Tribe Toronto is a 12-strong retro collective who live and breathe the fashion, culture, and lifestyle of the 80s and early 90s. They’re known to each other as family, to the vintage owners on Queen Street in downtown Toronto as that crew, and to strangers as the guys with the beat boxes. I spent a day as an honorary member of the group which meant vintage shopping, dancing on the pavements, and learning about what draws so many people to the positive vibes of this unique group.
How did Tribe Toronto come about?
Fine$t GQ: Kenny B Smooth and I got chatting online, we had the same ideas, discovered we were part of the same movement, and wanted to chill and meet up. On Canada Day we just happened to bump into each other. After that we organised to meet with others in Dundas Square in downtown TO.
Kenny B Smooth: Fine$t brought the “Retro Heads” and that’s when the group was started, on August 18th 2012.
Wow, so you guys really haven’t been together that long?
Fine$t: We’ve been through a lot of adventures, and this is just the beginning. There’s still so much more to come.
What’s your aim as a group?
Kenny B Smooth: Tribe Toronto is bringing the 90s and 80s vibe back into music and dance, to change the world, one dance at a time! We want to make a whole movement out of it, an outlet for kids to have fun and be positive. We’re not here to look like clowns, we have a purpose and the unity you see between us is real. Toronto is well-known for its Hip Hop, street art, and urban culture. Has the city had an influence on what you do?
KBS: I think regardless of the location, we would be who we are. We don’t let the mainstream media affect us really.
Precious: But for sure, the world does have its eye on Toronto, there’s a lot of big things happening here at the moment. Toronto is very unique and diverse in terms of culture, it’s a whole mass of different people coming together and that does influence us because we’re a very diverse group and we can blow up from that too.
Speaking of the city, Queen Street in downtown Toronto appears a lot of your videos and pictures, and it’s where we met today. What is it about this area that does it for you?
F: We’re always chilling here; we know the street inside and out, we kind of rep this street. All of the vintage stores on this street know us, and if you’re going to find Tribe Toronto anywhere, it’s going to be on Queen, we’re kind of known for being on this street.
KB: I feel like it’s that street for fashion; you got hipsters, you got freaks, you got punks, and it’s like, I feel like we belong here, because we’re different too
You guys are always dressed on point in your retro style. How is the fashion of the eras important in achieving Tribe Toronto’s aims?
Precious: For us, it’s more than just the retro music and the dancing that we want to revive, we’re trying to completely live that 80s old-school lifestyle. Wearing the 80s style keeps your head where you want to be, it’s all about positive vibes, about having that feeling of being retro, cool, and fun, that free spirit.
How would you describe your outfits today?
Fine$t: My outfit today is more like a street/chill, I’ve got the sweater and a vintage jersey underneath, nothing crazy. This tape chain on my neck is something I wear a lot, it has been my signature since high school, I’ve been wearing this from time.
Precious: My outfit is inspired by dance wear, it’s very retro, very colourful and funky. I’m on a bit of a Salt-n-Pepa vibe with this one.
Kenny B Smooth: I knew it was going to be a hot day today so I wore all white. But that in itself is very mid-90s, it’s very urban, but it’s also got a touch of class.
Reckless Murrell: I’m very new to the Tribe, so I’m experimenting right now. I’ve been shopping with Fine$t a few times and him and the Retro Heads have been great in helping me figure my style out, But really, you can’t live near Toronto and not notice the retro style and be influenced by it.
Murrell, how does it feel to join such a tight-knit family?
It’s awesome! For me, it’s a whole new experience, I feel a bit like you. You came to Canada, you’re discovering what it’s all about, and I’m doing the same. They took me shopping, they’re helping me find my style, I’m learning some of the dances, it’s great, and this is only just the beginning.
What would be your tips for those wanting to get into the retro/vintage style?
Kenny B Smooth: There’s a saying and it goes “it’s not what you wear it’s how you wear it”, and that’s the most important thing. Other than that, keep it simple at first, you can make a statement without going over the edge with it. I think people have a tendency to buy random things that don’t match and call it retro. Do your research, now that retro is a trend, so many people don’t understand what they’re wearing, you need to learn about the culture of your clothing.
Even our haircuts have meaning. What Fine$t and I have is a crown, and the parts that are missing, represents 360 degrees of knowledge, it means you were once a king and very knowledgeable. Some people have the rat tail as well and that represents the third eye. Even my earring means 360 degrees of brotherhood. Everything we wear has significance, a symbolic meaning.
Fine$t: If I’m helping someone decide what to wear, the first thing I’ll say is go on Facebook and find Retro Heads, because they can help anyone out. The second thing is do the research; know what kind of style you’re looking for, what kind of character you want to develop. For example, we’re all wearing unique and different outfits right now and those are the different characters that we’re representing. You could do street, classy, vintage. Everyone has a different character when it comes to outfits, but it has to be like on point, you can’t just wear random shit.
We’re here as a family, and we’re legit. We know these people that wear hi-tops, that doesn’t make you retro. But it doesn’t hurt to ask if you need help, we’re always willing to help people find their style.
Precious: You’ve got to make sure that your character matches your personality, what kind of person you are.
Girls wearing snapbacks seems to split fashion lovers everywhere and it’s not something I’ve seen a lot of on Toronto compared to at home in London. What’s your opinion on the look?
Fine$t: If they’re wearing vintage snapbacks, or one from a high fashion brands like Givenchy or Versace, I’ll allow that. But if you’re talking about lids, or something that you can find in a dollar store, then I don’t like that, what’s the point? I like girls when they wear high fashion hats, it suits them better than some cheap lid.
Precious: Nowadays, girls wearing snapbacks has definitely become a trend. You don’t see it a lot around here in the high fashion areas like Queen Street, but in other areas of Toronto there are loads of girls doing it. What’s annoying is they aren’t wearing it for themselves, they’re wearing it because they see someone else wearing it and think they look good, they want to look cool, like they’re trying too hard to be be hip-hop.
Do you think it’s the same for girls in hi tops?
Precious: No definitely not, as a female, you have to be really cool to rock a hi top, it’s bold, it’s hard to make it feminine, I think if you’re doing it well, well done.
What can we expect from The Tribe in the future?
Kenny B Smooth: We are trying to organise a 90s party. I feel like promoters here in Toronto in general can’t play the right music and they can’t play the right vibe. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I think we can throw off a better party than anyone else, I’m really confident about it.