- From the eponymous clothing line of designer Tommy Hilfiger to long-standing brands like Levi’s and Converse, many American clothing brands have a rich history.
- Some brands are known for a signature clothing item, like L.L. Bean’s famous Bean Boots.
- Other iconic brands, like Ralph Lauren and Nike, have widely recognizable logos that are status symbols of sorts— such as the polo jockey and “Swoosh” respectively.
- Here are 17 clothing brands that have a legacy of dressing America.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Fashion trends may come and go, but some of America’s most iconic clothing lines have entranced multiple generations of shoppers with classic designs and familiar logos.
From Brooks Brothers, which has been outfitting America since 1818 with button-downs, blazers, and suits, to brands that have universally recognizable logos, like Ralph Lauren’s polo jockey icon and Nike’s “Swoosh” symbol, many well-known US brands not only have a rich history, but have retained their popularity over time.
Here’s a look into 17 of the most iconic and enduring American fashion brands, and why they’re regarded as classics among multiple generations.
Celebrity Fashion: Levi’s was the original American denim brand, crafting durable jeans since 1853.
Levi’s history dates back to 1853, when Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria, opened a store in San Francisco to make clothes for workers in the California Gold Rush. Working with a tailor named Jacob Davis, Strauss created pants made of denim with copper hardware, which became the first pair of waist “overalls,” which are now known as blue jeans, according to Levi’s timeline.
In the ’90s, Levi’s reintroduced its button-fly jeans, which were originally released in 1954 and fastened with a button rather than a zipper.
From the brand’s well-known 501 jeans, perhaps its most popular design, to its Vintage Collection of higher-priced jackets and pants made of premium materials, Levi’s continues to be a top choice when it comes to denim, and has transcended generations as a brand.
Celebrity Fashion: Converse sneakers have also been around for more than 100 years, and pop culture and sports have helped the shoe retain popularity.
Sneaker brand Converse has been around since 1908. Originally known as the Converse Rubber Shoe Company, the brand was founded by Marquis Mills Converse in Malden, Massachusetts.
In 1917, the brand released its now-iconic Converse All Star shoe. In 1932, the All Star shoe was adorned with the signature of Chuck Taylor — a name many Converse-lovers are familiar with — who was a salesman and ambassador for Converse shoes since 1921, according to BBC.
Team USA adopted the Chuck Taylor All Star shoe in 1936 as its official shoe for the first Olympic basketball championship. In the ’60s, Chuck Taylor shoes in colors other than the classic black and white design hit the market, and throughout the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and beyond, the sneaker brand has been popular with kids and adults alike.
Celebrity Fashion: Nike became an aspirational brand with the athletic-wear craze of the ’80s, and it’s still one of the most successful and well-known labels ever.
Founded in 1964, Nike was originally named Blue Ribbon Sports. It opened as a distributor for a Japanese shoemaker named Onitsuka Tiger, now known as Asics. In 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports became Nike Inc., and creators Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight got to work creating innovative footwear.
In 1974, Bowerman made the Nike Waffle Trainer, a shoe made using his wife’s waffle iron that had a grooved pattern on the soles, which Bowerman thought would help athletes’ grip running tracks. The 1980s saw many styles of Nike shoes— from the Air Jordan to the Air Force 1 — become instant classics.
In 1988, Nike launched its first “Just Do It” campaign with its now-ubiquitous slogan, and the brand remains popular worldwide. In fact, according to reporting by Business Insider and a survey by Piper Jaffray of 6,000 US teens and their spending habits, Gen-X shoppers view Nike as their No. 1 brand.
Celebrity Fashion: Ralph Lauren is known for the ever-present polo shirt and for dressing icons like first ladies and Team USA athletes.
From outfitting leading ladies in the political sphere, including Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump; to designing Team USA’s Olympic ensembles, designer Ralph Lauren is another quintessential American brand.
In 1967, the Ralph Lauren brand was born. Inspired by the aesthetics of polo (the sport), Lauren debuted the Polo pony and jockey logo that is now a recognizable image of the brand. The line’s most famous product is undoubtedly the collared shirt that originally came in 24 colors and prominently featured the pony and jockey logo — now known as the polo shirt.
Celebrity Fashion: L.L. Bean has been crafting high-quality clothes for the outdoors since the 1900s, when the company’s founder designed the first Bean Boot as a durable hunting shoe.
Known for its durable outerwear and clothing items made for the outdoors, L.L. Bean has been around for more than 100 years.
It’s hard to think of L.L. Bean — originally a brand that specialized in clothes and shoes for hunting — without picturing the iconic Bean Boot, which is still popular today. The waterproof shoe made of leather and rubber was designed to withstand the elements and was crafted in 1911 in Freeport, Maine, by the company’s namesake, Leon Leonwood Bean.
L.L. Bean’s CEO Steve Smith previously told Business Insider that the Bean Boot set up the company for success. “Even though it’s a historic, heritage product, they can continue to move up, continue to be trendy, continue to be cool. That has carried the success,” Smith told Business Insider.
Celebrity Fashion: Guess became a household name in the ’80s, known for its form-fitting jeans and aspirational “Guess Girls” models.
Founded in 1981 by brothers Paul, Maurice, Georges, and Armand Marciano, the brand Guess is popular for its denim, specifically its women’s jeans that, in the ’80s and ’90s, were more form-fitting than other blue jean trends of the time.
With its flashy marketing and models known as Guess Girls, the brand amassed a following of people who wanted to be seen in jeans with the brand’s iconic triangle logo.
