YPulse’s brand tracker monitors young consumers’ feelings toward hundreds of brands, and they rate these 15 clothing brands the coolest…
- Streetwear is the common denominator of the top five coolest brands, and their top choice is unwavering for another year in a row
- SHEIN has jumped ranks for Gen Z as they look to keep on trend quickly
- But environmentally conscious brands are being rated “cool” this year, above some of their favorite major retailers
Young consumers have created fashion identities for themselves, in their everyday life and especially on social media. When asked what types of clothing they want to wear, online and off, there’s a simple answer: cool. But what defines this label could be hard to pin down with their constantly changing online #aesthetics, and conversely casual day-to-day style. How can brands know if they’re meeting the standard of cool?
YPulse’s brand tracker monitors Gen Z and Millennials opinions on brands week-to-week; which they consider trustworthy, which they want to work for, and which brands are falling on their imperative cool radar. Our brand tracker is available to Pro subscribers, and measures 13-39-year-olds’ affinity for over 400 brands in North America (and over 800 in Western Europe) across 20 distinct diagnostics. As we do every year, we’ve tracked which fashion and apparel brands they’re most likely to rate as “cool,” and these are young consumers’ coolest clothing brands for 2022 so far:
Streetwear brands have a hold on their top five
For years now, Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Supreme, and Vans have had full control over the top of the “cool” list. And it’s not hard to tell why—when asked which fashion trends they’re most interested in, streetwear is their number one answer, followed closely by activewear / athleisure. These brands fulfill both prominent styles, by offering versatile active wear, as well as luxe-looking, comfortable clothing. This is important given “comfortable” is their top choice in describing their day-to-day style, and 63% agree a put together loungewear outfit is dressing up. They’re also, Supreme aside, shoe-focused brands that do more than basics, feeding into the thrill and luxury of sneakerhead culture, which the younger gens continue to fuel the growth of.
While the order of these brands has changed ever so slightly since last year (Supreme is now beating out Adidas for Gen Z and Vans for Millennials, and Jordans is now beating out Adidas for Millennials) the top five has stayed true. But one brand has not moved from the coveted top three in years…
Nike is number one, always
While the top five and even top three shift rankings year to year, Nike always remains as the coolest clothing brand to young consumers. Again and again, YPulse data shows all the ways Gen Z and Millennials love Nike—which our brand tracker shows they also rate highly for being innovative and having a bright future. Aside from considering it the coolest fashion brand, Nike is Gen Z’s second highest rated brand overall, according to our YScore+, just behind YouTube. It’s even number five in the ranking of the top brands that they want to work for, based on our Employment Index brand data.
Nike is constantly finding new ways to engage young consumers by honing in on their top values. YPulse’s new What Is Wellness? trend report shows that 61% of young people want brands to teach them about mental / emotional wellness, and 52% want brands to talk about wellness in a serious way. Nike tapped both these with their “No Off Season” podcast in May, which brought in professional athletes to talk about mental health, and aimed to remove the stigma of asking for help. Nike is also reaching them in more experiential ways through the Metaverse, where Nikeland was one of the first full-time brand spaces in Roblox.
And though Nike may not traditionally be considered a luxury brand, Gen Z and Millennials have changed that definition to include anything with a recognizable brand name—meaning Nike makes the luxury cut. YPulse’s Luxury report shows that Nike is one of the top luxury brands they want to own. This luxe status, alongside their style, and pointed efforts to meet the gens where they are keeps Nike as the definitive coolest brand to young consumers.
SHEIN is in for Gen Z, PINK and Target are out
While the top of their list has stayed fairly consistent, the rest of the ranking of who’s in and who’s out when it comes to being cool is more in flux. For Gen Z specifically, this year marked a huge change, as online fast-fashion retailer SHEIN jumped right into the top 10, after not making their top 15 last year. YPulse data shows in many ways how SHEIN has become a fashion staple for the younger gens and their interest in changing up their closet often. Our Shopping and Retail report recently showed SHEIN is the second most-used retail app by these young consumers, only behind online giant Amazon, who also tops them for coolest (for now). SHEIN maintains a similar rank as it did for Millennials last year, who already considered it cool, but falls just behind Levi’s and above Volcom. And, as SHEIN skyrockets up the list, Target and PINK are now out of the top 15. Target still remains a favorite shopping destination for these gens, online and off, but falls behind in the cool factor when it comes to fashion brands.
The North Face and Patagonia are the eco-friendly, socially-aware kind of cool
This year, new factors might be playing into what makes a brand “cool,” as The North Face and Patagonia take jumps into top rankings. The North Face has held top spots for several years, for both gens but especially Millennials; it fell slightly on the Millennials’ list in 2021, but is back up for 2022—even ahead of Amazon. One of their many draws to the younger, environmentally conscious gens is their commitments to sustainability, which includes a self-run resale program—and we know how much young consumers love secondhand clothes.
Patagonia is a first-timer on Gen Z’s ranking; it broke 15 for Millennials in 2020, but fell in a big shift of their list in 2021. Its renewed identity as one of Gen Z’s coolest brands can likely be attributed to the gens’ involvement with environmental and social issues, and their post-pandemic urge to travel. Patagonia has long had a public identity as an eco-friendly brand, and became a certified B-corp back in 2012. Their social media presence not only shows the clothes’ ability to withstand all kinds of naturistic travel, but also makes clear political messages, which aligns with what the younger gen wants to see from the brands they invest in. Our Causes/Charity & Activism report shows 77% of Gen Z agree buying products from brands that have social good components makes them feel better about spending money.
YPulse Pro users can access all the brand tracker data here.
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*The YPulse brand tracker measures young consumers’ relationships with a brand based on a weighted 6-point scale, ranging from “Never heard of this brand” to “This brand is one of my favorites.” As part of the “Brand Personality” metric, we also ask respondents “Which of the following are cool?” These are the top clothing/apparel brands that were rated “cool,” among those who are aware of the brand. The brands on this list are among the fashion and apparel brands included in the brand tracker as of 8/2022. Rankings are subject to change as brands are added and removed.