Merch Culture: The Resurgence of Gothic Fonts In Fashion

Subculture styles have been re-emerging in fashion, and it’s nothing new, but one of these styles has stuck around for longer than usual. What some refer to as ‘gothic’ or more commonly, the ‘ye old English’ font is popping up more and more recently. We have seen it in collections from high-end luxury labels, and trickling its way into smaller clothing lines. Even Kanye has appropriated it into his latest clothing line.

Kanye West x The Life Of Pablo
Kanye West x The Life Of Pablo

I know it’s hard to believe, but no, Kanye wasn’t the first to adapt the lettering style with his Life Of Pablo merch. Gucci did it before him on a hoody that they sent down their SS16 menswear runway. Originating from Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood’s 80’s and 90’s gothic culture, the lettering has been printed on streetwear for a little while now, but somewhere along the lines it has hit the mainstream.

Spanto, who is part owner of LA street label BornxRaised, told dazed that: “Those letters and that traditional layout are a part of my culture as a gang member”. The owners behind the brand have taken on the gothic lettering in majority of their collections as a communicator and outlet for their feelings of frustration, in reply to the gentrification hitting their hometown. A lot has changed though, Spanto also states that “You were only allowed to wear something like that if you were affiliated, and if you weren’t, you were getting jammed up.” Before the lettering hit mainstream, it played the role of more than just an aesthetic. It was used for purpose, bringing together those of gang culture.

If you follow streetwear, you would know that Kanye and BornxRaised aren’t the only brand’s that have used the font. American rapper A$AP Rocky and his crew killed it with their A$AP mob merchandise years ago.

A$AP Rocky
A$AP Mob Merch

We couldn’t mention Kanye and not say a little about the listening party he threw at Maddison Square Garden earlier this year, which was the debut of the Pablo line. Created by Cali Thornhill Dewitt, the collaboration brought the designer a lot of exposure, and from then he has continued to work with Yeezy. He states that the designs were inspired by memorial sweatshirts specifically from California’s latino community. Often cheaply made, the memorial shirts were worn as respect for someone who has died.

The designer behind Kayne's merch
The designer behind Kayne’s merch

Covered in printed lyrics all in the gothic font, the Pablo merch has taken off and is seen all around the world. Rihanna and Justin Bieber, fellow artists of Kanye have also been inspired, and their merchandise design teams have incorporated the prints into their collections.


The old English font, previously a communicator and form for affiliation for gangs and now used purely for aesthetic, welcome to the fashion cycle. As the gothic font has made its way into the wardrobes of many, the lettering is now almost at saturation point. Where is it to go from here?