Image: A look from Darryl Brown's Fall/Winter 2019 Lookbook
If his second label—Midwest Kids—was any indication—Brown’s bedrock is based on the simple fact that he grew up in Middle America, where football is big and where high school friends tend to remember one another well after they’ve secured their diploma. Brown, like so many Midwest kids, grew up playing football, and, eventually some of his teammates wound up going pro. Exposed to the glitz and glam of professional athlete-dom, they turned to Brown, their stylish friend, to style them. Brown was 22 at the time and hadn’t known what a stylist did before those conversations—but he ended up giving it a shot.
Turns out, he was really good at it, quickly moving from styling Toledo athletes and rappers to Machine Gun Kelly and, eventually,
Kanye West, for whom he worked from 2015 through 2018.
Almost immediately after parting ways—amicably!—with West, Brown launched Darryl Brown Clothing Company, at Paris Fashion Week, in January of 2019. The roots of Brown’s eponymous brand are similar to those of
Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God, another one-time West consigliere. Like Lorenzo, Brown found that nobody was making the kind of clothes that he wanted to buy—both for himself and his client. So, rather than compromise, Brown decided to make what he felt was missing.
The result is refined, high end workwear. Darryl Brown Clothing Company’s early pieces have looked remarkably simple, playing on the classics of Midwest Americana—
ork shirts, crewnecks, cargo and painter pants, garage jackets. It might draw clear inspiration from the likes of Carhartt and Dickies, with hefty fabrics and study construction—double-stitching and solid brass hardware—but the silhouettes, colors and washes seem sharpened ever so slightly.
White painter pants and a long chore coat have a subtly stained patina, the black garments are stone washed ever so slightly, the pants are quite so billowing. The barcode on every garment (found near the waistline of cargos or on the interior collar of jackets) nods to Toledo and classic workwear detailing, while also offering up the sort of abstract aesthetic cue that can help make a brand in the long run—just ask
On the whole Darryl Brown’s wares don’t immediately stand out, which makes them authentic—but, in the long run, that emphasis on authenticity is what will make Darryl Brown designs stand out. The brand’s Instagram page is filled with what they call “REAL PEOPLE WEARING DARRYL BROWN” or “DARRYL BROWN ON REAL PEOPLE”—a nod to the fact that real people wear workwear. It just so happens that the real people wearing Darryl Brown are the kind of people that tend to know good brands when they see them; Brown counts fans among the likes of
LeBron James—clearly a fan thanks to his own Ohio roots—but also the well-respected stylist, Matthew Henson, interspersed among equal parts Midwest, New York and L.A. kids.
But if Darryl Brown Clothing Company (often used synonymously with just “Darryl Brown” as a way to refer to the main brand) is authentic, it’s also methodical and slow. That’s not meant in a pejorative sense, just that Brown is taking time to do it right and build a real brand with satisfied repeat customers. In that sense, it isn’t the ideal vehicle for his spur-of-the-moment creative ideas.
This is where Midwest Kids comes in. If the eponymous brand is Brown’s way of paying homage to the traditional mode of dress in the Midwest, then Midwest Kids pays homage to the people of the Midwest. It’s essentially a graphics-heavy basics line, with T-shirts, fleece and accessories that takes aesthetic cues from Midwest sports teams, car culture and even beer, seen clearly in the form of a collaboration with Bud Light.
The brand has proven to be extremely popular with Midwest natives, like LeBron James and Kanye West, who have worn Midwest Kids apparel on a number of occasions. As titans of their respective fields—not to mention men’s fashion—those connections have undeniably helped grow the brand’s following by leaps and bounds.
Darryl Brown Clothing Company and Midwest Kids may be two very different brands from an aesthetic standpoint (the former leaning more “workwear” while the the other more “streetwear”), but they compliment each other in that they both put the Midwest front and center, whether in terms of the region’s defining styles or its people. There’s no denying that discussions about culture in America are overwhelmingly centred around New York and Los Angeles. Darryl Brown Clothing Company and Midwest Kids are reminders that there’s a lot of talent and style between those places—that while New York and LA might be the two biggest cities, they are not the “be-all and end-all” of style in America.
In fact, if things keep going as they are for Darryl Brown, America’s next widely-celebrated designer might just be from the Midwest—and he’ll do so not by focusing on fashion, but on the things that make real people stylish.