If you’ve spent any time in the military, or around people who have, you’ve likely encountered the merch often given out free at workplace gatherings or sold at convention centers during air and sea expos. Major defense contractors like Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop-Grumman have produced baseball hats, T-shirts and water bottles advertising military-grade weapons like ballistic missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and fighter jets.
Now, Lockheed Martin, the American defense contractor best known as the world’s largest weapons manufacturer, is allowing its brand to be used in the streetwear business.
Through Equity Management Inc, a corporate trademark licensing company in San Diego, Lockheed has been selling its trademark to apparel retailers in both the United States and abroad. A spokesperson for Lockheed Martin confirmed the collaborations were real but declined to comment further.
Doojin Corporation, in Seoul, recently bought the rights to use Lockheed Martin’s brand name, and since May has released several streetwear collections featuring oversize cargo pants and hoodies, logo graphic tees with slogans like “Ensuring those we serve always stay ahead of ready,” and other T-shirts displaying the brand’s fighter jets. The pieces range from $30 for a T-shirt to $115 for a nylon zip-up jacket, and are aimed at young consumers of South Korea’s growing streetwear market, where oversize cuts and bucket hats reign supreme.
Doojin’s Lockheed Martin collection harks back to the 2019 gorpcore moment, when outdoor sports infiltrated the season’s biggest trends, including a Louis Vuitton chalk bag for rock climbing, or Prada’s multi-buckled and strapped performance parkas, perfect for any influencer wanting to scale Mount Everest.
But the Lockheed Martin streetwear line takes the idea of functional-clothing-as-fashion a step further, creating pieces that don’t just look like they belong at base camp, but also on an army base.
It’s all part of a larger trend in South Korea that started around 2020 called K-licensed Brands, said Young Chul Kim, a street style and fashion photographer in Seoul. “Brand names such as National Geographic, Jeep, Kodak, NASA, Life, M.L.B., etc. are in the Seoul fashion scene, and are very popular for young people,” he wrote in an email.
National Geographic, for example, has seen such success licensing its brand for apparel in South Korea that the trademark’s licenser, the Nature Holdings, recently expanded into China.
Sukwoo Hong, a Korean fashion journalist and director of the Navy Lab creative studio, said the Lockheed Martin collaboration “reflects a very ‘nowadays’ Korean streetwear feel,” and likened it to the recent collaboration between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and PacSun.
“The logos of ‘non-fashion’ brands are actually quite popular in Korea,” Mr. Hong said.
Brands like National Geographic and CNN also have the advantage of already being known entities, Mr. Hong said; it’s easier for Korean companies to license famous brands for collections than it is to try to create new ones.
“In fact, this collaboration with ‘logos’ or ‘non-fashion brands’ has been a trend in Korea for a while now,” Mr. Hong said. “A few years ago, when the boom around ‘retro culture’ started, brands from paint companies to food companies collaborated with fashion brands to launch small collections. I think people find the intersection of completely different worlds refreshingly interesting.”
Lockheed Martin apparel did not go unnoticed by the young men’s style council of TikTok, a set of young fashion critics who use the app to keep their followers updated on men’s wear trends. “They stopped killing people for just a second to help you kill those looks,” quipped one of the critics, who goes by the name Opal. He captioned his video: “Garms dealers.”
Opal praised the cargo pants and jackets but said the logo tees were a little too “on the nose” for his taste. “Sadly, it’s only available in Korea right now, so if you’re in the U.S., only their tanks and missiles are available to you,” he deadpanned on his TikTok.
“The people who made the decision are either so out of touch or like unbelievably acutely aware of what’s going on, and I can’t really tell the difference,” he said in an interview.
You can get Lockheed Martin-branded apparel in the states, but it won’t have the same stylish cut or design. American manufacturers of promotional products, like Brand Junkie, in Cypress, Texas, also work with Lockheed Martin to “create unique products and sustain fulfillment programs and e-stores,” according to the Brand Junkie website.
On LockheedMartinGear.com, you can buy graphic tees, backpacks and bluetooth speakers advertising your favorite “program,” like the F-35 fighter jet, or Skunk Works, the popular nickname for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Program that is primarily responsible for classified research and development.
The designs and types of products offered by Brand Junkie suggest the company seems to be marketing to a totally different audience than Doojin’s Lockheed Martin Apparel, which is focused primarily on the fashion set. Doojin has been paying street style influencers to pose in its products, including Jonathan Vine, an influencer in Britain, to help increase its fashion credibility.
As for the Lockheed Martin Apparel line, both Mr. Hong and Mr. Kim said they themselves wouldn’t be buying any items, but that it’s definitely a trend in Seoul. “Personally, I don’t think I’d wear it,” Mr. Hong said. “But Lockheed Martin has a pretty big presence, even among people who aren’t necessarily interested in the military.”