Through the years, faces of Guess have included Anna Nicole Smith, who rose to fame after being featured as a Guess Girl in the ’90s, as well as Gigi Hadid, actress Drew Barrymore, and singer Camila Cabello.
Celebrity Fashion: Calvin Klein is loved for its simplistic loungewear that grew in popularity during the 1990s, and is still a big name in fashion today.
Celebrity Fashion: Kate Spade started with a single handbag design that took the world by storm, and has become an iconic brand known for pops of color and whimsically designed clothing and accessories.
What started with a single handbag designed by Kate Spade in 1993 became a well-loved, widely recognized American fashion empire. Spade’s original handbag design was revolutionary for the time, as it was designed without loud logos or brand names, but rather with the philosophy of “less serious, more personal” in mind.
Accessories adorned with phrases like “live colorfully” and “she is quick and curious and playful and strong” exemplify the brand’s whimsy — perhaps one reason of many that explain why the brand has connected with so many people since its inception.
Designer Kate Spade, who died in 2018, leaves behind her namesake brand of clothing, purses, jewelry, and other accessories. The Kate Spade brand is owned by the company Tapestry, which also owns Coach.
Celebrity Fashion: New Balance is known for its chunky but colorful tennis shoes that are oftentimes worn simply as a fashion statement.
Recognized by the signature “N” logo that adorns each pair of sneaks, New Balance is known for its chunky and colorful tennis shoes that are oftentimes worn simply as a fashion statement.
With fun colors, notably comfortable styles, and classic details like the shoe model numbers, New Balance shoes have been popular for decades.
Some New Balance models, like the 2009 New Balance 993, are regarded as “dad shoes,” a trend that has resurfaced in recent years. Other designs were created with comfort for athletics and outdoor use in mind, such as models that were released in the later 2000s, according to the brand’s timeline.
Celebrity Fashion: American Eagle and its sister brand, Aerie, are popular for their casual clothes, loungewear, and swimwear that’s marketed as inclusive and made for a modern crowd of teens and young adults.
Since 1977, American Eagle has catered to the 15-to-25-year-old market with jeans, hoodies, and casual clothing, according to the company’s website. Its sister store, underwear brand Aerie, has amassed a large following of fans who support its inclusive, body-positive messaging, which is perhaps one reason why the retailer is so widely popular today: In fact, the president of Aerie says it is defying the retail apocalypse and “opening stores as fast as we can.”
According to reporting by Business Insider and a survey by Piper Jaffray of 6,000 US teens and their spending habits, Gen-X shoppers view American Eagle and Aerie as the No. 2 most popular brand.
Celebrity Fashion: J. Crew’s preppy, polished designs are timeless.
With its launch in 1983, J. Crew started as a catalog that offered preppy staples like khaki pants, button-downs, and sweaters designed to be layered over collared shirts.
Over the years, J. Crew became known for turning once-formal items like blazers and dress pants into pieces that could be worn during the day and to the office, creating a geek-chic or “wear-now-and-later” aesthetic.
Like all successful clothing brands, J. Crew has adapted over the years with new styles, but it has retained its image as a classic American clothing company that puts a whimsical spin on traditional wardrobe staples.
Celebrity Fashion: The North Face combines function and fashion with its signature fleece coats and puffy vests.
The North Face was originally a San Francisco retail store founded by two hiking enthusiasts in 1966, as told by the company website. Since then, the brand has made a name for itself by crafting high-quality gear for hiking, skiing, and outdoor activities of all sorts.
From puffy coats that go past the knee to vests and fleece jackets that make practical layers, The North Face has withstood the test of time with its fashionable, sporty approach to outdoor gear.
Celebrity Fashion: Tommy Hilfiger launched in 1985 and continues to inspire a sense of Americana with its red, white, and blue aesthetic.
The brand’s red, white, and navy blue logo exemplifies the patriotic spirit of Tommy Hilfiger, which took the fashion world by storm after it launched in 1985.
Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, and Destiny’s Child, are just a few stars of the ’90s who wore memorable outfits with the Tommy brand name in the form of crop tops, athletic wear, and denim.
Despite the influence Tommy Hilfiger as a brand has had on the fashion industry, its flagship store in New York City closed earlier in 2019, along with those of other legacy brands like Calvin Klein, Gap, and Lord & Taylor. That said, it is still a popular brand, it’s just changing the way it wants to reach customers.
“In line with our strategic objective to further reach and engage with digitally savvy North American consumers, we will focus on next generation retail experiences and partnerships to stay ahead of today’s continuously changing shopping habits and preferences,” Daniel Grieder, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe, said in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
Celebrity Fashion: Gap made a name for itself by specializing in classic denim, simple silhouettes, and logo shirts and hoodies.
Founded in 1969 by Don Fisher, a real estate developer in California, Gap originally only sold one product: Levi Strauss jeans, according to “Gap, Inc.: Has the Retailer Lost Its Style?” by researchers from Arizona State University. But it branched out, and by 1975 Gap had 186 stores and $100 million in sales, according to the article.
Gap Inc. reported a sales decline of Gap stores in the first quarter of 2019, and the company also announced that the store Gap is splitting from its sister-brand Old Navy. However, the store continues to specialize in its own line of denim, classic silhouettes, and its signature hoodies and t-shirts that feature the iconic three-letter brand name.
Celebrity Fashion: Michael Kors is a popular fashion brand that has leaned into logo-printed purses and accessories, along with luxurious clothing pieces.