Some brands are more mystifying than others…

Justin Bridges has been pondering the meaning of Supreme all week, on the heels of a profile of the cult brand in this month’s GQ. He covers a lot of ground, but it boils down to a simple question, one that’s struck nearly everyone at some point: what makes a man camp out for a pair of cargo pants?

Naturally, we’ve got a few ideas.

The obvious comparison is to the lines outside the Apple store, which Bridges name-checks more than a few times, but with a fresh iPad, the hype seems a little more justified. If they’re suddenly waiting in line for a paisley Harrington jacket, it’s a little harder to follow. Part of it is the limited run. Supreme makes eye-catching items and not very many of them, so if you miss out this time, you may not get another shot. But more than that, it’s a sense of community every bit as strong as the Cult of Mac—and a hack that goes right to the core of how style works.

Part of the reason is simple economics. There aren’t too many folks with both the loose change and the Neapolitan taste to drop $2,500 on a Cucinelli jacket. That makes for an exclusive club—one that props up the brand even further, and makes the jacket in question feel like more than just a piece of clothing. That’s the playbook for luxury retailers from modern-day Gucci to Hermès circa 1837.

Supreme doesn’t work that way. As cult brands go, they’re one of the cheaper ones. Any given item will cost you nearly double at A.P.C., for instance. The club’s just as exclusive, but this time it’s measured in dedication…and willingness to spend a little time on the sidewalk. When the proud few leave the store, they feel a similar buzz to the gent leaving the Cucinelli store—only now it’s paid for in sweat instead of money.

And if outsiders have trouble grasping the scene, it’s only natural.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom