Who would have ever thought that a tiny skate shop’s T-shirt would become one of the most coveted pieces of apparel on the planet? Twenty-six years after Downtown New York skaters were copping the first box logo T-shirts from Supreme’s Lafayette Street outpost, the design has aged to become the brand’s crème de la crème of product. So coveted, that all of Supreme’s box logo branded apparel sells out in milliseconds and has become a status symbol that rivals a Louis Vuitton Keepall bag.
So, it comes as no surprise that the lofty auction house Christie’s is now selling the first and only complete collection of Supreme box logo T-Shirts ever released at retail from 1994 to 2020—this private sale compliments Christie's Behind the Box: 1994-2020 auction, the house's first dedicated auction to Supreme that is open for bidding until Dec. 15. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in Supreme knows that a box logo T-shirt cllection of this size is quite the feat—especially when you’re someone who has been taking Ls on copping box logos for nearly a decade.
The collection is estimated to sell for $2 million and includes every box logo you can possibly think of. We’re talking every colorway of the bootleg LV box logos from 2000, the purple on white “Three-Six Mafia” box logos that were only seen on the rap group’s coveted photo T-shirt in 2012, and even mythological pieces like a collaboration with Wtaps from 1999. What’s even more surprising is that the owner of this collection is only 21-years-old. James Bogart, a Supreme collector from Canada, has amassed this never before seen collection of box logos in as little as six years and has just launched the most up to date archive of box logos online since Kopbox.
"I decided to display the collection because I wanted to do justice by it. It’s an impressive feat, and as soon as it was done I wanted to put it on a large stage like Christie’s to highlight its cultural significance, and importance," explains Bogart who says he financed the collection by just reselling and trading old Supreme pieces. "As soon as I had all the tees from the brand's earliest days, and completed the collection, I knew it was time to show it to the world. If I were to wait one or two more years, it would still garner the same response and I’d still be eager to make those inclusions. However, I always wanted to do right by the collection and holding onto the secrecy of its existence seemed to be selfish. I wanted to give it the exposure I know it deserves."
We spoke to Bogart about how he built his impressive box logo collection, what his favorite Supreme box logos are, which T-shirts in his collection have recently skyrocketed in value, and the story behind the 1:1 tie-dye box logo sample that he paid $55,000 for.
Check out the full interview below.
How did you start collecting Supreme?
When I was younger, the first two pieces that caught my attention were the “Hunter S. Thompson” varsity jacket and the red checkered North Face jacket from 2011. Those two pieces really caught my eye and I was doing everything I possibly could to get my hands on those. It snowballed into a complete obsession after that. Back then, it was really interesting because what really drove the market at that point was the rarity and obscurity of the pieces. So, that’s what drove the obsession, when no one else really knew what it was that you owned, but you did.
How did you get your first box logo?
The first box logo T-shirt I grabbed was the Damien Hirst box logo. I was super young at the time and I loved it. The "Life's a bitch, then you die" quote on the back, was pretty interesting and rebellious. I paid a couple $100 for that one and it was difficult to fathom that these tees would be getting this expensive at that time. Also, a lot of publications started covering the fact that there were these old box logos that were also worth so much money.
So, you saw an influx of old collectors come forth with their collections saying: “Look, I've got 40 of these shirts and I never knew they'd be worth this much.” So at that point, the market sort of flooded with a lot of the older and rare tees that had been sitting around these guys' closets since the ‘90s. As soon as I grabbed that tee, I started paying attention to all the other shirts that were getting listed and uploaded. That drove me to want to know everything about the box logo tee because I couldn't believe it.
What year did you cop the Damien Hirst Tee?
Probably at the very end of 2014 or at the very beginning of 2015.
So you're saying at that time, the market was kind of oversaturated with box logo T-shirts?
No, that's pretty much when the coverage had begun and the obsession had really kicked off. In 2014, you were still able to find shirts for Kopbox pricing, a couple of $100 per tee. The ones worth thousands upon thousands today, were going for $200-$300 back then. Like the “Tokion” and “Grid” box logo tee, which are still some of the rarest and most expensive.
It's interesting to see how box logos like the Tokion have become more popular. I feel like back then, no one really cared about it.
Well, there's a really interesting story with that T-shirt. I've had a lot of Tokion box logos in the past, maybe four or five at this point, but one that I did get was from my friend in London. He got it alongside a navy Pollack box logo, a year after they had released, in the back of the shop for a discounted price. The one that I got from him was a size medium, and it was tattered and even had blood all over it at one point because he was skating in it. At the time, when all these old collectors came out, they had no idea what they actually had accumulated or what these T-shirts were worth. So, the fact that he was skating around in this $25 t-shirt was no big deal. Today, those Tokions go anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000, depending on the condition.
