Hood By Air


Hood By Air can comfortably be described as the zeitgeist of subcultural New York City. The label slowly evolves in aesthetic, yet, propels menswear with a youthful urgency. It appropriates 1990’s hip-hop culture while simultaneously looking forward. Both straight and gay, classical and banjee (a black gay subcultural term used to describe men who appear hypermasculine), Hood By Air exists within and creates a vortex of contradictions that are both instantly familiar and challenging.

Shayne Oliver, notable club kid and the label’s designer, continued his exploration of urban cool and aggressive sexuality in his F/W 2009 presentation entitled “Cliffhanger”. A black cotton jumpsuit with metallic gold screenprint opened the show. Although jumpsuits are quite visible on menswear’ runways, there association with hip-hop ended shortly after the popularity of Naughty By Nature and TLC began to fade. Oliver’s take on the staple defies simplistic notions of urban masculinity. By adding a full-length zippered back, which is currently a very popular trend in womenswear, he suggested an alternate sexuality waiting to be symbolically “unzipped”. Then all that was presented before was convoluted by the chunky, utilitarian Dr. Marten’s worn with the garment.

Other highlights included a leather apron attached to ultra skinny leather trousers, the pleated shorts with square eyelets, and nude color leggings teamed with nude long tank dresses. The puffy, black leather motorcycle- style jacket with a high square trunk should quickly fly off the rack. The most transgressive moment involved a black skullcap embellished with three-dimensional white plastic letters that read, “Uncut”.

Oliver continued to build on the strength of his previous seasons by integrating neutral and metallic colors into his predominantly black and white collection. He is quickly refining his unique approach to design with a focus on exaggerated shapes, a move that may widen his already burgeoning customer base. At a point when the economy is stalled and many fashion designers opt to play it safe, Oliver’s work is a brave exploration of the various cultures that intersect to form the idiom of Hood By Air. Job well done.