Fashion

Even BenCab Wears Supreme Now

What does this tell us about the current state of the once-cult streetwear label?
IMAGE Butch Dalisay via Twitter
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Why do people love Supreme? The question is simple enough, but as the American streetwear brand continues to unfurl itself to the public under the all-consuming light of mainstream pop culture, it becomes more and more difficult to explain.

Here in the Philippines, the question was never more confusing and prevalent than it is today, after 49-year-old newscaster Julius Babao started wearing Supreme and proclaiming his taste for the brand on Instagram last year. Babao was then immediately and repeatedly hailed by social media as a "cool tito." The same year, a certain strain of "hypebeast" was featured by Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho, in a 12-minute made-for-TV equivalent of that Steve Buscemi meme.

Supreme has come so far from its roots in New York, where it began in 1994 and eventually became a cult label. Now, in the post-Babao state of Filipino streetwear, more and more people are aware of Supreme and the subculture that it used to exist in exclusively. Now, we too are part of the brand's global descent into ubiquity, which continues to obscure why it was so cool in the first place.

Last weekend, we found another confusing ingredient to add to the stew of cultural confusion: a photo of National Artist Benedicto Cabrera—BenCab, of course—wearing a red Supreme hat:

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We say 'confusing' because on one hand, it's easy to say that like Babao, the 76-year-old Cabrera is not the sort of person you'd imagine wearing Supreme. After all, the brand is primarily an object of youth culture: a streetwear flex, a hip-hop hook, an Instagram fetish. At first glance, BenCab in this hat looks like another iteration of the same meme.

And yet when you think back to Supreme's roots, you see that artists—artists of all genres and generations—have figured into its allure. Supreme was always cool because it could, by curating and collaborating with artists, cut across its boundaries and bridge streetwear to what some would consider higher forms of culture. And while the artists that Supreme collaborates with are usually more obscure in America than BenCab is in the Philippines, you could argue that he nevertheless fits the bill. He is, after all, a National Artist.

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So it's difficult, if not entirely pretentious, to pass judgement on BenCab's hat and what it says about Supreme's new ubiquity. And if anything, this new ubiquity could be a reassertion of the brand's irreverence: Now that everyone knows about Supreme, wears Supreme, and loves Supreme for whatever reason, it doesn't really matter who knows about it, wears it, or loves it, and why. Now, it's really just BenCab wearing a red hat.

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