Tyler, the Creator and the Ironic(ish) Style of His Golf Wang Line
“I mean, that’s my least favorite sport, to be honest,” says 23-year-old Tyler, The Creator, referring to the name of his clothing company, Golf Wang, a play on Wolf Gang, which is short for the hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. “I don’t know, the word just looks sick.” So he has blazed it across bold, brightly colored hats ($30-$40) and T-shirts ($30-$45) and — with a smirk — across jerseys for sports that are, well, not golf. The pop culture-influenced collection also includes such items as a kelly green camp hat embroidered with images of chicken and waffles, a T-shirt decorated in cherry blossoms like a bottle of Arizona green tea and a duffel bag that resembles a watermelon, inside and out.
Tyler is making his mark on the scene as a producer-rapper. Both of his studio albums, "Goblin" (2011) and "Wolf" (2013), debuted in the top five, selling more than 200,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And as a clothing designer. He also is the ringleader of Odd Future, the Los Angeles-based collective composed of artists Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Hodgy Beats, Jasper Dolphin, Left Brain, Matt Martians, Mike G, Syd the Kyd and Taco Bennett. “Maybe I’m just one of those special n—as...I take that back, I take that back. I am one of those special n—as,” says the artist, who was raised in Los Angeles’ Lodera Heights amid its thriving skateboard culture and got his start at the age of 17, by doing what he loves — making music, videos, clothes — with his group of friends.
What sets Golf Wang apart is its humor, which is often dark and subversive like Tyler’s flows, even if unabashedly adolescent. Case in point: Tyler dressing up as “Thurnis Haley,” a middle-aged golfer who asks people on the course if they like balls, for Odd Future’s Adult Swim TV show "Loiter Squad."
That puts his line in sharp contrast to a world of hip-hop imagery, where, says Odd Future manager Christian Clancy of 4 Strikes, “every rapper wanted the same car and they all had the "Scarface" poster above their toilet.” Odd Future, by contrast, honors the cult of individuality — though such statements would never be made in earnest.
The Golf Wang collection includes a T-shirt emblazoned with a woman sucking on a red, white and blue Firecracker popsicle, which, according to the description, is made with “100 percent seriousness and cotton.” Sarcasm remains young people’s mother tongue.
Golf Wang — with items that range in price from $2 to $85 — is now sold at its eponymous store in Los Angeles (410 N. Fairfax Ave.) and in only 30 retail locations in Asia, Europe and North America and online at golfwang.com (where most of the products are sold out). And the Odd Future collective itself has a clothing line under the same name, sold in more than 300 stores.
“Tyler had grown up drawing doughnuts on his pants and dressing his own way and doing stuff,” says Clancy. “These guys are just making clothes for themselves, and then it’s a no-brainer for me as a manager to say, ‘OK, this is an obvious business.’ As I always say, the margin on socks is better than the margin on CDs, that’s for sure,” says Clancy. There even is a sneaker collaboration: Vans Syndicate x Odd Future, a collection of Old Skool Pro “S” suede shoes (those are skate shoes to laymen), in four colors, that came out in 2013. New colorways debut in July.
But while Tyler designs, he doesn’t think of himself as a designer: “I f—ing hate fashion and everything about it. I just like making stuff and it happens to be in f—ing cotton and, like, materials. But that shit [of the fashion world] is disgusting.” A healthy distrust of the corporate fashion industry, which exploits blind consumerism and false need, quite ironically makes for good business among post-millennials in the Internet age.
“I don’t want it to be like f—ing Rocawear or, I don’t know, a lot of things that come and go,” says Tyler. “That’s why I don’t give out free clothes to famous people. That actually could be the worst thing possible, if famous people wore Golf Wang.”