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To Leaf Or Not To Leaf? Shopping For Contemporary Cannabis Apparel 

Photo from Fashion On Fire 2023 at New Dia via Boston Cannabis Week | More on Fashion on Fire and BCW 2024 here

“I don’t have the name of my company on there. I don’t have marijuana leaves on there. I want it to be something people would wear.”

In Boston, among tourist attractions like Faneuil Hall and Harvard Square, you’ll find gift shops selling not only Red Sox and college sweatshirts, but stoner gear too. Bongs, grinders, and backpacks to store your weed in are available everywhere. Walking past one regular convenience store downtown, not even a head shop, I spotted a black “Bostoner” t-shirt with a knockoff Adidas logo shaped into a marijuana leaf displayed in the window.

There are several different strains of current stoner apparel. You might find socks with cannabis leaves printed all over, or a shirt with phrasing fit for 4/20 enthusiasts. At the same time, many businesses are branding outside of the box, and in a lot of cases they’re losing the leaf—in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

In the apparel section of Peake ReLeaf, a dispensary in Maryland, you’ll find some classic weed motifs—on buttons, stickers, and tote bags. However, the company’s flagship mascots belong to a rock band of neon astronauts (“peakstronauts,” as Peake Releaf calls them) printed on vaporwave-fused psychedelia. On one shirt, a space cadet is playing the guitar defying gravity, while one of the hoodies has another character meditating between planets. These prints are the brainchild of Alaina Dorsey, a marketing strategist with the company.

“The best way to sell art is to pass it on as a product or a service,” Dorsey said. “The marketing director had gotten some designs done where … there was a wax-world planet that was traveling through a planet, and I was like, Let’s expand on that concept.”

Dorsey’s designs aren’t just fashionable—they tell a story. Symbolic of the high from THC, the peakstronauts can be found voyaging through plush plants and buds, playing bong-shaped guitars, and throwing concerts for their alien friends. While certainly a billboard for the brand, the concept is also an inviting abstraction that represents a cool, easy going, unique lifestyle. And of course, the levitating theme fits well with getting high.

“It’s an invitation to be a part of this community of exploring cannabis, the education, the legalization process,” Dorsey said.

As companies look for identities that aren’t centered around vintage weed imagery, streetwear has been front and center. Mario Signore, owner of the Boston-based cannabis delivery service Green Flash Delivery, credits such contemporary fashion as an inspiration for his baseball cap and hoodie designs. On the pieces, Green Flash Delivery is shortened to just “GFD” in blocky neon green letters stitched on the wearable canvas. It’s a subtle nod to the business, but that’s not really the point.

“Cannabis and street fashion have always been synchronized,” Signore said. “For us, I wanted to do some type of merchandise for our staff and customers to raise awareness. … I didn’t want to make my merchandise a billboard. I don’t have the name of my company on there. I don’t have marijuana leaves on there. I want it to be something people would wear.”

These aren’t simply soft trends—they’re realities of the emerging market. Experts and industry publications like MJ Biz Daily have for years recommended that businesses look beyond the leaf for logos. Even the New York Times is in on the secret; earlier this year, the legacy newspaper titled a profile of Cookies and the brand’s rap mogul founder Berner, “How Do You Make A Weed Empire? Sell It Like Streetwear.”

And there are a staggering number of companies in Mass taking merch seriously. Some pass out free swag at events, but many have moved way past that old school promotional realm, and are retailing items that people actually want to buy and wear. Dispensaries like Bud’s Goods and Native Sun sell everything from sleek hats to hoodies in their trademark colors, while LowKey in Dorchester stocks an extensive line of Method Man’s Tical garments to go with the Wu-Tang Clan member’s signature strains.

At New Dia, an all-out weed mall located on Lansdowne Street across from Fenway Park, you’ll find much more than just Red Sox hats and game jerseys. The dispensary sells sneakers from the beloved Hub-born brand Laced, which also has its own cannabis products that are available for purchase there. Fashion comes naturally with the community that fills New Dia on any given day: the giant pot spot’s lounge and open spaces also recently played host to a blowout second Not Finna S.K.A.T.E. competition, which brought skateboarding styles through the door, while last year it was the backdrop for the Fashion on Fire runway show during Boston Cannabis Week.

“The cannabis culture is just a mix of everybody and every facet of life,” Signore said. “Black, white, rich, poor, gay or straight, everybody’s in it—you see a lot of different styles.”