A brand that has continued to captivate American and international subcultures with its rebellious sentiment and youthful guise, California-hailing Stussy represents the epitome of ideological casualwear. Combining the details of surf, skate and streetwear to curate a inadvertently revolutionary aesthetic that open-mindedly reflects the continual shifts in advancing popular culture, Stussy’s laid-back persona, street-savvy persuasion and expressive nature are traits that have continued to inspire even after an impressive 40 years on the scene.
A low-profile surfer born and raised in Southern California, headstrong Shawn Stussy never intended for his graffiti-clad signature to become a worldwide phenomenon. Originally inspired by his uncle’s creative appendage, abstract-artist Jan Frederick Stussy, and something he began to etch into his hand-made surfboards, the infamous Stussy signature was inadvertently born during the early ‘80s from the surfer’s own garage. Backed by custom graphics inspired by the booming reggae, new-wave rap and post-punk music scene, Shawn’s initial M.O was one that focused on offering a ‘complete antithesis to the loud and brash traditional surf wear available at the time’. Managing to mix ‘Cali lifestyle’ vibes with antagonistic aesthetics, the mid-to-late ‘80s was the time in which Stussy paired with certified Public Accountant Frank Sinatra Jr. to take the once surf-scene exclusive brand to a whole new level. Accurately described as ‘prep meets punk meets b-boy’, Stussy began to grow into its own, pairing unique hand-lettered stylings with odes to pop-culture tropes and capturing the attention of like-minded urbanists, surfers and skaters from all over the world.
Aesthetically inspired during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s by the likes of workwear-turned-streetwear giant Carhartt and Style #10061 ‘Timbs’ pioneer Timberland’s ‘New York hip-hop look’, Stussy’s ‘epitome of American culture’ vibe soon cast its own wide and all-encompassing net across the growing streetwear scene. Although still loyal to its humble Laguna Beach, West Coast surf-scene roots, Stussy’s evolving persona soon sought influence from the hip-hop meanders of artists and founding influencers such as skater-come-DJ Alex ‘Baby’ Turnbull and ‘DJ Jules’ Gayton, whilst their trans-Atlantic pursuits fuelled the official birth of the brand’s infamous ‘International Stussy Tribe’ mantra and network of ‘taste-makers, skate rats and musical vanguards’. Spreading the brand’s message organically across its chapters in New York, London, Berlin, Tokyo and Los Angeles, Stussy offered like-minded urbanites, fashionistas and hip-hop mentors a chance to become part of something bigger, unrestrained and internationally acclaimed. Shawn’s OG signature script soon found itself blazened on tees, baseball caps and sweaters across the globe, with similar graffiti-minded sampling-images and remixed visuals, such as the brand’s iconic 8-ball billiard logo, double-up dice logo, interlocking ‘SS’ decal and five-pointed crown, now representative of gritty street-led trends and it’s own self-sustained counter-culture community.
Led by a ‘support not sponsor’ ethos, Stussy’s association with the skate scene is one that continues to run in parallel to its streetwear legacy. With a foundation implemented by renowned photographer and Skate Team manager Robbie Jeffers in December 1999, Stussy’s original skate collective showcased the likes of Chocolate and DVS’s Richard Mulder, fellow Long-Beach resident Danny Montoya, the late Keith Hufnagel and ‘no gimmick’ Chad Timtim. Closing its official ‘supportership’ doors in and around ‘05, Stussy’s skate-centric pathway to success didn’t end there though. Continued collaborations with the likes of Carhartt WIP, Converse, Supreme, Vans and Dutch designer Piet Parra Janssen’s by Parra keeps free-spirited Stussy in-check with its skate-community association, whilst their come-back ‘TRIBE’ edit and their ‘How Original’ drop, shot by Stussy-favourite Jared Sherbet in 2017 and 2020, showcased the likes of Fucking Awesome’s Kevin Terpening, Frog Skateboards’ Jesse Alba and the legendary Lance Mountain.
Maintaining Shawn Stussy’s artistic inclination toward ‘80s postmodern art and the brand’s undoubted admiration for expressive counterculture, Stussy continues to gain momentum even after celebrating its 40th anniversary during 2020. Continuing to answer its ‘80s-era ‘beach meets street meets clubwear’ vibe, Stussy remains a pillar in the birth of contemporary streetwear, whilst their unshackled and unstoppable sense of creative character still continues to challenge social and culture norms even to this day.
Shop all Stussy at Flatspot.