Cult brand: Stussy
By Ross Wilson, 25 April 2016
Stussy makes a strong case for being the godfather of streetwear. Without Stussy there would be no Supreme, no HUF, no OBEY, no Diamond Supply Co. Stussy not only started the streetwear movement, but continues to stay on top of the game over 30 years later. So, how did it all happen? As Stussy’s own Marley-cribbed slogan quotes, ‘In this great future, you can’t forget your past…’
Way back in 1980, an Orange County surfboard-shaper named Shawn Stussy started to scrawl his surname on T-shirts which he then went on to flog out of the boot of his car at various beaches. Stussy was like the brand equivalent of a mixtape – a mashup featuring Shawn’s love of skate/surf culture combined with his passion for reggae, punk and hip-hop, and sprinkled with his appreciation for high-fashion luxury brands.
Through their legendary black-and-white ads in Thrasher magazine and early adopters like the Beastie Boys, Stussy soon picked up a strong cult following and quickly outgrew its Southern Californian roots. Hip-hop culture was exploding and New York was its home, so it seemed the perfect location for Stussy’s first ‘Chapter' store. Future Supreme founder James Jebbia was the man in charge and this tiny store was the key to launching Stussy to the global fashion world.
Through remixing their Californian surf/skate origins with a more gritty East Coast street style, a whole new clothing genre was born – streetwear. Staple goods like hoodies, baseball caps and varsity jackets were elevated to highly sought-after fashion pieces with the infamous ‘Big S’ cap selling out every time it hit the shelves. By the mid-90s, Stussy had become a worldwide phenomenon with the ‘International Stussy Tribe’ spreading the word from London to Tokyo, Paris to Milan, through style leaders such as Goldie, Hiroshi Fujiwara and Mick Jones.
Shawn Stussy stepped down in 1996, handing the reins to his long-time business partner. The brand continued to thrive over the subsequent two decades, drifting in and out of fashion, but never losing its cult-label cachet. Today, celebrity fans include Zayn Malik, Drake, Robert Pattinson and A$AP Rocky, who has designed his own capsule collection for the brand. With its mix of fresh designs and reissue classics, Stussy looks to be ‘Livin’ Large’ for a long time to come.