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Rue21’s Latest Launch Meets at the Corner of Esports and Streetwear

Rue21 is merging the likes of streetwear and esports for a Gen Z-oriented collection as the gaming community continues its convergence with apparel and street culture.

The limited-edition gaming streetwear collection is designed to be both accessible and affordable, and ultimately bridge the gap between esports and the general market consumer. The first launch in the collection is a white graphic T-shirt titled “OpTic Forever” exclusively made available at Rue21 stores nationwide and online. The specialty apparel retailer has not unveiled any of the other items in the collection yet.

As part of the drop, Rue21 is teaming with independent culture media and fashion company Frank151 and professional esports and entertainment organization OpTic Gaming to give away a gaming system hand painted by OpTic CEO Hector “Hecz” Rodriguez. Alongside the co-launch, Frank151 and OpTic released an official book, titled Chapter 65: OpTic Forever.

“With gaming becoming bigger than esports and streetwear costing more than a mortgage, Frank151 and OpTic chose to create something affordable; not just for the gaming community but for everyone,” Neil Mossberg, editor in chief of Frank151, said in a statement. “Hecz, who came from humble beginnings to owning a multimillion-dollar gaming team, understands that fans are from every lifestyle and partnering with retailer Rue21 was a natural fit as they have over 600 stores nationwide.”

Earlier this month, OpTic and an esports rival, FaZe Clan announced they would debut their own collaboration of merchandise. Two of the most popular organizations in the gaming industry, the companies have further sought to drive revenue via merchandise, namely apparel. On Sept. 17, the collection drop included a jersey, hoodies, T-shirts, shorts, baseball caps and even a lava lamp.

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For Rue21, the move is big to capture a largely male, Gen Z audience, especially in that it has been traditionally geared toward women’s and girls’ apparel. As inclusivity has been a major focal point for the retailer, the company doubled down on its plus-size collection last year, and then in 2021 conducted a study with a market research firm to learn more about younger shoppers’ buying habits.

Out of the 5.2 million customers surveyed and the 13.2 million social conversations studied, the retailer found that 43 percent of Gen Z is considered multicultural, making these consumers the most diverse age demographic in the country. This cohort is expected to grow by 22 percent over the next five years, giving Rue21 plenty of incentive to reach all comers. And in a good sign for streetwear, personal uniqueness was more important to multicultural young shoppers (27 percent) than to all the shoppers studied a whole (18 percent).

The combination of esports and apparel has seen more expansion as brands like Champion and Crocs make waves in the gaming community. Champion debuted a third collection with HP’s esports brand HyperX, while Crocs has been involved in numerous esports competitions. The clog maker most recently teamed with gaming group Gen.G in a partnership that tied its All Family Tie-Dye collection with a Minecraft competition.

Another professional esports company, Immortals, launched a line of brand merchandise earlier this month called, Immortals Essentials, with the collection aimed at creating a “credible entry point for fans,” the company said. Current merchandise available on the website is discounted to align with the accessibility-focused merchandising strategy.

Immortals created the collection in partnership with the esports-wear production company We Are Nations. The unisex line includes T-shirts, hoodies and hats and is priced from $17-$40.

Last year, Nike teamed with T1 Entertainment & Sports, with all the company’s gamers wearing Nike footwear and apparel during competition, as well as team uniforms and fan gear made by the athleticwear and footwear giant.

T1 most recently launched Nike-manufactured official custom player jerseys that can be purchased on its website as part of a “T-Set” that also includes Nike x T1 Tech Fleece pants. The jerseys have the nicknames of official gamers signed on with the T1 team, while the T-Set includes a card with a randomly selected T1 player’s autograph.