Supreme is dead. It’s a sentiment shared umpteen times by blogs, forums, Discord groups, Instagram commenters, and prosaic TikToks over the past however many years but finally, the Supreme doom-mongering may actually bear weight.
I don’t think it’s at all controversial to posit that Supreme is currently no longer the culture-defining juggernaut it once was.
Is Supreme actually “dead,” though?
There’s a funny paradox at the heart of the question. Within the ever-nebulous realm of streetwear, “dead” doesn’t necessarily refer to a brand that’s inactive or even inactive, it simply refers to a brand that’s lost the cultural clout it once had. “Dead” brands aren’t as cool or hyped as their counterparts.
To be clear, Supreme remains one of the biggest streetwear brands in the world.
Crucially, Supreme perpetually enjoys the name-brand recognition that comes with being one of the brightest stars in the biz, a factor that Supreme parent company VF Corp seems to value above actual sales.
Though Supreme’s revenue apparently hasn’t quite reached VF Corp’s $600 million goal — though VF Corp doesn’t announce returns for individual brands, reported figures put Supreme’s yearly revenue somewhere below $450 million — VF appears to value Supreme’s branding “goodwill” enough to offset the debt it incurred when it paid $2.1 billion for Supreme back in 2020.
But, call it recognizability or call it goodwill, familiarity ≠ clout.
Anti Social Social Club is no longer “cool” in the way it was a half-decade ago but it’s never been more visible and it still sells out of every big drop. And yet, culturally-conscious types paradoxically consider ASSC “dead.”
The difference, obviously, is that ASSC was lightning in a bottle, an overnight success never intended to be anything more than a catchy name. Meanwhile, Supreme’s been a cultural touchpoint since the ’90s.
Thing is, Supreme really hasn’t changed much since then.
Like, it’s almost newsworthy that Supreme finally switched the domain for its bare-bones website from Supremenewyork.com to the Shopify-powered Supreme.com earlier this year.
This stubborn consistency has served Supreme well for years.
Supreme was arguably the most powerful brand in youth culture for the entirety of the 2010s, I’d say. Its high-profile collaborations sold out in milliseconds as merch-crazed fans devised bots to auto-snipe coveted drops and reshared images of themselves wearing their new goods on Tumblr.
But times are a-changin’, even if Supreme itself isn’t. In the age of social media, it’s iterate or die, and Supreme clearly has no desire to iterate.
Back in the day, even the middling Supreme collabs used to sell out instantly, if only because enterprising flippers would attempt to make a buck.
However, Supreme and The North Face’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection — typically one of Supreme’s hottest drops — sat online for days.
On the secondhand market, Supreme’s SS23 TNF Nuptses are selling for maybe $100 or so over retail.
The lack of excitement is palpable especially on third-party Supreme platforms and where fans rate and discuss recent Supreme drops.
Over on SupremeCommunity, weekly droplist rankings that used to attract tens of thousands of votes from fans only draw a couple thousand reactions at most.
Fact of the matter, more and more Supreme product is sitting around.
Not that the product is worse than it used to be, by any means.
Actually, I’d posit that Supreme is killing it in terms of product alone (thanks in no small part to new creative director Tremaine Emory), with its current season delivering everything from new Nike Dunks to kitschy Supreme-branded Tamagotchi.
But the kids who gathered in droves outside Supreme’s new LA store weren’t clamoring for cool product: they just wanted to flip sneakers.
Such is the state of any brand big enough to get a Nike Dunk collaboration, to be fair — and embarrassing dudes have flexed Supreme collections since time immemorial — but there are a lot of kids who see Supreme as streetwear’s elderly (not elder) statesman.
If we’re at the point where 16-year-old sneaker convention attendees think Supreme is ready for a comeback, maybe it’s actually been gone for a while.
Who swiped Supreme’s crown?
I’d argue that it wasn’t any one brand but a collective of labels empowered by social media and reconfigured creative direction.
Outrage over Supreme’s bizarre accessories is now directed at MSCHF’s ingenious conceptual projects. Supreme’s unchallenged collaborative dominance has been entirely upturned by Palace Skateboards, which created so many insane collaborations in 2022 that they deserved their own list.
Saved from the ignominy of mall retailers by a killer creative team (including current Supreme CD Tremaine Emory), Stüssy is now the streetwear king, coveted by both the TikTok set and fashion-y folks.
All while Kith, the approachable yin to Supreme’s standoffish yang, continues selling ample product to an enormous international audience.
Here’s the thing: Supreme’s not dead in the literal sense. It’s still a big name with a big following and it still sells plenty of clothes.
One day, Supreme will probably once again be the coolest clothing company on the planet (waiting on that second Louis Vuitton collab). But, for now, it’s taken a backseat to the usurpers.
No one’s on top forever.