Streetwear Stories: The History Of Supreme – Early Days

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As far as street wear brands go, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Supreme. The brand has an insanely dedicated following with both tattoo lovers and people at large, with most of their clothing and accessories selling out within minutes of release.

But how did a humble skate shop in New York go from putting together a couple of t-shirts for fun to becoming one of the most exciting labels in the fashion world? In this series of posts, we’ll take a closer look at the history of Supreme.

Where It All Started

Supreme’s owner and founder James Jebbia grew up in Crawley, West Sussex. While living in England, he’d spend the money he earned working at a Duracell factory on trips to London to buy clothes. What he didn’t know back then was that these trips to the capital, and the cooler, edgier clothes shops he visited, would lay the foundations for the inspiration behind what would one day become Supreme.

By 19, Jebbia had moved to SoHo, New York, where he worked a couple of jobs before opening a store of his own; Union. It sold British goods and streetwear. And in this shop, he sold clothing designed by Shaun Stüssy. Stüssy’s clothing was a big factor in Union’s success and eventually Jebbia and Stüssy went on to run a shop together until Stüssy’s retirement.

At this point, James Jebbia had to go it alone, so he opened a store on Lafayette Street: Supreme.

Supreme In Its Earliest Form

Supreme started life as a skate shop. But as well as selling skateboards and clothing, Jebbia created a vibe within this shop; cultivated through a combination of music and eye-catching videos.

He brought in staff which were primarily skaters themselves. Cool individuals, whose presence made Supreme less of a store and more of a place that people would just go to chill. Often frequented by local skaters, artists and models, this kick-started the community and culture surrounding the brand that has continually snowballed ever since.

How Supreme Started Making Clothes

As well as selling popular skate brands of the day such as Zoo York, Plan B and Vans, Jebbia also began to create clothing of his own.

The first ever Supreme drop featured three t-shirt designs. One with a graphic of a skater on, another with a graphic from the movie Taxi Driver (which was a film frequently played in Supreme store during the early days) and finally, and arguably most importantly, the first ever box logo. A plain white t-shirt featuring a red rectangle with the word supreme inside in a white font.

Origins Of The Box Logo

Since that drop, Supreme garments with the iconic box logo on have become the most sought after of all. But where did this logo come from?

You might be surprised to find out – or not, if you know your stuff about art – that the box logo was actually inspired by a conceptual artist called Barbara Kruger. Supreme used the same typeface and even the same colours as Kruger often used in her artworks.

Since then however, the box logo has taken countless forms. It’s been reimagined in hundreds of colours and has even featured in collaborations with Louis Vuitton and the New York Yankees, to name a couple.

But how did Supreme go from being a skate shop making a couple of tshirts to a world-renowned streetwear giant? We’ll look at what they did next in part 2 of this series. Keep an eye out for it.

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