A man posing in an Oaklandish-branded black t-shirt and army green jacket against an urban backdrop.

Rooted in Oakland

Amit Cohen

Clothing is a way for many to express their identity, whether that be a cultural influence, favorite sports team, or lifestyle choice. Clothes allow one to literally wear their heart on their sleeve. Oaklandish, the Oakland-based clothing brand, has become a way for residents and visitors to represent their connection to the city.

Oaklandish began in 2000 as a street art project founded by artist Jeff Hull. Hull collaborated with various artists to create public art displays within Oakland, including the Liberation Drive-In, a pop-up movie drive-in displaying different resistance movements from around the globe—including a Black Panther retrospective, an uprising in Greece, and a strike in Oaxaca, Mexico. In the “City of Dreams project, the group projected a slide show of 130 Oakland heroes on the side of a building, featuring figures ranging from Huey Newton, Bruce Lee, and Julia Morgan to everyday citizens. Hull followed this venture with a poster series of the “Patron Saints and Sinners of the Town,” highlighting rebellious figures from Oakland’s history. These exhibitions visualized Oakland’s reputation as a place where people stand up for themselves and their community, making waves for what they believe in. The Oaklandish cooperative grew in popularity, acting as an unfiltered representation of city pride.

As Oaklandish evolved, its image shifted from a rebellious art group into a more mainstream business. A change in ownership from Hull to his ex-wife Angela Tsay coincided with an increased focus on the Oaklandish clothing brand, which features Oakland-themed apparel. Beginning with a set of t-shirts sold at farmer’s markets and street fairs, the fashion line eventually opened its flagship retail store in 2011 across from the Oakland City Hall. The Oaklandish logo is a play on the City of Oakland’s official tree logo, adding roots to the tree to represent how Oaklanders have “put down roots” in their city, intertwining themselves with their community. The company donates significantly to community organizations but has moved on from its rebellious beginnings, aiming to represent the city in a different light.

Cover image credit: Visit Oakland

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