The brand once beloved by Rihanna, Rita Ora, and Jessie J is undergoing an alt-girl renaissance
In 1905, Spanish philosopher George Santayana wrote “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” which was then (ironically) repeated by Winston Churchill in a 1948 speech to the House of Commons. Both were referring to the atrocities of war – or something like that – but their words could just as feasibly have been read as a fable for culture’s fascination with nostalgia. Sadly, Churchill died decades before the release of “Domino” and “How We Do” but it stands to reason that he would have looked amazing in a BOY London snapback. Once beloved by Jessie J and Rita Ora, I’ve swirled the tea leaves and can confidently say that BOY London is on the brink of a renaissance – albeit with less “ethnic” headbands, mock suspender tights, and velvet Creepers.
The runes of a resurgence could first be read on the grids of online It girls earlier this year – worn by the likes of stylist Ken Dechet and the Snow Strippers, styled in a BOY London cap for their “Only Way Out” music video. Then, after months of accumulative Google searches, the label’s spread-eagle branding surfaced in a recent episode of White Lotus, emblazoned across Lucia’s drawstring backpack. A Sicilian sex worker taking full advantage of promiscuous tourists, the costume emphasised the cultural disconnect between the island’s “eurotrash” locals and its Net-a-Porter tourists, etching the label into the zeitgeist once more. Having been popularised by Sid Vicious and Madonna in the 1980s as a symbol of counter-cultural rebellion – and revived by pop stars some 30 years later – this would technically be BOY London’s second comeback. “It’s just the original no boundaries uniform,” says Dechet. “It represents my inner avant-garde fuck boy.”
The same could be said about the (mostly female) pop acts who first reincarnated the label in the mid-2010s. These were ”good girls gone bad” who wanted to “do it like a dude”, searching for an edgier, more streetwise aesthetic to telegraph their inner braggadocio. Perhaps the most memorable proponent of the label was Rihanna, who spent the majority of 2012 cloaked in BOY London’s logo to promote Rated R. Much like the time she grinded on Jonathan Ross while performing “Talk That Talk”, BOY London is precisely the kind of thing that spiritually geriatric millennials would write off as an embarrassing relic of their youth. See also: UGGS, COMME des FUCKDOWN merch, and all those galaxy print leggings that were just reproduced in Dior’s AW23 show. “Today, BOY London is a super swaggy, tight, and light ensemble,” Dechet says. “Pushing the status-quo is obviously way more chic than co-signing it.”
Of course, Gen Z has long mined Tumblr-era fashions, resurrecting the health goth (all chokers and black lipstick) and Pink Tumblr (fuzzy socks and Victoria’s Secret body sprays) on TikTok to billions of views. “It feels so wrong to be nostalgic for that time but also so right,” said @oatmilkandcodeine when describing the tropes of Ketamine Chic earlier this year – a grubby megamix of Minion tees, yeti boots, and tourist tat. “It’s about making what is traditionally seen as ugly appealing,” they added. The fact that BOY London is now widely perceived as being “tacky” (evidenced by its inclusion in White Lotus) is central to its allure. An affront to traditional taste values, ”BOY London has always been about trolling the narrative,” as Dechet says, only this time it has less to do with the brand itself and more to do about how it could be worn. “The way we consume is never going to make us happy, so being able to find the irony in all of it will make you enlightened,” @oatmilkandcodeine said.
Satire isn’t a modern phenomenon within fashion – before Balenciaga and Vetements there was Martin Margiela and Elsa Schiaparelli – but BOY London’s current iteration feels particularly online, hawked by smooth-brained meme merchants and alt-girls with fake lips and blue hair. With its block capitals and proto-Shoreditch logo tees, BOY London evokes the memeable, text-heavy language of Praying, Maxine Beiny and OGBFF. Brands that prioritise humour over hyper-curation, signalling a wearer’s proximity to being on “the right side of the internet,” as OGBFF founders Angela Ruis and Lauren Schiller explained back in November. Only, where designers like Demna tug on consumerism with $840 bootleg DHL t-shirts and $1,600 Ikea bags, BOY London seems to have pulled on a slightly newer social capital... the internet. “Embrace the meme,” as @oatmilkandcodeine said. “In fact, make everything a meme because everything is a joke.”