You ever look at a T-shirt and think, “Why didn’t I make that myself?” Now is the time you should actually try. In hip neighborhoods in L.A. and N.Y.C., on the backs of your favorite style icons, and throughout your never-ending Instagram timeline, you’ll find a growing presence of T-shirts, hoodies, denim, and headwear covered in rough illustrations drawn directly onto them, customized by creatives flexing their personal taste and talent. Personalized garments have been embraced by other fashion front-runners like Wiz Khalifa, Skepta, Justin Bieber, Travis Scott, and members of the ASAP Mob.
The DIY nature of this trend appeals to the rebellious, DGAF attitudes of those buying into the look. Even though it’s popular now, it’s not exactly new. While Odd Future frontman Tyler, the Creator—an early adopter—sketched onto the suede Vans lows in the same style as his R-rated illustrations for mixtape covers, Golf Wang graphics, and his own tattoos, Pharrell Williams personalized his own boots back in BBC days. Tracing back further, its roots can be found in the U.S. and U.K.’s punk scene of the ‘70s. Mohawk donning teens could be seen guzzling beers and flicking cigarette ashes in white T-shirts and motorcycle jackets adorned with studs, aggressive slogans, and raw illustrations.
So, why is it popular now? The recent sartorial influence of yesterday’s metal and punk looks can be accredited partially to Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo and his resurrected rock tees making a big splash with fashion’s “it” list. It comes as no surprise that some style heavy hitters, like Lorenzo’s friend and collaborator Kanye West, have fully adopted wearing it and creating it, as well. Kanye recently caught a little shade for selling a denim jacket featuring all-over handwriting possibly inspired by a similar style worn by ‘90s street dweller Tweaky Dave.
But more than that, today, fashion enthusiasts strive for greater individuality in a space where insider knowledge has become readily available on every cool teen’s social media account. You can use a customized hoodie to send a personal message, like ASAP Nast did when he addressed his ongoing beef with streetwear mega-brand Supreme; earlier this month, he posted a photo of himself in a grey hoodie with the phrase “F*ck Supreme” drawn in a muti-color, all-over pattern.
It’s also good, quick money for some. Lukka Sabbat affiliate and cult internet leader Austin Butts (AKA ASSPIZZA) has been profiting off of his hand-customized pieces through strategic product placements with fellow internet influencers like Ian Connor and Theophilus London, selling his popularized alien face signature on anything that people could wear on their body; his pieces can be found on ebay today for over $300.
Though Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, and Tyler, the Creator have been known to decorate their garments with their own hands, Kanye West and ASAP Rocky have recently enlisted outside talents to customize their one-of-a-kind pieces. Australian artist Pauly Bonomelli, AKA @himumimdead on Instagram, has outfitted both Kanye and Rocky in his hand-drawn designs. With a quick glance over his profile, you can see how Bonomelli’s particular style of mixing silkscreening alongside (and often layered directly on top of) hand-drawn illustrations and phrases with hits of spray paint has become a favorite for the ASAP Mob.
With fashion’s tastemakers gunning hard for this trend, it won’t be long before it makes its way onto the back, heads, and thighs of the masses. And unlike chasing expensive, trendy brands like Vetements, this look has a lower cost, as it is almost free. You only need to have the skills to put together a piece that doesn’t look like complete garbage (or the confidence to rock it, if it does). For those opting for that unprofessional, professional touch from Warren Lotas’ Bill or Himumumimdead, it would serve you well to quickly make your way to their contact page, since each piece is done by hand, and their prices have definitely beefed up already. Though, if your money is looking a tad funny, it may be worth it to roll the dice, and go the economy route. Sharpies are going for a cool $1.69 right now.