works both ways: it’s not just the products that represent the brand, but the people who wear those products as well.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.
- Lead Image: Sunny Lau / Highsnobiety