Only also has a continuing relationship with the City of New York, making collaborative pieces like hats and T-shirts that are more proletarian versions of Heron Preston’s collaboration with the city’s Sanitation Department, which featured modified, upcycled T-shirts and sweatshirts. These pieces are more modest, but almost as effective at pairing insurgent outsider with institutional gravitas.
A few streets south, on a stunted block of Canal east of the Manhattan Bridge, a pair of smallish children worked in the window of Labor, the city’s most promising skate shop, diligently but effortlessly attaching trucks to decks, wheels to trucks. In the era Supreme opened, skate shops were still marginally transgressive. That is no longer the case, the pastime having long been suburbanized.
Labor, for its part, hopes to resist that movement. It is appealingly ratty, but not without a sense of order. All of the skaters I saw were asked to leave their boards by the front door, from the bratty teenagers who had been killing time outside to the SoHo dads hunting for a taste of their teenage years. The store is cramped — clothes hang two racks high on the right, and under an island in the middle. Boards are on the left, shoes on the back wall. This is not a place for browsing. I watched a tourist try on sneakers that were on sale, prodded on by his wife and glared at dismissively by the store’s workers.
The store carries skate basics from Vans, Nike SB and Thrasher, including a hoodie with a hilarious menorah-theme riff on the classic logo ($75), but also clothing from forward-thinking skate brands, like Bronze 56K, Quartersnacks, Civilist and Dime, as well as from local pseudo-pirate-radio-cum-streetwear line Know-Wave (though Dover Street Market sells the more artistically-minded ones).
Though the store itself is small, its square footage really includes the outside steps and the sidewalk and the street, where on most days you can see skaters hovering around, making the scene by not making a scene. Labor serves as a social space in a way that Supreme can’t always these days, with its glut of tourists and long lines of teenagers and resellers on release days.
Some of that energy has also transferred to the Good Company, a storefront on Allen Street, which whispers its tastemaking softly. It’s spare, bookstore-quiet and deceptive: Here is what may well be the launchpad of a new post-Supreme post-cool cool. There are the requisite logo T-shirts, some with original art and some with simple branding. And there are also T-shirts for the cool-kid jazz outfit Onyx Collective, and by a range of next-Gen brands from across the continent: Carrots, Born X Raised, dertbag, Stray Rats, Iggy, Bootleg Is Better. I bought a T-shirt by the artist Joe Garvey that juxtaposed the logos of NPR and Hot 97.
The shop has an unhurried air. On a recent visit, I saw one kid pop in with an order of dumplings offering to share; another time a small gaggle were just sitting, waiting for the afternoon to burn away into ash.
Beyond the clothing, at every turn, some small detail beckons, whether it’s the wall of zines or the vintage Polo ephemera or the occasional piece of art, like the basketball reskinned in Louis Vuitton logo denim ($1,200) by Super Kreep (a.k.a. @superkreep on Instagram).
It’s not just Supreme, or any number of streetswear brands, with a history of having their way with high-fashion iconography. It’s young insurrectionist designers as well, the more polished of whom may well end up — officially or not — helping legacy brands reconceptualize themselves in a world when a logo isn’t a protected mark but one byte of data in an ever-changing stream. If Louis Vuitton or any other brand is going to look past Supreme for the next recontextualiser, maybe someday they will find @superkreep or fellow bootleg auteurs like @alexleenyc or @avanope or @imran_potato. Sometimes the people who know a brand best are those dedicating themselves to dismantling it, then reassembling it in their own image.