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HomeRetail NewsThe Most Popular Fashion & Footwear Brands in 2023

The Most Popular Fashion & Footwear Brands in 2023

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Here are the top brands in the USA based on the latest  “Brand Heat Index” by L.E.K. Consulting

To help brands and retailers identify which brands are gaining popularity, global strategy consultancy L.E.K. Consulting surveyed nearly 4,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 14 and 55.

Based on their findings, they issued their second annual “Brand Heat Index” which ranks brands’ popularity by generation – Gen Z, millennial and Gen X – across four product categories in men’s and women’s apparel and footwear.

Most Popular Footwear Brands

Footwear consumers are increasingly demanding both style and comfort, indicating that brands need to differentiate themselves when it comes to both fashion and function. In the meantime, distinctive silhouettes continue to help footwear brands stand out, such as Crocs, HEYDUDE, UGG, Vans, and BIRKENSTOCK.

For specific product categories:

Athletic Footwear

Nine out of the top 10 brands are the same for both men and women, although the relative ranking varies widely between the two groups.

For women, On surpassed last year’s top-ranked brand, Nike, primarily due to popularity with millennials and Gen X. HOKA climbed the rankings, past Nike among Gen Xers. Gen Z favors brands like Nike, Brand Jordan, and Adidas over technically focused running brands.

For men, Nike and Brand Jordan remain the two hottest brands overall, followed by Adidas and Under Armour. Similar to women, younger consumers tended to value attributes like style and appearance. Gen X ranked HOKA more highly than other generations, largely due to perceived quality and durability. On, by contrast, appears to be gaining less popularity for men than for women, although it is in the top 10 for all but Gen Z men.

Casual Footwear 

The hottest brands here have distinctive and identifiable silhouettes. HEYDUDE dominates in popularity for both men and women, while Crocs, Vans, Converse, UGG, and Allbirds also appear in the top 10 for both genders.

For women, the top two brands — HEYDUDE and Crocs — are frequently cited for their comfort and rank in the top five for all generations, including the top two spots for Gen Z and millennials. HEYDUDE is a notable standout with Gen Xers, earning nearly double the score of the second-place brand, Kizik. UGG, BIRKENSTOCK, and Dr. Martens remain in the top 10, although all three brands perform most strongly with Gen Z.

For men, HEYDUDE tops the list across all generations. While other brands are close behind for Gen Z, there is a larger gap between the number two brand for millennials (Crocs) and Gen X (Skechers). Vans, Timberland, and Converse also rank highly overall and perform similarly across generations.

Outdoor Footwear

The range of brand performance is quite large for this category, with notably low consumer enthusiasm beyond the leading players.

For women, UGG is the hottest brand across generations, while Columbia and Hunter boots round out the overall top three but are more popular among Gen Z and millennials. Younger consumers also show a preference for outdoor/active sandal brands, like Chaco, REEF, and Teva. SOREL and BEARPAW are second and third for Gen X but have slipped in the rankings for younger consumers relative to last year.

On the men’s side, Timberland and Columbia are the top two brands overall and across generations. Relative to last year, Arc’teryx and KEEN dropped significantly in the rankings, particularly among Gen X who previously had them in the top two spots. Conversely, Oakley gained significant popularity with Gen X, jumping from number eight to number three.

Formal Footwear

The top brands vary significantly across genders, with only Steve Madden appearing for both men and women.

For women, the leading players are consistent with last year – Steve Madden, Coach, and Michael Kors, followed by established brands like kate spade, Calvin Klein and Sam Edelman. Style and overall brand appeal are the most commonly cited factors behind the popularity.

For men, preferences vary across generations. Cole Haan and Ferragamo are the hottest brands overall. The biggest shifts from last year’s rankings are the drop for HUGO BOSS from the top spot to number eight and the addition of several new brands, such as Jack Erwin, Sandro Moscoloni, and Wolf and Shepherd, due to popularity with millennials.

Chris Randall, L.E.K. Managing Director and co-author of the survey report states: 

Gen Z men have less engagement with the dress footwear category than they do with others, as they’re materially aware of just 10 brands. This is likely a result of the casualization trend, which is popular among younger generations and has been amplified by the shift to working from home.

Most Popular Apparel Brands

While many of the top apparel brands vary depending on the gender of the consumer, some leading players are effectively able to serve both markets, particularly in the athletic and outdoor categories, such as lululemon, Gymshark, The North Face, and Patagonia.

For specific product categories:

Athletic Apparel

There’s meaningful overlap in the leading brands across genders, with Nike in the top spot for both men and women, and lululemon, Gymshark, Under Armour, Champion and Adidas in both top 10 lists.

For women, a range of athleisure brands fill out the list, such as alo, Fabletics, Vuori, and Alphalete. Notably, alo only appeared on Gen X’s list year, but is a top player across all generations this year, as its premium positioning and social media presence were key reasons for its jump in popularity.

For men, there’s more of a focus on larger athletic brand veterans, like Adidas, although there have been new smaller brands added to the list, like 32 Degrees and Rhoback. Preferences vary widely for men across generations.

Casual Apparel

For women, fast fashion labels continued their strong performance, with SHEIN again being number one. Fashion Nova, PrettyLittleThing, and ZARA ranked highly while legacy shapewear brands SKIMS and SPANX are new additions to the top 10. Aritzia has shown a strong growth trajectory, ranking five overall and in the top 10 for Gen Z and millennials. Traditional brands, like Old Navy and Levi’s, perform the best among Gen X.

For men, workwear brands are gaining popularity – consistent with the continued casualization trend. Carhartt, Levi’s, Duluth Trading Company, Dickies, and Wrangler all show up in the Top 10 across generations. Fast fashion brand SHEIN is number two overall and tops for Gen Z. H&M and ZARA are also in the top 10 for Gen Z.

Outdoor Apparel

Stalwart brands The North Face, Columbia, and Patagonia are the top three across generations and genders, in various permutations.

For women, Cotopaxi is popular with Gen Z and millennials, while Fjällräven is gaining popularity with Gen X.

For men, the fishing lifestyle brand Huk has moved to number five from 10 last year. Arc’teryx broke into the top 10 in all age groups after not appearing last year.

Dress Apparel

Calvin Klein and Michael Kors are among the leaders for both women and men, while the remaining brands differ.

For women, dress apparel is a mix of specialty retail, DTC, and wholesale brands. Reformation and lulus have shown the most growth overall and perform strongest among Gen Z and millennials.

For men, Emporio Armani, Ministry of Supply, and Banana Republic improved their brand heat scores the most relative to last year, while HUGO BOSS fell out of the top 10. Bonobos and Suitsupply performed well with millennials and Gen Z, while Indochino is gaining popularity with Gen X.

Jon Weber, L.E.K. Managing Director and co-author of the 2023 U.S. Footwear and Apparel Brand Heat Index says: 

Material differences in brand momentum can exist just below the surface and consumer sentiment can change quickly. Generational differences in brand rankings point to the importance of recognizing that not all consumers are the same. It takes deep understanding and tailored strategies for brands to succeed and win. The latest L.E.K. Brand Heat Index shows us that consumers are increasingly willing to embrace new and innovative brands beyond legacy players.

Download the Full “Brand Heat Index” Report

For the full sets of rankings by generation and product category, please see the report here.

For more information on L.E.K Consulting visit: www.lek.com

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