2019 was a year of surprising musical team-ups: from Lizzo and Ariana remixing “Good As Hell,” to Justin Bieber enlisting country duo Dan + Shay on the sappy, “10,000 Hours.” But there were also a number of surprising collaborations between musicians and lifestyle brands, too, with artists looking to tap into a new revenue stream, and brands looking to up their cool cred — and sales — with the artists’ fans and followers.
But for every collection that kind of made sense (i.e., boyband CNCO’s fashion drop with Forever21), there were some head-scratchers too (see: Post Malone and Migos’ fried chicken battle). From unexpected shoe launches, to co-branded alcohol, and even deodorant, here’s what made us do a double take this year.
1. Post Malone x Crocs
Post Malone is no stranger to weird collaborations, both with his music (see his latest single with Ozzy Osbourne) and in fashion (see his clothing line with Budweiser). He’s also managed to pull off the previously unthinkable: making Crocs cool.
The singer has teamed up with Crocs four times over the past couple of years, on extreme versions of their popular slip-on sandal. All four releases have quickly sold out (and are going for absurd prices on resale sites), a testament to either Posty’s sartorial prowess or the country’s desperate search for comfortable footwear.
The fourth installment of the Post Malone x Crocs collaboration dropped in early December and sold out in minutes. It featured the classic Crocs sandal in a blue and black camo pattern, with an exaggerated chunky outsole and straps.
To promote the shoe, Malone went back to the Chicken Express, a restaurant in South Lake, Texas, where he used to work, surprising customers and employees with a pair of free Crocs. Needless to say, their answer to “Do you want Crocs with that?” was a resounding “Yes!”
2. Luke Combs x Crocs
Post Malone wasn’t the only musician who teamed up with Crocs this year. Country star Luke Combs also lent his name — and backwoods aesthetic — to a new version of Crocs’ classic clog back in November. The limited-edition Luke Combs x Crocs Classic Realtree Clog featured a camo graphic and a variety of hunting-themed Jibbitz charms along the shoe. The finishing touch: a working bottle-opener secured to the back strap.
Combs says he’s been a genuine fan of Crocs for a while now, and he admits to wearing the sandals in the studio whenever he’s recording. “I love Crocs because you get to be who you are,” he says. “These are very me, and I hope people enjoy them, especially my fans, ’cause these LC2’s are awesome. I mean, a working bottle opener on your camo and orange shoe? I’m in.”
3. Puma x Paul Stanley
Who knew Paul Stanley was such a sneakerhead? The Kiss singer and guitarist teamed up with Puma for a second time, on a footwear, apparel, and accessories collection, all adorned with animal prints and glam-rock-inspired motifs.
Presumably the first collection sold well, because this new collection includes a dozen pieces, from a $50 graphic tee to a $130 pair of leopard-print high-tops, all inspired by Stanley’s theatrical style. According to Puma, Stanley worked closely with their in-house design team to “add his unique touch and heart” to the Puma x Paul Stanley collection, which features classic Puma silhouettes decked out in Stanley’s signature stars and hits of silver and gold.
The collection — which just came out this month — is available to shop online at Puma.com.
4. Joy Division x Pleasures
Joy Division’s seminal album, “Unknown Pleasures,” celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, and Los Angeles streetwear brand Pleasures released a limited-edition collection of tees, hoodies, hats, and bags inspired by the album artwork.
Pleasures’ creative director, Alex James, grew up going to shows at CBGB and Tramps in New York, while (unironically) rocking tees from Slayer and Motörhead, so, he says it was a thrill to be able to pay tribute to one of his favorite bands. James calls Joy Division’s 1979 album “one of the most seminal pieces of work every recorded,” adding that “it sounds as relevant, urgent, and ‘from the future’ in 2019 as the day it was released.”
While James didn’t get to meet members of Joy Division for this collaboration, he did work directly with Warner Music UK (which owns the full licensing rights to the band) and Factory Records graphic designer Peter Saville, who created the original album artwork. The collection features apparel and accessories along with two versions of the iconic Modernica side shell eiffel chairs, both featuring the album’s artwork.
The Joy Division x Pleasures collection is available on Pleasuresnow.com.
5. Barking Irons x Bob Dylan
It was a big year for Bob Dylan fans in 2019 with the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s Netflix documentary, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, the 148-track box set Bob Dylan – The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, and new tour dates for Dylan’s Never Ending Tour. The year also included a Dylan-inspired merch collection from Barking Irons, the New York-based menswear brand that has created capsule collections for everyone from Billy Joel to Roger Waters.
Barking Irons worked closely with Dylan’s team to create a clothing capsule based on the artist’s personal archives, gaining access to never-before-seen images and personal documents that helped inspire the offering. Many of the pieces were based on actual garments worn by Dylan, showcasing his signature Bohemian rocker style.
While Dylan wasn’t directly involved in the collection, Barking Irons co-founders Daniel and Michael Casarella say they met extensively with Dylan’s longtime manager at his Gramercy Park offices. “We pitched our idea of a clothing concept that would not just be about T-shirts, but instead would tell a story about Bob Dylan without splashing his face and name across everything,” Michael Casarella says. “From that point, there was a meticulous process of approving each piece and every detail that would go into them, including working closely with Dylan’s archivist and combing the archives at Sony Music. The entire process took 18 months before we could begin production, but once everything was approved and they saw how great everything looked, we had their full support.”
