What are the hottest clothing and shoe brands for Gen Z? Crocs, SHEIN and Columbia


LEK Consulting’s New Survey Unveils the Most Popular Clothing and Footwear Brands for Gen Z and Beyond Men and Women

BOSTON, June 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — What do Crocs, Columbia, Nike and Dr. Martens have in common? These classic brands are among the top clothing and footwear choices for Gen Z (people aged 9 to 24), according to a new survey from global strategy consultancy LEK Consulting.

“As Gen Z continues to gain greater purchasing power associated with their influence on fashion, clothing and footwear brands have drawn attention to them – and, with behaviors and attitudes of buying varies relative to other generations, brands and investors need to better understand their generational preferences to gain the upper hand,” said Laura BrookhiserLEK partner and co-author of the survey report.

LEK’s insights explore the nuances of Gen Z’s preferences for footwear and clothing brands – and make it clear which brands are “in” and which aren’t. The discoveries in US Footwear and Clothing Brands Heat Index 2022 are segmented across generations (including millennials and Gen X) by gender into four usage categories. To gauge the relative “warmth” or growth trajectory of each brand, LEK has compiled the survey results into a new “Brand Warmth Index”.

So what are the other hottest clothing and footwear brands for Gen Z?

Athletic category

In sports shoes (sneakers, basketball shoes, cleats, etc.), Nike and the Jordan brand dominate. These are the top two brands for Gen Z men and women. Beyond these, Vans, Converse, Adidas, Under Armour, VEJA, and On Running are in the top 10 for all genders. NOBULL and Tretorn complete the top 10 for women, with PUMA and New Balance for men.

Similar to shoes, Nike dominates sportswear (performance tops, athletic shorts, joggers, leggings, etc.), establishing itself as the top brand for both men and women. lululemon is second for the women’s list (and, interestingly, seventh for men, due to this brand’s growing appeal to both genders). The top ten women’s brands also include upstart brands Gymshark, Fabletics and Sweaty Betty. Adidas, Champion and Supreme are popular for both men and women, and boot brands, such as Tracksmith, Western Rise and Vissia, are particularly popular with men.

Casual category – brand winners in footwear and apparel

For casual footwear (sandals, slip-ons, casual flats, chukka boots, etc.), Crocs, Dr. Martens, Birkenstock, and Timberland are among the top five brands for Gen Z men and women. The lists then split, with men preferring established brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger as well as newer ones like GREATS, Vionic, and OluKai. Women are also turning to some established brands – UGG, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger – as well as sustainability-conscious Thousand Fell, with new brands TKEES and ASOS rounding out the top 10.

Leading women’s casual wear (denim, cotton tees, sweaters, khakis, etc.) are online fast fashion brands including SHEIN, Fashion Nova and PrettyLittleThing, as well as specialty retail brands Carhartt , Urban Outfitters and ZARA. Gen Z women also identify with more affordable brands, such as Forever 21. The men’s list is also dominated by SHEIN, but the main players are more mainstream brands, with Tommy Hilfiger and Carhartt round out the top three. For Gen Z men, other mall-based specialty retailers – UNIQLO and Hollister – join the list. American Eagle, H&M and Hot Topic are popular for both men and women.

Outdoor category

When it comes to outdoor shoes (hiking shoes, trail shoes, winter boots, etc.), Columbia is very popular with both men and women. For women, come the brands present on the men’s list: BEARPAW, Reef, SOREL and Merrell. Teva, Mammut and Arc’teryx are hot for women, but not for men, and Eddie Bauer completes the top 10. For men, Black Diamond tops the list with Oakley (absent from the women’s list) in second place. Also trending for men: CAT Footwear and Helly Hansen.

“In the outdoor footwear segment, our survey found greater range even among the top ten rated brands, signaling that there are only a handful of brands driving incremental appeal growth. for consumers and a long line of others who are doing well but not as strong for consumers,” said Jon WeberLEK partner and co-author of the survey report.

For both men and women, the outdoor clothing market (hiking clothing, fishing clothing, fleeces, performance jackets, etc.) is dominated by flagship brands The North Force, Patagonia and Columbia. The lists split from here – for women, Fjällräven, Helly Hansen, Norrøna, Rab, Arc’teryx, Freefly and Rossignol complete the top 10. And for men the list continues with NRS, Snow Peak, Norrøna , AETHER, Oakley, Simms and Black Diamond.

“Interestingly, Gen Z men – based on their scores for the top 10 brands – are less engaged or excited about many outdoor apparel brands compared to their Gen Z counterparts. Generation X and Generation Y,” Weber said.

Dress Category

With dress shoes (heels, loafers, oxfords, etc.), Gen Z men are less engaged with the category as a whole, and mall-specific brands are strong performers, such as ALDO. HUGO-BOSS at the top of the list of men, with Alfani and cole haan efficient, and Ferragamo, Stacy Adams, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole and Nisolo complete the top 10. For women, Calvin Klein and Sam Edelman follow Steve Madden, with other established brands – Michael Kors, Coach, Kate Spade and Chinese Laundry – behind them. Small brands like Jack Erwin and Franco Sartoalso reach the top 10.

In dress clothes (suits, dresses, etc.), Calvin Klein at the top of both lists. Wholesale brands, such as ASTR the Label and Adrianna Papelare represented on the women’s roster, which also includes Michael Kors, Bardot, Kate Spade, MM LaFleur, Veronique Beard to be trained. In the menswear category, Ministry of Supply, Banana Republic and Theory are doing well, along with Indochino, Marc New York and Zegna.

“Each generation has their own distinct style preferences which can be seen through the brands trending among each cohort. By understanding which brands are most successful in reaching and, more importantly, engaging with their targeted consumer segments , other brands, retailers and investors can design the strategies that are likely to have the most impact for their businesses.” Chris RandallLEK partner and co-author of the survey report.

For more information on the results for other generations – Millennials and Gen Xers – please see the full report here.

About LEK
We are LEK Consulting, a global strategy consultancy working with business leaders to seize competitive advantage and amplify growth. Our insights are catalysts that reshape the trajectory of our clients’ businesses, revealing opportunities and enabling them to master their moments of truth. Since 1983, our global practice – spanning the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe – has mentored executives in every industry, from global corporations to emerging entrepreneurial ventures and private equity investors. Do you want more ? Visit www.lek.com.

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Michael Jon Romano
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