18 California Fashion Brands All Stylish Men Should Know
The Cali fashion brands setting the bar for laid-back West Coast style. Expect surf, skate & streetwear from some of the hottest names in the game.
What is it about California that’s proven so appealing for generations? The answers at first glance might appear simple: the surf, the sun, the sand. But when you dive a little deeper, it’s the culture, the opportunity and the unique sense of, well, California cool.
All of these ideals hold true for the best California menswear brands, too. Yes, we’ve said it: everything that the Golden State promises for surfers, skaters, counter-culture rebels and artists tends to carry over into the world of men’s fashion.
There’s a distinct aesthetic to plenty of California menswear brands: fabrics are breezier and pieces are classically rugged and made to move around in, be they board shorts, skate shoes, boardwalk-ready slip-ons or a durable denim shirt.
Yet you’ll also find your fair share of ultra-modern menswear, from boundary-pushing streetwear to a celebrated ‘sneakerhead’ culture. Whatever you’re looking to add to your wardrobe, you can find it in the wild, wonderful West of California.
Start with some of our favourite West Coast brands below.
Many of the best brands in the business, at least in California, started off simple: by translating what they saw around them into relatable clothing that made one feel like part of an exclusive club.
For Stussy and founder Shawn Stussy, that entry point was surf culture in Laguna Beach, which translated into a hotbed of creativity and of youth looking for bold clothing to call their own.
Today, the Stussy name and logo is immediately recognisable the world over, and the brand still specialises in unique graphic tees and streetwear, all the while collaborating with some of the biggest names across high fashion, skating and surfing.
Fear of God
Ambition is at the core of many a brand in the Golden State, especially ones that strive to define the conversation (successfully) like Fear of God.
Scarcely over a decade ago, Jerry Lorenzo set out to merge the worlds of sportswear, streetwear and high fashion. That meant slouchy sweatpants made from exquisite materials, sometimes produced in challenging silhouettes that started turning heads and drawing celebrity fans.
With a washed-out colour palette focused on shades like tan, beige, olive and black, Fear of God clothes are timeless and innovative, and the brand’s outerwear is also boundary-pushing.
Heightened luxury plus sportswear is the name of the game.
Once you’ve stumbled across a brand like The Hundreds, you’ll feel like you’ve unearthed a secret – it’s almost like cracking a code that shows you’re in the know in the world of streetwear, sneakers and athletic gear.
The Hundreds manages to blend sporty, slightly preppy sensibility (Hundreds gear was first sold in Fred Segal stores) with a cutting-edge approach to classic fashion.
Old-school streetwear hoodies get updated with splashy, modem-meets-retro graphics, basketball jerseys are updated with the logo of The Hundreds, and even button-downs are designed with cool quilted patterns.
These pieces can be mixed and matched (along with the brand’s graphic tees and baseball caps) or worn on their own for a distinct take on streetwear for ‘California cool’ kids (and guys of all ages).
It makes sense that California would prove the ideal location for many a pioneering sneaker brand. The sunny weather makes it possible to wear sneakers all year round, after all, and it lends itself to the chance to consistently try out new styles and silhouettes.
Long before sneakers sparked bidding wars online, there were stores like Undefeated, billed as the ‘original authentic sneaker store’. That meant stocking and selling rare finds and classic sneakers from the likes of Nike, and they’ve still got a healthy selection of some of the most exclusive kicks on the market – plus innovative apparel from A Bathing Ape and much more.
Surfing legend Kelly Slater changed the sport for the better, helping put it on the map for a mainstream audience. But he wasn’t done breaking new ground, instead setting his sights on ways to make the fashion world much more eco-friendly.
The result was Outerknown, the pioneering modern clothing label Slater founded with award-winning menswear designer John Moore.
The brand has become something of a cult favourite thanks to the way it seamlessly blends surf culture (like board shorts and breezy tees) with sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton. And of course, pieces like its rugged Outerknown Blanket Shirt have proven a smash success, too.
Billed as a “West Coast ‘avantstreet’ lifestyle brand”, Stampd has come quite a long way since its founding in 2011 by Chris Stamp (talk about a memorable name).
Stampd is centred around a range of modern must-haves, like premium T-shirts and boxy, relaxed shirts, and there’s also a selection of perfectly executed, genre-bending hoodies and crew necks for laid-back SoCal days and nights.
The collection is so impeccably designed, Stamp and co. garnered the award for GQ’s Best New Menswear Designer. And like other lauded California brands, it’s a perfect fusion of ‘youth culture’ and timeless style.
If you’ve gone on the hunt for performance apparel there’s a very good chance you’ve come across Vuori in recent years. If not, now is as good a time as any to get acquainted with one of the very best California menswear brands.
The region is deeply embedded in Vuori’s DNA after all, with a focus on designing athletic gear that stands up to the ‘Coastal California’ lifestyle – hiking, surfing, running and exploring sunny neighbourhoods all the while.
The brand’s soft yet durable T-shirts, running shorts and zip hoodies are must-haves from day to night for any casual ensemble (or gym-going fit). While the performance polos to hard-working training tops will keep you looking good while performing at your peak.
Plenty has happened over the past decade or so in the menswear world: consumers started diving more into where their clothes were made, how they were made and what they represented. Buck Mason delivers on all three fronts.
