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brandsTuesday, May 11, 2021

UNDERCOVER: History, Sizing and Nike Collaboration

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Jun Takahashi, founder and creative director of UNDERCOVER, has been providing the cream of the fashion scene with cool yet nonchalant looks since the early ’90s. And, with a little help from Nike, the designer has also been dictating sneaker trends for the last few years. Fundamentally, he’s the reason why you dress the way you do today. 

 

Impressively, UNDERCOVER has been able to remain on top in an age where streetwear is everywhere. To us, this has everything to do with the brand’s legacy, innovative approach to wardrobe staples and Takahashi’s passion for the unusual. 

 

Join us as we jump into the world of Takahashi – namely by exploring the brand’s history, Swoosh-adorned sneaker collection and the sizing of UNDERCOVER clothing – below. 

 

UNDERCOVER BRAND HISTORY

At heart, Jun Takahashi – founder of UNDERCOVER – is a punk. Born in the historic Japanese city of Kiryū in 1969, the streetwear designer deviated from the traditions of his culture by immersing himself in the global punk movement. To be specific, he did this by joining punk rock tribute band the Tokyo Sex Pistols as lead vocalist; adopting the nickname ‘Jonio’ to pay respects to one of his heroes, Johnny Rotten; tattooing his arms up (which, FYI is an act that’s frowned upon in Japan); and, showing dedicated admiration for the work of punk designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Rei Kawakubo. Interestingly enough, Takahashi only started to pay attention to Kawakubo after being dragged by a friend to a Comme des Garçons show.

 

In 1988, Takahashi graduated from Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo, and just two years later, he founded UNDERCOVER. (Productive, we know.) The designer combined his interests and influences with avant-garde notions that were circling in the industry at the time to create a brand-new look. From inception, UNDERCOVER collections have been informed by rebellion, which explains the label’s ‘We Make Noise, Not Clothes’ slogan and the gothic undertones of the aesthetic.

 

Initially, Takahashi’s collections largely consisted of customized pieces created from vintage finds; before he knew it, prominent Japanese stores such as Billy’s in Tokyo began to stock his collections. This led to the designer dreaming of his own retail space and subsequently setting up a store, circa 1993. Named Nowhere, Takahashi launched the store alongside his school friend Nigo (as in Nigo the DJ, record producer and founder of Bape and Human Made). As one can imagine, the two were already well connected within the Ura-Harajuku area, so it didn’t take long for the store to become one of the city’s most influential fashion hubs.

 

A year after setting up Nowhere, Takahashi put on his first womenswear runway show at The Garage in Daikanyama for Tokyo Fashion Week. The looks were a huge upgrade to the designer’s previous collections in every way: he took streetwear to high-fashion levels by using unexpected cuts, forward-thinking prints and manifestly luxe fabrics. In a full-circle moment, Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo was one of the first purchasers, which quickly led to a friendship between the two designers.

 

After eight years, Kawakubo had told just about everyone in the fashion scene about UNDERCOVER (she really was, and still is his biggest fan) and finally persuaded Takahashi to flaunt his designs outside of Tokyo; he decided Paris was the fashion destination he resonated with the most. In due course, Takahashi put on his famous ‘Scab’ show for Paris Fashion Week SS03 and, henceforth, the Western world became obsessed with the brand and the designer. This moment marked the beginning of luxury fashion streetwear. 

 

NIKE X UNDERCOVER COLLABORATION

NIKE X UNDERCOVER REACT ELEMENT 87

 

In 2018, Nike Element 87s were the hottest sneaker around; ergo, UNDERCOVER put its own stamp on the translucent crep. First spotted on the FW18 UNDERCOVER catwalk, the kick was soon sought after by members of the beau monde and sneakerheads alike. Our favorite colorway of the collaborative effort harmonizes a primary red and blue with an earthy grey tone to create a shoe that embodies versatility.

 

NIKE X UNDERCOVER DAYBREAK

 

The Nike x UNDERCOVER Daybreak is a contender for the best sneaker to come from the collaboration thus far. The Japanese brand took an overlooked 1970s silhouette and switched it up by rethinking its structure, chiefly by adding a protruding clip to the heel. The result is a shoe that appears aerodynamic and looks more expensive than its accessible Nike price point. 

 

NIKE X UNDERCOVER OVERBREAK

 

In 2020, the Swoosh introduced the Overbreak, a brand-new silhouette that took inspiration from two kicks from their archive: the Daybreak and the ISPA OverReact. By combining the two polar opposite silhouettes, Nike has created a cutting-edge shoe that’s just as practical as it is stylish. As was anticipated, UNDERCOVER’s interpretation of the crep takes things up another level – viz. by adding an embroidered rose, branded heel tab and trending hues. 

 

NIKE X UNDERCOVER AIR MAX 720

 

The Air Max 720 is the most futuristic-looking sneaker around (even if it was released over two years ago). Naturally, it’s the UNDERCOVER interpretation of the shoe that’s perennially sought after. Decorated with paint speckles and brought to life with red and blue panels, the UNDERCOVER Air Max 720 serves serious space chic. It’s practically asking to be paired with a metallic fully-body jumpsuit.

 

Nike x UNDERCOVER React Element 87 / Nike x UNDERCOVER Daybreak / Nike x UNDERCOVER Air Max 720 / Nike x UNDERCOVER Overbreak

 

UNDERCOVER SIZING AND FIT

 

As UNDERCOVER is a Japanese brand, one must be savvy about Japanese sizing. Here are our guidelines:

 

  • 1 – XS (Extra Small) 

  • 2 – S (Small)

  • 3 – M (Medium)

  • 4 – L (Large)

  • 5 – XL (Extra Large)

  • 6 – XXL (Extra Extra Large)

 

Please notice that this is a guide only and that measurements may vary according to brand and style.

UNDERCOVER SHIRT SIZING

 

Got an UNDERCOVER shirt on your wishlist? Nice. We’d recommend sticking to your regular size if you prefer to wear it fitted or sizing up for a regular, looser fit.

UNDERCOVER T-SHIRT SIZING

 

If you’re eyeing up an UNDERCOVER T-shirt, we would recommend sizing up as the brand’s tees are notoriously small. That is, unless you’re looking for a tight fit. 

 

UNDERCOVER JACKET AND COAT SIZING

 

The same story goes for UNDERCOVER's stylish array of outerwear. If you’re looking for a slim-fit jacket to wear exclusively with tees, choose your true size. However, if you’re looking for something to wear with warmer clothes in the transition seasons, you’re best to go up a size.

 

UNDERCOVER SWEATSHIRT AND HOODIE SIZING

 

Like most of their offerings, UNDERCOVER’s sweatshirt and hoodies are layers that, quite ironically, leave little room for anything underneath. Bearing this in mind, we suggest those who are looking for a classic fit think about sizing up; but if you’re happy with a figure-hugging fit, your true size with suffice.

 

UNDERCOVER TROUSER SIZING

 

As one can imagine, the fit of UNDERCOVER trousers depends on the material used to create them. But, generally speaking, UNDERCOVER trousers are of a slim fit. Therefore, we suggest you opt for a size above your regular size to ensure that they fit comfortably around your waist. Don’t say we didn’t warn you...

 

UNDERCOVER SNEAKER SIZING

 

If you’ve been eyeing up a pair of UNDERCOVER or Nike x Undercover sneakers, but aren’t sure what size to go for, we recommend choosing your true size. Having said that, most sneakers designed by the Japanese streetwear brand will allow you to go up or down half a size, depending on what suits.

 

 

UNDERCOVER SIZING CHART

 

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