Given the pandemonium around the latest Supreme season’s offerings, it seems like a good time to look at some lesser-discussed pieces on the brand. The trouble with the internet is that most of the folks who were first seem to have vanished, taken down their sites or simply left behind by their early 2000s lack of search engine savvy. Sadly, it seems that Nikolai’s Rift Trooper site (one of the key inspirations for this blog) has gone after he stopped updating at the close of 2009, but thanks to the wonders of web.archive.org, you can read his very short interview with James Jebbia from July 2002 back when btinternet.com hosted sites were a thing, and conducted between the own-brand Downlow shoe and the original SB project. Here’s the preserved version of the page. The other links on the page are down, but searchable too — shouts to Simon and his Concept Shop site, with its early history of the Supreme backpack. The article it references is a good one too — talented designer Kevin Lyons’ brief piece on the legalities and morals of borrowing imagery in streetwear, Cease and Desist: Issues of Cultural Reappropriation in Urban Street Design, featuring Russ from SSUR, Joseph from Union, James from Supreme (and Union) and Eric Haze’s in discussion on the topic. Taken from the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design’s January 1996 issue, it’s actually more illuminating than most lengthier examinations of the same subject from recent years. Seeing as Lyons had worked for SSUR on some classic designs for Supreme, he certainly had some insider knowledge. It was reproduced in AIGA‘s now out of print Design Culture compilation from 1997.
Every now and again, I become preoccupied with a piece of branded hip-hop apparel. For the most part, rap’s current aesthetic is pretty piss-poor — it’s either plain tees, borderline UFC apparel audaciousness or high-end worn badly.
I haven’t lusted after a label’s merchandising since Fondle ‘Em’s masturbating alien tee or Fat Beats lanyards. I wanted a Jeezy Snowman tee for a minute, but those heavily faked BBC tees and polos and N*E*R*D trucker hats were adopted by imbeciles before I could take an interest. The glow-in-the-dark Liquid Blue Skull Pile tee that Juicy J wore in the ‘Stay Fly’ promo wasn’t necessarily a label item, but, bar Champion’s big ‘C’ on Noreaga, it represents the last time I lost my mind over a rapper’s wears.
This image is taken from www.oldschoolheadwear.blogspot.com
My two benchmarks would be Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate apparel from the early ’90s. Occasionally spotted on these shores before ‘Home Invasion’ dropped and ruined everything, Rhyme Syndicate offered a photocopied catalogue, but it was the stark white lettering on a tee or black snapback hat that was reputedly Starter-made loooooong before everyone hopped on the throwback bandwagon recent years. It just go the job done and represented the best of the group’s aesthetic — my good friend Mr. Charlie Sofarok showed me an unreleased Vans Syndicate snapback cap with black SYNDICATE on white in the same stark font that seems like an opportunity wasted.
If you’ve ever been to Tokyo and bumbled into one of the many hip-hop clothing stores only to be bemused by the mixture of licensed labels, Old Navy clothes, Champion and lurid tribute tees, you might have spotted Rhyme $yndicate out there (“Since 1990”). The licensed Japanese wing offers those staple designs with a bonus dollar sign. It’s not particularly good either — but you can buy some of the worst button-down shirts I’ve ever seen, or a Donald D tee if you’re in the market for one.
We’re in the midst of a Carhartt boomtime, but the Tommy Boy Carhartt jackets with the HAZE logo and Shawn Stussy logos were killer. There was the retail variation (which seemed to be a more commonly seen in an Active Jacket form), while the “Staff” Detroit Jacket was almost mystical in its appearance around 1991. If anyone has the 2006 Stussy/Haze/Muro/Carhartt Savage variation, I still need it in my life…
Young Money Cash Money Billionaires (YMCMB) have my new favourite piece of rap apparel. A crewneck sweatshirt with the letters placed across the chest in a no-frills style. One might assume that Baby and Weezy’s conglomerate would lead to something that’s unnecessarily diamonique laden, but this is clean. Like that SYNDICATE clothing or the lettering on those Kanye Good Friday leaks, it’s been seen in hooded form on DJ Khaled (who really seems to like his, judging on repeated wears) and new Young Money man T-Pain.
Baby rocked the black variation and Lil’ Wayne wore the grey version during a recent interview with Sway prior to the delayed release of the ‘6 Foot 7 Foot’ video. Drake wore a grey sweat which seemed to have green letters while throwing up some unconvincing gang signs alongside Wayne as he performed ‘Green and Yellow’ at a Super Bowl party, and a nervous looking Lil’ Twist had a brown take. Both Drake and Twist’s had a Champion Reverse Weave bulk to their fit. Predictably, eBay is awash with fakes, but you can actually buy the “real deal” from here for $49.99.
Now, where can I get a Bronald Oil & Gas, LLC shirt or headed notepad? Did Willie D ever have golf umbrellas or mugs printed for his iPod withholding eBay store?