The great Merch Wars of 2016 are in the rearview, but the collateral damage—all merch, all the time, from things and people and brands that aren’t also musicians—remains with us. These days, even McDonald’s is making merch—and the Golden Arches are taking cues from streetwear and the hypebeasts who love it. With the Happy Meal market on lock, McDonald’s is moving to capture the imagination of its young-adult customers with a new collaboration with Joe Freshgoods’ Joseph Robinson. Robinson, along with the rapper Kyle (who produced an exclusive song and video for the campaign), is helping Mickey D’s sell soda—Mix by Sprite Tropic Berry, a new Sprite flavor exclusive to McDonald’s locations.
Robinson, an independent fixture on the Chicago streetwear scene, is perhaps best known for his 2017 Thank U Obama collection, thanks to a co-sign from Chance the Rapper. The self-proclaimed “Hood CNN of clothing” boasts that he can turn shirts around in a day, and a lot of his past gear—“Ye 2020” shirts, beanies that read “I wanna f*** Rihanna”—was so irresistibly cease-and-desist-able that production often didn’t run for much longer than that.
So what does the fast-food behemoth get out of the deal? Clout, of course. Robinson’s participation lends the racing-inspired collection, which largely consists of logoed-out tees and socks, a degree of authenticity. One bomber jacket in particular, with checkered sleeves and a strong ’80s vibe, is so vibrant it’s craveable. And most notably, it doesn’t look like the Happy Meal version of fashion—it just looks like streetwear. Which means there’s a larger lesson here: The codes and rules and trends of streetwear are no longer just the province of zine-makers and screenprinters and tour managers. They’re fair game for anyone looking to latch on to something cool—even if that anyone is a massive fast-food corporation trying to sell a new flavor of Sprite.
Read more at GQ: https://www.gq.com/story/mcdonalds-merch-wow-not-bad