Stüssy is an American clothing brand that was founded in 1984 by Shawn Stüssy and business partner Frank Sinatra, Jr. (not related to the singer). It is considered to be the Godfather of streetwear brands, credited for pioneering an industry that didn’t exist at the time.
Stüssy clothing also was an immensely popular 80s fashion brand. When it came to their clothes, they were everywhere, and you couldn’t go anywhere without someone wearing something with the brand’s iconic logo on it.
The Stüssy clothing brand was not just a 80s fashion trend that we look back on fondly, but also a pioneer of much of what we see in fashion today.
The History of Stüssy Clothing
Shawn Stüssy didn’t have the intention of creating a clothing brand initially. He was a popular surfboard shaper, having shaped his first board when he was 13. He lived near Laguna Beach in Orange County and was part of the surf culture in the 70s.
By 1979, Stüssy started his first surfboard business and became known for using unique shapes and graphics on the boards, with several pro surfers being loyal to his boards. To make his boards more distinguishable, he would sign his name using a broad-shaped marker, inspired by the signature of his uncle, who was an abstract artist.
However this surfboard endeavor was not financially rewarding, and to boost sales for his surfboards, he produced T-shirts which he screen-printed himself with his Stüssy signature. Soon, the shirts became more popular than his boards, and he started producing clothing with the Stüssy signature print, as well as shorts and caps, which he sold out of his car in 1982.
In 1984, Stüssy and Frank Sinatra, Jr. a Certified Public Accountant, teamed up to formally establish Stüssy, the clothing brand. With Stüssy’s authority as a surfboard shaper and being part of the original 70s surf culture in California, the brand started gaining momentum, and pretty soon, became one of the most sought-after clothing brands in the US.
Stüssy In The 80s
During the latter part of the 80s, the brand was earning enough to allow Shawn Stüssy to travel to different parts of the world. This included New York, London, and Tokyo, where he would meet like-minded creatives like himself.
Stüssy was a fan of music and listened to reggae, punk, and new wave. He was a diehard fan of The Clash, the Beastie Boys, and Run-DMC, among many others. He also was particularly invested in hip-hop music and became friends with rappers and DJs.
Bringing back his experiences and influences from these travels, Stüssy created clothing that represented these different subcultures, and the result was a streetwear brand that resonated with rappers, surfers, skateboarders, punks, and other counter-culture movements. The clothes were a different take on the loud and bold fashions of the 80s, which the youth loved and embraced as their own.
Stüssy was the first surf-inspired clothing brand that didn’t cater to beach-goers, but instead, catered to new subcultures that didn’t want to purchase clothes from mainstream retail stores. Their products were not mass-produced, and were made in limited numbers. For each product, they would only sell one or two pieces to a customer, making the shirts or caps exclusive and hard to come by.
Stüssy’s clothes weren’t for the regular surfer who donned a shirt to the beach, but they were clothes that people could wear during the day and take to the club at night.
Some of the popular patrons of Stüssy were James Lebon, who was a popular British filmmaker and music video producer; DJs Alex “Baby” Turnball and Jules Gayton, as well as famous Japanese DJ and fashion designer, Hiroshi Fujiwara. The founder of the streetwear brand, Supreme, James Jebbia, was also one of Stüssy’s most avid fans in the late 80s.
Is Stüssy Still Popular Today?
Though Stüssy clothing is nowhere near as it popular as it once was, its influence on the clothing industry is one that still remains today.
Stüssy isn’t just another streetwear brand, but it was the very first brand to make streetwear trendy. Shawn Stüssy was the very first to produce caps, bucket hats, varsity jackets, and jerseys as fashion, as opposed to being only worn by athletes or fans.
Some streetwear startups still follow Stüssy’s DIY approach to producing merchandise, and many of today’s big streetwear brands credit Stüssy as being the best streetwear brand of all time.
Stüssy is one of those 80s fashion trends that we will always remember, and one that we have to thank for inspiring clothing designers of today.