Stüssy – A Much Too Short History Lesson
Words: Caiza Andresen
Founded in the 1980s, Stüssy has significantly changed the streetwear landscape. No, better said paved the way for it. Previously it didn’t exist, what arose at that time. Stüssy grew organically from youth culture and simultaneously changed the fashion business.
Shawn Stüssy only wanted one thing: to surf and shape boards. At the same time, he began to print t-shirts to give away with the boards he sold to friends and locals at Laguna Beach. Unwittingly, he landed in the fashion trade through surfing and skating – his passions.
Stüssy coined the terms streetwear / surfwear / clubwear / whatever in a time of pop-cultural upheaval: after the seventies gave us punk, the eighties surprised us with a musical monster by the name of rap. Punk meant that suddenly anyone could form a band. The aesthetic limitations and prerequisite of musical talent were forgotten. Creativity was the key to success, if not to success, then to self-realization. Rap tossed aside all social barriers and presented sampling to the world. Take something that you like and make something new out of it. That was the splitting of the atom for streetwear.
Stüssy is a canvas – a canvas for youth culture. And not by just observing from afar. Stüssy is always in the centre of the action, taking an active role. Fifties Americana. Dinosaur. Rasta symbols. B-boy aesthetic. What kind of mix is that? How does that sound on paper? Absolutely irrelevant. Because it is not found on paper but on a T-shirt. The canvas of youth.
And youth is worldwide. A worldwide Tribe. One Tribe. The international Stüssy Tribe. Tokyo Chapter. London Chapter. Berlin Chapter. New York Chapter. LA Chapter. Hiroshi Fujiwara, Michael Kopelman, James Jebbia… The most creative names of our culture took their first steps together, bearing the scribbled »S« on the breast.
It was the limited nature, the few selected shops that ignited the fire that turned Stüssy into a legend: the four-leaf clover, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the unofficial entry ticket to a world full of kindred spirits. One had to find a way to get one’s hands on Stüssy gear. And on that journey, one became part of something bigger. The Stüssy philosophy spread through the Tribe like wildfire. »It was an anti-fashion thing«, says James Lebon, one of the O.G. members of the Tribe.
Before Stüssy there was Comme des Garçons und Gucci – high class fashion. There was Carhartt WIP – workwear. And there was sportswear: Campion and Hanes. Stüssy took all of that and created something new – punk attitude. There are people who say that Stüssy virtually invented the printed T-shirt. That’s not quite right, but it was reinvented. And none of that was calculated. There was no PR agency behind it. It wasn’t designed on a drawing board. Stüssy was and still is organic. It grew naturally all over the world. Without Stüssy there would be no Supreme, no Bathing Ape. Without Stüssy, streetwear would not be what it is today.
If I was to go into collaborations, I would have to type five times as much. And honestly, the editors are already waiting for my article.
I remember my first Stüssy piece. It was a black shirt with a fly on it. I will never forget it, because it opened up a world and a narrative that still fascinates me to this day, and in which I have found fulfilment. It showed me that I didn’t have to fit in but simply seek out people like me. Because if they didn’t exist there would be no brand like Stüssy. When you think about it, the whole thing gives you a sense of hope.
Forget how shitty it is to be a teenager. You don’t have to fit in. You can be what you want to be. And with this logo scribbled on a board with a broken felt-tip, you’ll never be alone on your path.
I am getting a little emotional.
At the same time I can’t help but wonder if that strange »S« that every girl used to paint on her Eastpak backpack, really came from Stüssy? If so: Woah. Mind blown. Stüssy IS the Youth. Article finished.
Fast Forward to 2019: Stüssy stays true to its roots. And to the vibe the one felt at Laguna Beach in the 1980s – that feeling of being free and easy.
All hail the Tribe.
P.S. HHV, once you’ll allow me to write more than 4,000 words I’ll really get started.
Discover the Stüssy range at HHV: www.hhv.de/shop/en/stuessy
Visual content: Stüssy