I never owned an article of Supreme clothing, mainly because I’m big-boned (at least that’s what my mama says), but that changed when I was lucky enough to cop the Air Force 1 High collab from their online store. I also own the SEE YOU IN HELL ashtray, the Rizzoli book, and a couple stickers. With the soul of New York slowly becoming a distant memory, Supreme is one of the last vessels still housing the Rotten Apple's essence. The brand harkens back to an era when Madonna, Basquiat, and Big Daddy Kane all coexisted under the same roof.
This is what Supreme is to me—a brand that embodies everything New York has to offer.
I grew up in Northern Jersey, 15-20 minutes away from the George Washington Bridge, in the city of Paterson. I still live in Jersey, too, mainly because the mystique of NYC isn't a big deal to me. I've been able to come and go whenever I feel like it. I'm also old enough to remember how things were.
The city is safer, but its culture and attitude are slowly disappearing. Things change over time, and you have to take the good with the bad. Yeah, there are still pockets in each of the five boroughs that still have the "Old New York" feel. You might could still cop some chocolate in BK or some Haze Uptown. You might could still catch me splittin' a Dutch in front of a bodega in Washington Heights after eating some mangu y salami from La Casa Del Mofongo. Then we can go to an art gallery, or haggle with the Arabs on Broadway to cop some fresh fits, or take a walk through Central Park.
That's what's great about NYC: It's a melting pot of people, places, and things that are able live together in chaotic harmony. This is what Supreme is to me—a brand that embodies everything New York has to offer. It reminds me why my friends and I would cut class to cop beef and broccoli bags of weed in the city. Supreme reminds me of summer in New York. It reminds of Prodigy's "Can't Complain."
Supreme is something that wasn't forced; it just grew and evolved organically. Dudes who were real skaters worked in the store, and their friends would just go there to hang out. In an interview KAWS did with Supreme's founder, James Jebbia, in the Rizzoli book, Jebbia laid out his strategy when it came to the store's atmosphere:
"I made a conscious decision right then to be behind-the-scenes. I like that it was real, it is what it is, and I just wanted it to be a true skate shop. So I thought, let these guys handle this, I'm going to handle my business, which is going to be more about making sure we've got good stuff to sell."
Supreme is still cool and will be for the foreseeable future. It's a brand that hasn't lost its soul yet. Don’t let the hypebeasts turn you off. The brand is synonymous with NYC youth culture. The flagship store on Lafayette Street in downtown Manhattan remains a beacon for youth in rebellion; kids cut class to cop shit on Thursday mornings, whether to keep it or resell it. With a minimalist approach to both its brick and mortar and online shops, founder James Jebbia has managed to create a mystique around Supreme's creations and also himself. Even with Supreme's expansion into other parts of the world, and plans to make the brand even more accessible, Supreme will still be Supreme. That box logo is as timeless as the Nike swoosh. It’s the Nike of streetwear.
Supreme's established its realness by simply doing them and surviving for 20 years. And for the most part, their products are still dope as hell. Subtle things like the ‘94 on the back of the Uptowns are just the tip of the iceberg. They treat bigger brands like public property. High-fashion and legit art gets treated with the same amount of disrespect as subway ads—it's free for them to scrawl their shit on and piss all over it.
You have to respect the jux, and that goes for all parties involved, including Supreme. Counter-culture hijacking popular culture is the ultimate middle finger, and no underground brand does that better than them. I will concede that more herbs and posers are getting their hands on coveted Supreme garments and products; there's really nothing you can do about that. But the fact is, even corny white guys and girls wearing Supreme's clothing can't dilute the overall strength of the brand. That's on some Ralph-level shit.
Supreme's authenticity doesn't come from who rocks it; it comes from their overall brand appeal. It will always be cooler than the people who wear it. There's no other New York City brand doing it that sits in a super high-fashion shop like Dover Street Market—imagine that jux of seeing their "Fuck 'Em" tees next to Prada. Putting on that box logo feels every bit as New York as putting on Yankee pinstripes.
That box logo is as timeless as the Nike swoosh. It’s the Nike of streetwear.
Supreme is a brand that speaks for itself, and that's the number one reason I fuck with it. They've collaborated with different artists from different genres—many of which I've never heard of—but it makes them all the more real by association. Who else can say they fuck with everyone from Lady Gaga to Raekwon, Lou Reed to Kate Moss, Kermit the Frog to Neil Young?
That leather is clearly a nod to the soft, buttery Avirex jackets from back in the day. I can see a Puerto Rican uncle putting an ox to someone's grill over a game of dominoes while wearing that, and that's the Nueva York I remember. On some true hypebeast shit, I already have my eyes on the Supreme Mophie and the mini butterfly knife. Don't get gunked up. Respect the jux.
Angel Diaz is a staff writer for Complex Media. Follow him @ADiaz456.