The History of the Stussy Brand
Few streetwear brands can lay claim to such a wide-ranging influence as the Stussy brand. Many of the styles and tropes of the streetwear culture — graphic-emblazoned basics like t-shirts and caps; riffs on recognisable logos; music and subculture references — can be traced back to Shawn Stussy’s surf shop. Founded in the early 1980s on Laguna Beach, California, Shawn Stussy was shaping surfboards and adorning them with unique graphics that attracted a dedicated fanbase. The distinctive Stüssy logo was achieved when Shawn Stussy began to scribble his surname with black marker pen on the handcrafted surf boards, and was influenced by the signature of his uncle, the artist Jan Stussy. To subsidise his income, Stussy began to use the logo in a range of t-shirts, shorts and caps which he sold out of his car on Laguna Beach.
As the apparel began gaining credibility of its own accord from California’s cool kids, the Stussy label was approached by Frank Sinatra Jr. (no relation!), a CPA who picked up on Shawn’s passion and authenticity, and in 1984 suggested they open their own store to sell the clothing exclusively. By 1990, the brand was making a $17million turnover. But despite this beachbound surf background, Shawn wasn’t content to stay there, and starting in 1991 began travelling the rest of the country and the world, meeting like-minded individuals with a view to expanding his vision. One of the brand’s early champions was James Jebbia, the co-founder of the now-legendary Union store in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood and future founder of Supreme. At that time, Stussy clothes were very hard to get a hold of, and were cultural signifiers of being ‘in the know’ about the hip-hop, skating and punk subcultures. Seizing on the opportunity, Jebbia partnered with Shawn Stussy to open the brand’s first flagship store near to Union. From this base on the cutting-edge of the fashion world, the brand’s reach and reputation spread globally, and to this day they remain one of the biggest streetwear brands around.
What is the International Stussy Tribe?
Shawn also met many others in his travels — streetwear pioneer and perennial influencer Hiroshi Fujiwara in Tokyo; Slam Jam founder Luca Benini in Italy; and owner of the now-defunct Hideout store in London, Michael Kopelman — and bestowed upon them the title of the International Stussy Tribe, which reflected the brand’s ‘locals-only’ initial approach while embracing the cultures and subcultures across the world that the Stussy brand was resonating with.
Who Owns Stussy?
Shawn Stussy resigned as president of the company in 1996, when Sinatra bought his share of the company holdings, and left the company to spend more time with his family and to himself. The Stussy brand is still owned by the Sinatra family, despite many lucrative offers from investors, and continues to manufacture a range of unique street-style clothing, staying true to the authenticity and vibes that built the Stussy label.
Discover our range of Stussy clothing and accessories at Aphrodite Clothing today.