clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How the PlayStation logo became a streetwear icon

New, 11 comments

A colorful piece of signage is a cornerstone of hypebeast culture

Whether people are shopping at Forever 21 or perusing a street fair in their cool neighborhood, chances are, there’s one symbol attached to a hoodie lying around both places: the PlayStation logo.

Released in Japan in 1994, Sony’s PlayStation revolutionized gaming. But the brand also had an outsized impact on culture at large. Its logo, designed by Japanese graphic artist Manabu Sakamoto (who also designed Sony VAIO’s logo), helped usher in an iconic piece of signage that streetwear culture incorporated into daily fashion wear. It isn’t the only famous gaming logo, of course: Microsoft’s Xbox logo is easily recognizable, but it’s not adorning sweaters and beanies or being repped by Instagram influencers. Even Nintendo’s red-and-white capsule imagery, easily one of the most iconic within gaming, hasn’t been adopted by streetwear culture as much as PlayStation’s logo.

So what is it about that distinct P and S icon that has made it so enduring?

The PlayStation logo has transcended gaming and is now firmly a part of hypebeast culture. Major corporations and streetwear designers alike have found ways to incorporate the logo into various clothing pieces. A long-sleeved shirt with the red, yellow, and blue logo helps it pop. It’s a facet of the design that makes sense, considering Sakamoto reportedly claimed that he chose those colors as they symbolize joy, passion, and excellence.

There’s a warmth to the PlayStation icon that makes it feel like more than a corporate logo. The standing P and floating S, combined to make the image generations of people grew up with, is a quintessential character. Froyo Tam, co-founder of the Y2K Aesthetic Institute and a designer, told The Verge that nostalgia-culture tends to run in 20-year cycles. Tam, who also runs a popular Twitter account dedicated to ‘90s and ‘00s aesthetics, archiving and cataloging the vibes that defined those eras, said the PlayStation logo is a definitive part of that period.

“It will continue to be an iconic logo for many years to come as long as the PlayStation brand is still around,” Tam says. “Really, even if the PlayStation brand were to suddenly no longer exist, people will still remember it as a cultural touchstone.”

Street Style: Day 2 - LFWM June 2017 Photo by Christian Vierig / Getty Images

Part of that is the design. The PlayStation signage marked the first real isometric art used for a major console, Tam says. People were drawn to its silhouette. The design of the silhouette “is very striking and helped in terms of certifying its iconic impact,” Tam argues. Much like a section of vaporwave a few years ago that integrated the PlayStation logo into videos as a method of evoking a powerful nostalgic emotion, the PlayStation icon works because it stirs a feeling in people.

“Everything about the PlayStation aesthetic is memorable,” Tam says. “It has this iconic start-up chime. Something really important to talk about is the original boot-up sequence for the PlayStation. It’s literally just three sound effects all layered onto each other, and it has this ambience reverb that also defined the ‘90s.”

PlayStation’s signage didn’t become a staple of hypebeast culture and mainstream fashion overnight, just like Final Fantasy didn’t launch with an immediate Louis Vuitton partnership. It took more than a few years for fashion designers and artists to start incorporating the art into their pieces. Now, it’s everywhere. Instagram fashionistas and labels like Hype have partnered with Sony for an anniversary collection, while major retailers like Forever 21, Primark, and Numskull have rolled out their own designs.

The PlayStation logo changed throughout the years, but the iconic version that appeared on the original PlayStation hardware lived forever on oversized white hoodies and long-sleeved black shirts. Anecdotally, while I usually try not to buy shirts with any kind of recognizable logo, I did buy a crop top sweater that rocks the PlayStation logo because of the overall aesthetic.

That’s the difference between hypebeasts and streetwear labels adopting the PlayStation logo (some also incorporating Japanese lettering) and T-shirts with straight-up printed photos of a character from a popular franchise: one has an overall vibe to it, while the other plays into fandom. Both have their place — I have far too many Avengers shirts and Star Wars shoes lining my closet — but the former comes with its own essence of cool. Jason Soprovich, co-founder of gaming streetwear clothing brand Filthy Casual, tells The Verge that, much like Nike’s iconic checkmark or Adidas’ crown, the PlayStation logo stands on its own.

“All the trendy stuff right now has tie-back to the ‘90s,” Soprovich says, adding that since the PlayStation logo has such a definitive ‘90s energy, streetwear culture clings to it.

The PlayStation turns 25 this week, and much has changed in that time. The PlayStation console isn’t gray anymore, controllers now plug in through a USB port, and there have been multiple console upgrades introducing the likes of 4K and VR since the original hardware rolled out in 1994. But the one thing that’s remained consistent is the nostalgia-induced warmth the original logo brings.

“The original PlayStation logo will always have that tie-in,” Soprovich says. “It probably will go in and out in cycles, but it will keep coming back. The PlayStation 4 logo and the PlayStation 5 logo, they’re never going to have the same kind of impact on the fashion industry. The original PlayStation logo is one-of-a-kind, and that’s why people are still wearing it.”