Last week, German techwear firm Acronym released a new version of its iconic J1A-GT jacket, one based on Hideo Kojima’s PS4 game Death Stranding. Like most Acronym gear, the jacket was both rare and expensive: it sold out almost immediately, despite a price tag of just under $2,000. But in another seemingly unconnected corner of the internet, fans managed to get their hands on it for free. At the subreddit ACNHstreetwear, a space dedicated to streetwear enthusiasts playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, one user re-created the jacket in-game with astonishing fidelity, before uploading a creator code so anyone could add it to their game. “Thank you!” replied one user. “I can’t afford it in real life, but at least I have this.”
Fashion has become a big part of the New Horizons experience. While many players enjoy decorating their home or tracking down every last fish and fossil, others have used the Nintendo Switch game as a way to express themselves through clothing. The game has a huge range of style options to choose from, including plenty of sneakers, jackets, and jerseys that fit snugly into the streetwear aesthetic. “I do love putting cool sneakers in my games,” New Horizons producer Hisashi Nogami told me last month. (Nogami also worked on the similarly stylish Splatoon series.)
But it’s not the Nintendo-created gear that fans are talking about on Reddit. Instead, it’s the player-created clothing that covers everything from Supreme to Nike to Louis Vuitton. Using the built-in tools, in which you can craft designs pixel by pixel, fans have managed to create lovingly accurate digital versions of hard-to-find hoodies, hats, and even carpets. Some have turned their virtual homes into high-end clothing shops. Budding AC designers are posting their creations for others to use, while everyone else is throwing requests up on Reddit. It’s easier than ever to have a Virgil Abloh “keep off” rug next to your Takashi Murakami art prints while wearing a Gucci T-shirt.
Kara Chung, an artist and fashion photographer, has used Instagram to document style in the game. Her “Animal Crossing fashion archive” page has more than 30,000 followers and captures players’ looks as if they were in a high-end magazine spread. “Video games present the opportunity to explore realities untethered to our public personas, a sacred space where we can grow in and out of identities just as quickly as we can switch clothing — where the visible can match the rapidly shifting nature of the invisible,” she told Vogue Hong Kong when asked about the confluence of fashion and video games. It’s a combination that’s been growing recently; last year, Riot even partnered with Louis Vuitton for exclusive League of Legends skins.
“Fashion and lifestyle brands were built from this.”
In Animal Crossing, things have been much more grassroots, as players have had to create their own unofficial streetwear as best they can. But that hasn’t stopped prominent names from noticing. If you go to Murakami’s Instagram page, you’ll see photos of his artwork adorning a lavish piano in Drake’s mansion and a diamond-studded necklace around Kid Cudi’s neck. You’ll also see a New Horizons screenshot where his trademark smiling flowers are combined with the Supreme box logo.
Elsewhere, others have been more proactive, as esports teams like Gen.g and the Toronto Defiant have remade their jerseys available in New Horizons. Gaming and streetwear brand 100 Thieves has taken things a step further by releasing its entire apparel catalog in the game. Players can find a huge range of hoodies and jerseys dating back to 2018, including plenty of items that originally sold out almost instantly. According to senior marketing manager Julia Wu, when the game first came out, a number of staff started making their own versions of 100 Thieves apparel, and the team realized it would be a fun way to connect with fans. So the company outsourced designs to two creators they found on Twitter — one of whom was already a big fan — in order to create the entire collection.
“Animal Crossing has become a creative outlet for most people,” Wu says. “It’s given people a space to create (and live) what you’ve always dreamed of having. There is no winning or losing. No one island is better than another. It’s a game about self-expression and identity. In your virtual world, everything can be customized to how you want it to be: your island, your house, your clothes, etc. Fashion and lifestyle brands were built from this. There is no right or wrong when it comes to self-expression, only preference. When someone visits your island, it’s like giving them a tour into the inner world of you.”
I’ve spent plenty of time finding in-game versions for gear I can’t have in real life — including things inspired by other video games. Over the last few days, I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time rocking out inside of Fortnite, attending three of Travis Scott’s in-game performances. Like most musical tours, real or virtual, Scott’s “Astronomical” event was accompanied by a wave of IRL merchandise. There were high-end Fortnite figures and Cactus Jack esports jerseys. I had my eye on a particular T-shirt, which, naturally, sold out before I could actually buy it. But the Animal Crossing community was there for me; almost right away, I found a digital re-creation on Reddit. It wasn’t exactly the same, but it helped bring a piece of the real world into the game — and it gives me something to wear to the next K.K. Slider concert.
Correction: An earlier version of this story called Acronym a Japanese company, though it is based in Germany. We regret the error.