American Apparel by Kings of Leon

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Published January 29, 2010

With their slow-burning chart reigns, and raw, yet familiar sensuality, Kings of Leon are the newly christened lords of the middle ground. Nearing the universality Matchbox 20 once achieved, the band can be all things to all people, meaning that the artistic domain they occupy is expansive, but vague–not unlike the ambiance of the corporate arenas they now regularly play. But Kings of Leon’s crossover popularity has served the industry well: aside from the rare ability to bring Nickelback and Strokes fans together under one stadium roof,  the band is also the unlikely darling of the fashion set. Caleb Followill and his bandmates simply exude rock ‘n roll insouciance, a gritty je ne sais quoi. Leave it to ultra hip label and creative agency Surface2Air, then, to channel the Kings’ all-American, salt-of-the-earth style into the newly launched capsule collection, S2A x KOL.

Limited to a “perfect dozen” items, the S2A x KOL collaboration is smartly edited to deliver maximum impact. Thematically, it presents the lively but familiar mix expected: a no-frills homage to the stage uniforms worn by the rockers of the early 1980s onward (and back again). These may be clothes that Kings of Leon, and countless other musicians, like to wear onstage as they play to thousands each night, but–like the songs they play–they are powerful, popular standards.

In other words, most men (fanboys or not) will find something to appreciate here. The collection stays relevant by delivering the greatest hits. Colors are streamlined to a bold and stark palette; reds, whites, and blacks feature prominently–a nod perhaps to the unofficial tricolor of the past ten years. Most of the best pieces sport a visibly Anglo aesthetic: the argyle sweater and fedoras pay homage to generations of frontmen raised on the Fred Perry ideal. Elsewhere, Chelsea Boots make a cameo, channeling the cool sangfroid of friend and Y2K rock peer Alex Kapranos. Of course, no music-inspired collection would be complete without a token leather jacket: the one featured here characterizes the greasy virility of Carl Barat circa 2001.

The S2A x KOL is available at Barney’s, Bblessing, and Gargyle this week. Prices range from $115 for t-shirts to $1185 for the leather bomber jacket.