Why bootlegging got cool again?

Why bootlegging got cool again?


I had a look into the contro­ver­sial streetwear trend of bootlegging, where it came from, how a trend once considered “uncool” has survived the test of time and why the T-shirt has become the face of bootleg culture?




Where did bootlegging come from?


During the 1920s prohibition bootlegging or ‘rum-running’ became a term used to describe the act of illegally smuggling, producing and selling alcohol. After that, the term was used for illegal recordings of music performances. Nowadays, a bootleg is known as an item of clothing that creatively appropriates other brands’ designs and logos.



When did bootlegging start?


Bootlegging as we know today, first became cool in the 80s, where we saw Dapper Dan, the OG bootlegger or “knock-uper” as he called himself, bring accessible and unique high fashion pieces to hip-hop and streetwear culture. After becoming widely recognised for his one-off designs for celebrities and huge sports icons, Dapper Dan closed his doors ten years later due various lawsuits, the most notable one with Fendi.



What made it cool again?


Ironically the big brands that helped close Dapper Dan’s doors were the same brands that later copied his designs before then choosing to collaborate with him. And in 2016 brands like Gucci, Palace, Balenciaga and Vetements (to name a few) started to flip their own/other brand logos to create “real fakes”.




Bootlegging is now a staple within streetwear culture which has caused big brands to jump on the trend in order to stay culturally relevant as well as giving them a sense of humour. 

What was once about accessibility as well as creative appropriation, bootlegging is now, it’s more about the irony and humour that comes with brand subversion. T-shirts have always been fashion’s playground for jokes and memes, that’s why the trend is dominating the industry today.


– Xae & The KH Team
Posted on