After a long day, I came home, got into bed and typed the letters ‘PAQ’ into YouTube for comfort. This might seem like an odd choice, as the series is a contemporary menswear street style show, not a classic feel-good comedy like ‘Ugly Betty’ or ‘Friends’.
But with nearly 200,000 subscribers, I’m far from alone in feeling drawn to this series that features ‘thrift challenges’ and ‘sneaker customisation’. People usually watch fashion videos for inspiration, but what keeps me and hundreds of thousands of others coming back is watching the blossoming friendships between the presenters - and between them and their audience.
Their camaraderie and conversation doesn’t seem forced - even if there is a small machine behind it making it work - and because of this they haven’t shied away from demystifying topics other young men might find it taboo to discuss.
PAQ is all about acceptance. Femininity and masculinity are discussed in a genuinely celebratory episode about dressing in ‘women’s clothes’ and mental health has been spoken about sporadically. Streetwear channels on YouTube often resonate for the few and not the many, but PAQ has given voice to a large and varied community.
Referenced around the internet as “Top Gear for clothes” but without any macho posturing, PAQ (which can be said as an acronym or phonetically and is intended to bring to mind a ‘pack’ or crew), came together at the right time. Director Kaio Grizzelle explained to HuffPost UK: “The four boys were all kicking around the London streetwear scene and already knew each other, some better than others. They told us that the internet needed content that made streetwear and fashion more accessible, since it’s such a huge online community, but there are still such formal and ‘exclusive’ connotations around fashion. Enter PAQ.”
The four presenters each have a distinct take on streetwear style. When asked to describe each other’s looks, model Elias Riadi was described as “Astroboy. That’s him in a nutshell really”, because he dresses in highlighter colours and futuristic designs. The only northerner in a group of Londoners, model Danny Lomas, is warmly described as “a kind-hearted meme” by artist and aspiring poet laureate, Shaquille ‘Shaq’ Keith.
Keith himself is described as being a cross-between “artsy and emotional” and “your favourite dad’s favourite dad”. Last but certainly not least, Dexter Black’s style echoes his surname, as he’s described as “the master of black. No two ways about it” by the rest of the boys.
Riadi is the most flamboyant, with his ever present sunglasses, a nod to the noughties. Lomas’ seventies-inspired look is the most clean cut of the gang, Keith is a 90s dream and Black is all about the detail.
PAQ’s potential speaks in volumes - or views should I say - with advertisers and sponsorships coming from Converse, Google, Puma and Adidas. The show is the first from Kyra - a digital channel that hosts their programmes across YouTube.
What’s even harder to pin down than their personal styles, is each presenter’s favourite episode to date. Riadi says the episode about their experience of making an advert for Converse was a “huge highlight” as it was “our first collaboration with a powerhouse brand, private jets, Ferraris… and we even worked with the ‘Star Wars’ stunt man. I woke up the next day like damn... was that a dream?”
Keith on the other hand said: “It’s gotta be Custom Kicks. I love any challenge that gives me the opportunity to be hands on and artistic. Creating something that exists beyond the canvas is incredible because I like to challenge myself artistically in new mediums”.
Black chimed in a vote for an episode in which he got to try something new: “For me, the episode about making the Adidas lookbook was just mad. It was actually a life changing experience - I got to challenge myself to do something I’d never done before; doing a burnout on a super bike... something actually dangerous. No one knew If I was gonna pull that burnout off, even on the day. I banged it out and was just so gassed”.
But, Lomas didn’t want to choose, “All of them. I refuse to pick a favourite, sorry.”
PAQs charm comes down to the authentic conversations they are having as young progressive men, which is more welcoming than having a set of style rules imposed by an experienced style editor. In the words of Grizzelle: “There’s definitely something iconic when people from our culture hit those levels”.