The collection is available on Nordstrom.com.
6. Action Bronson x Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream
Turns out rapper Action Bronson’s tastes for slick beats is matched only by his tastes for dessert. The rapper — and published chef — teamed up with cult New York creamery Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream on a limited-edition package of ice cream sandwiches and gear for the recent holiday season. The offerings included seven ice creams with pop-culture-inspired names like “White Bronco” (with white chocolate and tonka beans), and “Indiana Jones” (with strawberries, tahini, chocolate chip cookies, and pistachios).
As Bronson and Morgenstern’s say in the accompanying press release, this is a collaboration that “pushes the envelope of taste, texture, and creativity.”
The creation is the fourth for the duo, whose previous releases include an ice cream sandwich in celebration of the release of Bronson’s book “Stoned Beyond Belief,” and special team-ups for the New York installment of rap festival Rolling Loud.
See more from the collaboration and order some ice cream for shipping or pick-up at Morgensternsnyc.com.
7. Frank Zappa x Rowdy Sprout
A scroll through Frank Zappa’s discography may reveal tracks with seemingly kid-friendly titles (see: “Baby Snakes,” “Muffin Man,” “Call Any Vegetable”) but it’s safe to say his songs weren’t exactly G-rated. Still, the Zappa Family Trust made a play for the toddler set this year with the release of a new children’s clothing line with e-tailer, Rowdy Sprout.
The initial product launch, pegged to the holiday season, included a Frank Zappa Raglan Tee and a Frank Zappa Raglan Onesie. The limited-edition pieces were said to be based on vintage concert tees.
Strangely, this isn’t the first release of Zappa-inspired baby apparel. Amazon has a whole section of kids clothing and accessories with Zappa’s mug and lyrics on it. The Rowdy Sprout collection, however, is the first to be officially approved by the Zappa Family Trust, who tease that more baby Zappa gear is on the way for 2020. See more from the collection at RowdySprout.com.
8. Alice in Chains x Few Spirits
What’s more rock & roll than whiskey? That was the thinking, at least, behind Alice in Chains’ team-up with Few Spirits this fall on a new, limited-edition bourbon.
Dubbed “All Secrets Known,” the bourbon was named after the opening track on the Seattle rockers’ seminal 2009 album, “Black Gives Way to Blue.” Bottled at an after-party-ready 101 proof, Few Spirits says the bourbon is finished for six months in tequila barrels and features “bold, sweet, and spicy bourbon top notes accentuated by grassy agave undertones.”
Few Spirits worked with Warner Music Artist Services on the collaboration; it’s not clear if the band members had a say in the project, which would be telling, considering how openly they’ve spoken about their struggles with alcohol and addiction in the past. Still, Few Spirits master distiller Paul Hletko says the release of the bourbon is about celebrating individuality and creativity. “Nobody sounds like Alice in Chains,” Hletko says. “We were inspired by their courage to create a sound that flouted convention, and thought, ‘There are lots of tequilas finished in bourbon barrels, but it’s rare to find a widely available bourbon finished in tequila barrels. Let’s do that instead.’ ”
Find the collaboration online at ReserveBar.com.
9. Avenged Sevenfold x Saint Owen
When you think of stylish musicians, Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates isn’t always the first name that comes to mind. But maybe that’s the beauty in Gates’ sunglasses collab with Southern California-based eyewear brand Saint Owen, spun out of a shared desire to find a pair of rock & roll shades as suited for the stage as they are for everyday life. With his distinct goth-rock style and predilection for leather, tattoos, and studs, Gates’ aesthetic translates seamlessly into sunglasses.
The Saint Owen x Synyster Gates collection spans three different styles, each a take on Saint Owen’s popular “Nightrain” frame, which features a spiked brow bar, colored rims, and a navigator-shaped stainless-steel frame. Gates’ personal logo is etched in the lens.
The price for these limited-edition sunnies: a cool $300. Purchase on SaintOwen.com.
10. Keith Sweat x Old Spice
In a year in which Sammy Hagar teamed up with Guy Fieri on a tequila, and Oprah’s favorite hot sauce made it into a YBN Cordae video, it was a deodorant brand that had the strangest musician co-sign on our list. Old Spice tapped crooner Keith Sweat to remake his 1996 hit, “Nobody,” as part of a campaign to promote the brand’s “Sweat Defense” line of anti-perspirants.
Sweat turned his gentle slow jam into a diss track of sorts, calling out Old Spice for saying they wanted to completely “eliminate sweat in all forms” as part of their partnership with the NFL. The reason: Old Spice’s offensive would have meant cutting NFL rookie Montez Sweat from the league. Would the grooming brand’s campaign against sweat eventually affect the singer as well?
The whole thing was a little confusing to follow (and obviously done tongue-in-cheek), but it helped revive a decades-old R&B hit and introduced (Keith) Sweat to a brand-new audience. As for whether or not a 58-year-old crooner could actually help sell antiperspirant? The reaction to the Old Spice campaign was mixed, but maybe we should give the brand kudos for the unexpected collab. After all, Thomas Edison did famously say, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
Listen to Sweat’s remixed version of “Nobody” and watch the accompanying music video on YouTube.