It’s a Thursday afternoon and East 25th Street, between Charles Street and Maryland Avenue, is hopping with people talking about where to grab a bite. Songs from Future’s new “I Never Liked You” album blares from car speakers driving down the busy street. Shoppers head in and out of stores on this retail corridor that has become a nucleus of locally owned clothing boutiques.

This long strip of 25th Street that cuts through the Old Goucher neighborhood now houses some of the best-known local brands in the city, including L.R.L, Huey Brand and Ouftur Couture. With some of these brands owned by established event promoters, 25th Street has enough cachet to drive business from throughout the city. It’s also a hub for several Black-owned restaurants like Taste This, St. Mary’s Restaurant & Bar and Terra Café.

In recent years, it’s grown into a must-stop shopping destination for everyone in Baltimore with any sort of fashion sense. It’s not unusual to find long lines outside the stores on the weekends, with people eager to snatch up the latest tees or sweatsuits.

“Whenever I post customers on Instagram, I want them to show their bags from every other store on 25th Street, too, so everybody knows you shopped with the block today and you supported a whole city,” said Cee, owner of L.R.L. Clothing Store. “We did something for Baltimore.”

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Larry Luv, 33, founder of Huey Brand, agreed: “I don’t think there has ever been a time since I’ve been on this earth that I’ve seen Baltimore so united.”

Here are some of the stores to check out.

Larry Luv, owner of Huey Brand. May 10th 2022 Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner (Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner)

Huey Brand, 18 W. 25th St.

Short for Helping Us Enjoy Youth, Huey Brand has been a staple in Baltimore’s youth culture since Luv created it in 2012. He moved to 25th Street in 2017, from a suite on North Avenue, as the brand’s popularity grew and people started snatching up tee shirts stamped with Huey’s minimalistic brand logo.

He talked about his inspiration on a recent day, sitting on the steps outside his shop and sporting crisp white Air Force 1s and a black Huey Brand crewneck sweatshirt featuring a charcoal grey set of crossbones.

Luv said he became a designer and started his first brand, HOJAon, at the age of 16, because he likes bringing joy to others.

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“I was always into clothes and the emotion it gave to you, like when you got your first pair of Jordans as a child. I wanted to be responsible for that feeling, which is why I got into fashion,” he said. “That feeling is more important than becoming a trendsetter and the money that comes with selling clothes.”

He landed on 25th street because he was trying to stay in the area, he explained.

“Before me, the only other clothing brand that was here was L.R.L and that belongs to Cee. A lot of people like to credit me and him for 25th Street being what it is now,” Luv said. “We kind of changed the dynamic of that with all the foot traffic and lines and stuff extending outside the store.”

Cee of L.R.L details the origins of his store and the meaning behind the brand’s acronym. Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner (Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner)

L.R.L Clothing Store, 36 E. 25th St.

Cee, 31, who owns L.R.L, is the unofficial “mayor of 25th Street,” a natural fit considering his warm demeanor. Cee, who uses one name, was originally attracted to the corridor because one of his favorite restaurants was there. He welcomes a reporter into his store, which is sorted by a vast array of track pants, shorts and hoodies. The back wall is sheathed with turf and a huge faux L.R.L receipt.

“I really wanted to get here because of Taste This, and the foot traffic that it would bring to my store,” Cee said. “It’s a popular food spot where I eat, and I know a lot of people eat there.”

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Already a citywide name from the party scene, the L.R.L circle decided to get into fashion in 2010 due to their entrepreneurial mindsets. Openly admitting the brand’s first pieces weren’t the best quality of work, Cee and L.R.L went through trial and error until they found the brand’s groove and garnered enough support for a storefront.

L.R.L opened December 16, 2016, and at first, Cee balanced the duties of a running the store, hosting events and working a daily job as a security guard. Three years later, the store was successful enough that he was able to devote to it full-time.

L.R.L was originally meant to symbolize a group of close friends who always promised to love, respect and stay loyal to one another. The meaning behind the brand’s name isn’t just what’s highlighted on the chest of Cee’s cobalt blue varsity jacket, but an actual mantra that he dedicates to his 25th Street neighbors. Endearingly, he calls it the “25th Street Gang,” to signal their united goal to change the perception of Baltimore.

“We accomplished our goal to change the narrative of Baltimore not being unified and the thought process of everybody having to be for themselves,” he said. “We showed that we’re stronger together and we stand for something.”

Portrait of Aja Trice, owner of Strut. May 5th 2022 Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner (Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner)

Strut, 32 E. 25th St.

Aja Trice, the owner of Strut, always hoped to join the 25th Street Gang too, exhilarated with the thought of being the first female-based clothing brand on the strip. “I always feel like I got to keep up with the guys, so I feel like the pressure on me is heightened,” she said.

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Despite that pressure, Aja isn’t intimidated.

After opening her store in July of 2021, Trice tried to ensure her brand’s growth would continue by only delivering products that she would envision herself wearing. Strut naturally mixes formal and casual wear for women with reoccurring colors of neon green, hot pink and black. She boasts about reaping the benefits of thoughtful men shopping for their girlfriends after splurging in one of the male clothing stores.

“We bounce off each other and send each other customers,” Trice said. “We kind of all knew each other before from the party scene so the unity comes naturally.”

Michael Catlett posted up at SKRUED on 25th St. May 10th 2022 Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner (Photo by Joshua Slowe for The Baltimore Banner)

SKRUED, 24 E. 25th St.

One of the owners on this tight-knit corridor could have easily been seen as an outsider. Mike Catlett, 38, the founder of SKRUED, was born in Baltimore but raised in Prince George’s County, unlike the other brand owners. But he was warmly welcomed.

“I wanted to be a part of 25th Street cuz of the direction and energy it had going for Baltimore, plus the success of the other brands inspired me,” he said. “And they never made me feel like the new guy or the outcast when I got here. Everybody was super welcoming.”

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Catlett recognizes that if he offers a variety of styles he can appeal to more customers. The inside of his store is draped with multicolored nylon shorts and two-toned crewneck sweatshirts, the bright arrangement of clothes reminiscent of a neighborhood playground. Acknowledging how often the nearby Strut has women walking in and out of the store, he used that as motivation to dive into women’s and children’s styles to bring an even wider audience to the area.

No Excusez, 106 W. 25th St.

The newest clothing store to plant their flag on 25th Street is from popular Baltimore rapper YG Teck’s inescapable No Excusez brand. The No Excusez tagline, representing Teck’s no-nonsense approach to life, was the title of his first mixtape and has since grown into a citywide, must-own fashion brand.

Whether it’s a full sweatsuit or just track pants, people around the city can be spotted wearing No Excusez any day of the week.

Ouftur Couture, 30 E. 25th St.

Ouftur Couture, founded by Dovell, is another clothing brand spearheading the 25th Street movement. Recognized for the high-quality material along with their uniquely designed hoodies and tees, Ouftur has propelled itself into a household name in Baltimore along with the brand’s neighbors, and often has lines outside the door of people waiting to shop.

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