According to Justin Bieber, the kids are, like, all right, I guess.
Bieber’s take is called Drew House, and it dropped yesterday after months of hype and promotion on his own Instagram account. The first collection includes sweatshirts, t-shirts, corduroy pants, and a few button-ups, almost exclusively in varying shades of beige.
The simple designs and color scheme have inevitably drawn comparisons to Yeezy, Kanye West’s foray into fashion. Many of the t-shirts are branded with a smiley face, which make Bieber’s attempt look like a collaboration between Yeezy and Walmart. Or, based on the vacant, zombie-esque stares of Drew House’s too-cool models, this drop could come courtesy of Yeezy and the Smiley Face Killer.
There’s something cultish about the House of Drew branding, especially the main ad on the website’s homepage. A group of mostly white, mostly female models—all dressed in beige corduroy—surround a Bieber-y young man.
His hands are in his pockets as he stares directly at the camera with an apathetic look in his eyes. Sure, he’s landed the lead spot in a celebrity clothing campaign, but he’s, like, totally over it.
Another promotional shot shows a different male model, clad in corduroy and an orange smiley face shirt, jumping from the roof of a California bungalow into a pool. It’s a scene traditionally reserved for teen movies, visual shorthand for rebellion (think: “I am a golden god!” from Almost Famous.)
But instead of flailing into the water, arms up in celebration, the model remains stick-straight. Once again, he’s too cool to care.
Bieber, a superstar reportedly worth $265 million, who once employed an assistant to carry his skateboards, wants to sell Gen Z indifference to the tune of $98 hoodies.
In all lowercase (because who can be bothered with the shift key, really?), the brand's website has a mission statements, of sorts. “drew house is a place where you can be yourself. blah blah blah blahsdbksjdfhl wear like you don’t care. come chill. k. bye,” it reads.
Of course, anyone willing to fork over $138 of their parents’ money for shorts that read “Drew” across the crotch really, really cares about fitting in with Young Master Bieb’s aesthetic. It does not take a card-carrying cynic to see through the hypocrisy that comes from marketing teenage apathy.
House of Drew aims to turn customers into anthropomorphic shrug emojis at a time when kids do, in fact, really care. Nearly one year after the Parkland students galvanized a generation into activism, leading the way for teens across the country to protest and organize before many of them were even old enough to drive, it’s disheartening to see Bieber’s team give fodder to the stereotype that kids are materialistic and lazy.
Despite House of Drew's dispassionate ethos, there is a touch of romanticism in the super baggy, unisex styles. The brand's bubble font and smiley face motif make undeniable references to early '90s music like acid house and Nirvana's Nevermind album cover.
The nostalgia makes sense. Bieber himself was born in 1994. The era is distant enough to fetishize, but not too far back that it feels unreachable. There's comfort in reverting to a time when slacker-dom felt like a bona fide rebellion to the overdone '80s.
But like most countercultures, grunge has been coopted in the past 25 years. Marc Jacobs just re-released his '90s-inspired collection of flannels and slip dresses, and Forever 21 has become perennial retailer of $10 Nirvana band t's. Oversized, shapeless hoodies were once code for outsiders. Now, the look is standard fare for 8th grade picture day.
And yet, the House of Drew logo has reason to keep on smiling. Despite minor internet backlash to pricing, 24 hours after the first drop, four of the collection's 14 pieces are currently sold out. As one tweet put it, “my gawd [Bieber's] tour merch was cheaper than his House of Drew line. . .still gonna cop tho.”