Tommy Hilfiger, the Zombie Brand
by Ryan Young
Just when I thought Tommy Hilfiger, could be laid to rest... vintage hunters fly in to inject a rusty syringe filled with nostalgia juice. The whole phenomenon is tied to everyone's love of the 90's and the mainstream monetization of Hip Hop fashion/culture. At the height of the brand's popularity and at the early stages of hip hop moguls launching their own lines, Hilfiger had to put down the rumor that he never wanted the brand to have its most prominent association with hip hop.
When I think about it, around 2012 was when I started to see prices for old-school Tommy start to trend up on eBay and Etsy. It could be that the marketing team over at Tommy had something to do with this trend. I tend to think it was more of the 80's and 90's hip hop influenced babies reclaiming a brand that represented nostalgia. Let's just call it a case of the "walking dead brand". Sure, I see tons of people searching for vintage Hilfiger coats, hats and jackets, but their latest designs aren't flying off the shelves because of it. Right now, they have to settle for watching their second hand styles become one of the hottest trends in vintage with only a debatable growth in brand equity to show for it.
From the early side of the 1990's to about 2000, just about everyone repped (Pimp C. staunchly didn't). There are plenty of blog photos floating around of Wu-Tang, Aliyah, Q-tip, Goldie and many others sporting the now famous color blocked Tommy jackets, rugbys and ski caps (?).
After 2k, hip hop culture moved on from this particular style as it often does. Fittingly, the company's desired target of wasps didn't overwhelmingly favor the brand over other preppy brands as Tommy thought it would. With the emergence of J. Crew, Club Monaco and others with a more modern take on prep, Hilfiger seemed a bit dated. By 2005, I rarely heard anyone mention Tommy.