An unimpeachable place within our collective cultural conscience, a cult-like following, feverish fans and ubiquitous within society at large—these are the requisite qualifications for global recognition. It doesn’t take long to asses the brands that fit the bill. Nike? Perhaps. Apple? Probably. Coca-Cola? Definitely. Coca-Cola wasn’t the first branded soft drink—that would be Dr. Pepper—but you’d be forgiven for assuming it was. After all, since its inception, Coca-Cola has amassed unprecedented cultural cache and is undeniably among the most recognized and culturally important brands in the world.

Coke has deftly shaped its brand since 1886 and over the years remained steadfast in its commitment to consistent branding (the New Coke disaster of the 1980s notwithstanding). Ultimately, Coke pioneered a marketing strategy that more than product, sells a lifestyle. For Coke that means togetherness, sharing and happiness all embodied by its slogan “Taste The Feeling.” As ambitious—and hard to believe—as that sounds, it’s why Coca-Cola is revered around the world.

Coke cemented itself as a part of popular culture in an ingenious way that most companies—beverage or otherwise—would envy. The version of Santa Claus that most of the Western world is familiar with was in fact introduced by Coca-Cola in a series of advertisements in 1931.. The artist responsible for the ad campaign, Haddon Sundblom, pulled directly from ’Twas The Night Before Christmas, using Saint Nick as inspiration. In the eighty years since, there has been a subliminal yet very powerful connection between the cherubic gift giver and the fizzy cola. Similarly, the company entered a symbiotic relationship with McDonald’s in 1955 in order to grow alongside the burger behemoth, ensuring that wherever the Golden Arches popped up Coke did as well. Even further, Coke ingratiated itself into the world of sports by sponsoring both the World Cup and the Olympics, despite the fact that Coke isn’t even a sports beverage.

Key to the company’s success is extending the Coca-Cola brand beyond beverages. In the 1880s the company began offering branded promotional items—clocks and agendas—literally decades before that was the norm. Over the years, that tradition continued and everything from Coke bottles and cases to point-of-sale displays and fridges have become highly sought-after by a large community of collectors. Considering its extensive legacy of merch, Coke’s rich clothing history should come as no surprise. Simply another way for Coke to spread brand awareness, the soda company’s clothing line most closely resembles that of any major sports team: big branding on basics such as T-shirts and hoodies.

More recently, Coke’s quest to insert itself more effectively and subtly into culture led the brand to branch out and collaborate with high-profile clothing brands, producing capsules that riff on Coca-Cola’s cultural history. Of course, for Coke it’s a win-win—not only does it help get the Coke brand publicity, but it does so in a way that reaffirms the brands' cultural standing. These collaborations appear across the fashion spectrum, including footwear, sportswear and ready-to-wear collections but, most notably, streetwear. Considering streetwear’s penchant for referencing, recontextualizing and collaborating with cultural juggernauts, projects that bridge the gap between the two make perfect sense.

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