The brand, founded in 2013 in a SoCal garage, first focused on making the perfect T-shirt, followed thereafter by producing some of the best men’s jeans around.
They draw heavily from classic styles like military shirt jackets, durable chambray shirts and timeless Henley shirts, and they do it all using super-soft fabric and premium construction.
It’s difficult to find a city that’s more well-suited to so many different varieties of menswear than San Francisco. There’s the chance to test out durable waxed outerwear and rain gear. There’s the necessity to look sharp wearing a blazer or one of the best Oxford shirts. There’s a need to wear a thick-knit sweater to bundle up against coastal breezes. And yes, there’s plenty of space to just rock a classic T-shirt.
Taylor Stitch covers all these bases and then some, with a rabid fanbase that frequently pre-funds many of its offerings while also relying on modern classics like its OCBDs, richly crafted denim and super-soft flannel shirts.
The great thing about so many West Coast brands is the influence they have on the fashion world at large. Take the ongoing athleisure trend, for instance. It’s less of a trend and more of a necessity for so many – especially during Work From Home days.
Stylish, sleek sweatpants you can actually wear out of the house were once a rarity, but not so any more – thanks in large part to John Elliott himself.
He designed runway-ready sweatpants and joggers with cool, sleek designs inspired by moto pants, and then he expanded that approach into an entire line of seriously cool, modern designer menswear.
His tapered joggers might be the best on the market, so give them a good, long look.
Humble beginnings eventually led to the creation of the namesake James Perse brand, an all-American story that sprang from James’ desire to find (and eventually craft) the perfect baseball hat in the early 90s.
Perse did so first for his father’s California clothing boutique, before diving into the world of knitwear with a women’s T-shirt line that quickly grew into a fast-selling menswear collection.
The James Perse offering has only grown from there, expanding into a line of richly crafted, ultra-soft and super-premium T-shirts, basics, denim and outerwear.
There’s a good chance you’ve not yet worn a T-shirt or pair of jeans like the ones made by James Perse, and that’s more than enough reason to check out the brand.
The Elder Statesman
The best menswear makes a distinct first impression, the kind that draws you in for a closer look. And since its 2007 founding, The Elder Statesman has warranted at least more than one ‘closer look’, using premium materials like cashmere to craft soft, airy knits and jumpers in vibrant colours.
You might make the case that long before it became a buzzword, The Elder Statesman was helping to define quiet luxury – designs that are subtly stylish and make an impression without the need to shout about it.
Transparency in the clothing industry was once a difficult thing to come by, but brands like Everlane have carved their own path. That path revolves around selling minimal, subtly stylish and endlessly versatile menswear and accessories, then telling the consumer all about its sourcing, design and production.
It’s evident right from the get-go on every single product page, from the organic cotton T-shirts and luxurious denim to the highly sustainable sneakers.
The San Francisco brand even makes capsule collections designed to be seamlessly mixed, matched and worn together all at once via its Uniform clothing line.
Look closely at the feet of busy, stylish passersby in many a neighbourhood around the world, from Williamsburg to Shoreditch. It’s more than likely you’ll come across at least one pair of Allbirds – the game-changing sneaker brand has made waves for its clean, simple silhouettes designed in next-level, eco-friendly knit fabric.
The result is a springy, bouncy pair of knitted sneakers that can dress down chinos or add a sense of laid-back cool to jeans, and the company uses renewable materials for a sustainable approach.
It’s easy to lament the fact that they just don’t make menswear like they used to, unless you happen to be shopping Tellason. The brand is, first and foremost, fiercely committed to its hometown of San Francisco, and is one of the rare few brands still making some of the best jeans for men in the USA.
In fact, Tellason started even more simply than that: with a focus on producing one style of slim-straight jeans in rich selvedge denim – and the company has proven wildly popular ever since.
You can also now find durable denim shirts and apparel from the company, but its deep blue indigo jeans are a certified, American-made, modern menswear winner.
It’s hard to talk about the state’s top menswear without talking about California legend Levi’s. The brand’s five-pocket, riveted cotton denim pants were trusted by Wild West prospectors and miners, and while the blue jean owes its heritage to France centuries ago, it quickly became an American icon thanks to Levi’s.
It’s one of the most recognisable menswear brands on the planet, right up there with Nike or Adidas. The company continue to make affordable, dependable jeans for all body types – plus denim jackets, shirting, knitwear and much more.
These days, fan-favourite brands tend to pick up steam outrageously quickly: all it takes is one celebrity endorsement to send them into the stratosphere. And since launching with low-profile, cleanly designed women’s sneakers, Rothy’s has undoubtedly picked up a fervent following (with a lengthy wait list to prove it).
So, when the brand made a foray into the men’s market with super-lightweight, surprisingly durable sneakers modelled after retro trainers, it was a welcome addition to a saturated market.
Its sneakers, now including a stylish high-top model, are also machine-washable and are made from repurposed plastic bottles.
The best men’s style essentials in the state of California (and beyond) are worth the wait – and that has always been the case with Gustin.
The San Francisco company was among a slate of companies (including Taylor Stitch) to test out a custom-made, pre-funding model over a decade ago: they’d design durable, hard-working and frankly incredible chore jackets and selvedge jeans, then wait for customer feedback and pre-funding to roll in before making them.
Today, the brand continue to experiment with iconic leathers for footwear, plus some of the finest denim and outerwear and shirting fabrics on the market.