The DMV brands that birthed streetwear culture

“We create, they emulate. One thing that is known about the nation’s capital is that we’ve always had our own mix on things.” - Chloë Chadấ Van
Saba T

“We create, they emulate. One thing that is known about the nation’s capital is that we’ve always had our own mix on things.” – Chloë Chadấ Van.

1980s – Madness

As the originator of D.C’s urban streetwear scene, Universal Madness is best known for its multicolored woven letters and triangle logo.

In 1983, Eddie Van and Tyrone Johnson opened a beauty and barber supply store at 3119 Georgia Avenue in Northwest near Howard University. Two years later, that venue became Universal Madness.

Universal Madness served as a blueprint for a multimillion-dollar network of D.C. fashion storefronts that sold go-go mixtapes and concert tickets. It later moved across the street to 3120 Georgia Avenue. Solidified as an industry staple, @themadnessshop is recognized as the forefather of urban couture and apparel. It’s also hailed as a Black-owned business and premiere streetwear company.

Madness carries with it a brand, history and a lifestyle deeply embedded into the urban culture of the D.C. metropolitan area. Celebrating more than 35 years of existence, @themadnessshop stands out among the competition because of its unique cultural roots.

1990s – We Are One + Shooters

We Are One has a mission to inspire global unity and social empowerment through cutting -edge fashion.

Kenny Westray, 53, created the brand after suffering a gunshot to the mouth at the age of 24 and seven stab wounds a year later. “I was pronounced dead twice,” Kenny said. “After the stabbing, I thought I saw my grandmother and mother say, ‘That’s two strikes.’ That’s when I put down the drugs and picked up the t-shirts.”

Two decades later, we’ve seen more than 200 athletes sporting We Are One, including Lebron James and Prince George’s County’s own Kevin Durant. That’s a momentous milestone for an independent operation.The brand entered professional athlete circles through Westray’s connections, primarily his friend and former NBA star Sam Cassell who helped spread the word.

In 2014, Clippers coach Doc Rivers wrote “We Are One” on the locker room chalkboard as a rallying cry for his mostly Black players. In no time, NBA athletes started rocking the brand.

Shooters, a D.C. metro area streetwear brand currently located in District Heights, Maryland, was founded in 1997 by “Shooter-Rob.” Shooters Sports Apparel Team is dedicated to developing and delivering new and exciting high quality fashion products, and helping individuals express their active lifestyles in an increasingly trendy world.

This brand has also expressed a commitment to offering excellent customer service from highly trained staff members dedicated to addressing consumers’ needs.

Staff members say that Shooters Sports is more than a clothing line, it’s a way of life. That’s why they encourage supporters to never stop shooting for their goals. A large selection of men, women, and children’s apparel can be found at and on Instagram @ShootersSports and @ShooterSportsdmv.

2000s – HOBO + Alldāz + Aja Imani

Aja Imani, which means “joyous faith”, is a unique, unisex clothing label that incorporates interactive art and fashion. It is geared toward young men and women of the X and Y generation.

Marlon Clark founded Aja Imani in 1997 and opened his first store in D.C. Aja Imani stands out from the other streetwear brands on this list because Marlon and his team create their items by hand. That means each piece is one of a kind!

In the early 1990s, Marlon got his first art-related job while working as a janitor at Children’s Hospital. He told The Bridge that the director of the visual arts department saw his drawings and hired him immediately.

Check out Aja Imani’s Instagram for shots of their custom pieces here: @marlon_clark_art

In 1998, D.C. native Curtbone launched high-end streetwear brand Alldāz out of a small storefront in the heart of D.C. It has since secured its spot at the front of the clothing circuit in style and quality gear. All Daz has also been on the national scene, lacing boxer Paul Williams and former NBA star Allen Iverson in its duds.

Curtbone, born Curtis Chambers, developed Alldāz out of a desire to create a brand that stood as the beginning and end of all fashion. Alldāz would capture the simplicity of fashion. The brand garnered immediate attention with recognition as classy yet sporty urban wear.

HOBO, which stands for Helping Our Brothers Out, is a streetwear brand dedicated to keeping the big guys looking sharp! This also works well for anyone looking for that signature baggy look. Some D.C. natives say most people who wore HOBO hailed from the south side of the city, while Madness and We Are One attracted people from the north.

These stores, among several other Black-owned and operated clothing shops in D.C., maintain mutual respect and support for one another. The entrepreneurial mindset of these founders has been rewarded by the continuous support of their devoted patrons.

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