Legion on N. Main
The theory and practice of streetwear
by Sally Mitani
"A lot of people in my program wonder why I'm still going to school," says Michael Kao, who's about three semesters away from finishing his degree at EMU in apparel, textiles, and merchandising. The reason they ask is that Kao started his own clothing line (Chief) several years ago, managed the South U clothing store Motivation, and now has his own store, Legion, selling Chief and his other favorite brands of street wear. But thirty-year-old Kao sees this too as a stepping-stone. "I want to become a creative director for a company like Carhartt," he says. "Having experience in the industry is good, but you still need that piece of paper."
Kao loves the functionality of work wear but thinks it's unnecessarily lacking in flair. Legion is intended to fill a little of that gap. He explains the outfit he happens to be wearing, starting with his Rick Owens high-tops: "He's a high-end fashion label. I don't know if you could call him a maison," he says, dropping the French word for fashion house. Moving up, he's wearing regular gray long johns under his "drop crotch" pants, which, like hoodies, have unfairly been associated with urban thugs, he says. "Look at Commes des Garcons," he says, a seriously avant-garde label. "Every season, they'll have drop crotch pants in their lineup." His "extended long tank top" is by Fear of God and the hoodie by HBA.
Then he explains business partner Jay Tiempo's "silhouette"--a baseball jersey over a hoodie and jeans that are beginning to show a wallet fade and "whiskers" (the horizontal crease marks etched across the pelvis). Whiskers are a good thing--it means your jeans have become uniquely your own.
Kao and Tiempo, who met working at Motivation, were inspired by street wear boutiques in L.A. and New York. The prices are high, but they can talk about selvages on Copin jeans ("$149, but will last forever if you take care of them"), the drape of a Void shirt ($68), and silkscreen vs. direct-to-garment printing. Kao's own Chief T-shirts are in the $20-$30 range.
Legion, 205 N. Main, 369-6378. Mon.-Thurs. noon-7 p.m., Fri. & Sat. noon-8 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m. legion-goods.com
[Originally published in April, 2014.]