Skip to main content
your browser is not supported
To use ASOS, we recommend using the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer

STYLE AND CULTURE

CULT BRAND: TOMMY HILFIGER

By Kasia Hastings, September 21, 2018

Aside from the actual stars and stripes, there aren’t many things more recognizably American than a piece of Tommy Hilfiger. Its cool take on Americana and commitment to its iconic red, white and blue logo has cemented it as the State’s steeziest flag flyer. From preppy suburban beginnings to '90s hip-hop stalwart — here’s the story behind Hilfiger...
Tommy Hilfiger menswear available at ASOS | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: ASOS

Well before hype brands such as Supreme hit the mainstream, the likes of Tommy Hilfiger (and Polo Ralph Lauren) dominated the market — but unlike their younger counterparts, these archetypes weren’t immediate hits on the streets. The label as we know it was founded by Thomas Jacob "Tommy" Hilfiger in 1984 following the designer’s first foray into fashion in 1974 that took the form of a little store in Elmira, New York called People’s Place — that Hilfiger and two friends set up at age 18. The brand’s debut 1985 collection was a single menswear line of high-quality wardrobe staples fit for the off-duty yuppies of the day. But this was only the beginning, the designer had his sights set on building a global lifestyle brand.
Tommy Hilfiger | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

Two years after officially founding his eponymous label, Hilfiger signaled his arrival to the world by spelling out his name in 10ft-high letters over Times Square. The designer’s bold, unapologetic branding broke the mold — an approach emblemized by its instantly recognizable flag logo (a combination of nautical flags for the letters T and H).

Whether it’s a small flag stitched into a shirt breast, a heavy graphic printed across a sweatshirt or simply its signature color-blocking, Hilfiger’s designs were unmistakable. They became synonymous with wealth and success which popularized them beyond America's white picket fences.
Tommy Hilfiger in the 90s | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Rex

Enter the '90s hip-hop era. Hilfiger had always intended to create a fresh take on the all-American brand, and his mix of pop culture and patriotism made his logo-heavy collegiate sportswear a hit among the younger crowd, including the artists defining the street aesthetic of the decade. Grand Puba, Snoop Dog and Aaliyah were early adopters of its underwear, oversized sailing jackets, sweats, T-shirts, logo-taped overalls and Tommy Jeans. But it was Snoop, wearing a baggy red, white and blue Tommy Hilfiger rugby shirt during his 1994 appearance on Saturday Night Live that will be remembered as when the label truly made the cultural crossover.
Model in Tommy Hilfiger | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

While the light dimmed briefly for Hilfiger in the late-2000s, the resurgence in appetite for the finest in '90s classics put its cult pieces back to the top of the sartorial agenda. With a new wave of street-stylers and famous fans including A$AP Rocky putting their weight behind Hilfiger, its vintage sportswear, sailing gear and denim were quickly revived by the brand to bring its original designs firmly back to the forefront.

Not content with riding the old-school revival, its commander-in-chief has continued to evolve his vision of Americana to keep Hilfiger fresh. The designer has transformed its runway shows into global events, moving them out of traditional fashion week locations and turning them into concert-scale productions in Shanghai and California with performances from the Rolling Stones and Bruno Mars.

Celebrity collaborations and even a 23-piece teched-up "smart" Tommy Jeans collection fitted with a Bluetooth chip to track your movements signal that Hilfiger shows no sign of resting on his three decades of success. But it is, undoubtedly, its coppable '90s styles that remain Hilfiger’s hottest property.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS STORY?