You mentioned this older collector was a skater. Were most of the people you dealt with to build this collection of that background?
I didn't really mingle with sneakerheads until 2016-17, which is where the shift sort of began to occur within the brand. Like I was saying, what really drove it for me in my early days of collecting the brand were obscure pieces, which were largely driving the market as well. Those were the pieces championed. Nowadays, due to the sneaker market, everyone wants the most recognizable pieces now. Honestly, I've dealt with pretty much every single walk of life you could imagine. Different people from South America, all throughout Asia, old dudes who have been buying the stuff since Supreme literally opened, and then newer collectors who have just come around to make a quick dollar off of it.
So, there are 253 T-shirts in this collection. Does this mean that you've acquired nearly every box logo T-shirt Supreme has ever released?
I have accumulated every single T-shirt that has seen a retail release and 12 additional T-shirts that were either reserved for friends and family or samples.
Of course, there are probably some box logo T-shirts you're not able to get. Like the “Chief Keef” or “Chicago” box logo we all saw at Virgil Abloh's Figures of Speech exhibition last year.
I do have to say something really interesting about that, which I think is going to shock a lot of people. [Outside of the one displayed in the exhibition] that T-shirt is 100% fake. There was one person who was printing these T-shirts, attaching sample tags, and distributing those through different sellers. Every single one that's ever touched the market has been completely fake.
The original one, I would love to get my hands on it, but it's one of those that I would never be able to touch. One that I think is still my ultimate grail is one that pays tribute to the late great Gary Warnett. They made 12 of those tees and they were sent out to Supreme London after Gary's unfortunate and untimely death a couple years ago. They only made 12 of those and they gave them to some of Gary's closest friends. Gary was an absolute pioneer within his field. So, I would absolutely love to get that one at one point or another, but it's unlikely.
Aside from those two box logos, were there any others nearly impossible to get?
As far as impossible tees go, there's a difference between tees that are really hard to acquire and tees that are just outright fake samples or colorways. Hundreds of people have asked. “What about this? What about that?” Those were all fake samples and I don't worry about it. I definitely wouldn't risk putting something fake within my collection just to negate those naysayers when they do come around.
You're 21 years old and you thought that you were able to amass this collection two years ago. By that point in 2018, how many more box logos did you need to complete your collection?
I was probably missing like 50 to 75 T-shirts. Within that, there were probably 30 that I legitimately did not know existed. And that was after four years of hunting for these tees. It was definitely an overwhelming thought. What's funny is when I told people that I was going for this, we couldn't even agree on what's been released, let alone where we can even begin to find this stuff. There's been a lot of people who have tried to do this and a lot of people who have failed, but I guess just sticking with it is the reason why I'm here today.
What box logos were new discoveries for you?
There's a couple from 1996 that had been re-released following 1996. For example, there's a blue on grey shirt that came out in 1996 and I had the 1998 version. I had no idea that it had come out in 1996 as well. Then, obviously, there's other tees that they've done and remade dozens of times like red on navy, red on white, and black on black. Defining those years and when they actually did come out is very challenging because when you're talking about a shirt that came out in 2003 versus 2005, you're looking at the same type of tags and font. So that's very tricky.
What's your favorite store-opening box logo and why?
I want to say the "Grid" box logo from 1998 [for the opening of Supreme’s Daikanyama store]. It was actually one of the first tees that I bought in 2015. I have a newer one in better condition now. But that one is up there with the Tokion box logo because it was so difficult to find. It was a complete myth for so many people. So, getting my hands on it was super important to me and I hunted that one for a very long time.
What's your favorite artist's box logo?
It would have to be the Futura ones. I absolutely loved those tees in both the white and black versions. There's only 150 of each colorway and they were only available at a dinner in Hong Kong.
He also did the Mo'Wax box logo, right?
The Mo'Wax box logo is one of the rarest box logo designs, limited to just 50 tees, and features Futura's artwork once again, adding to its appeal even further. That one was released exclusively at the Saatchi Gallery in London in December 2014, at the private view of the “Build and Destroy: Works from the Mo'Wax Archive” exhibition. Plenty of fakes of this one exist, including some very convincing almost 1:1 replicas. Unsurprisingly, finding a genuine tee is difficult.
What's your favorite box logo collaboration with a brand?
Probably, the “Fire Camo” Supreme x Bape T-shirt. Those were released over 2000 and 2001 and only 100 of each variation were made. So, there's 15 variations of the Bape tee and there's 100 of each. There's only 1,500 of those made.
What's your favorite box logo released within the first 10 years of Supreme? Because there are a lot of unique ones between '94 and '04.
So what's interesting is that 67 percent of the collection was released before 2007. So a huge number of tees were released in that initial 10-15 year timeframe. Within the first 10 years of the brand, I'd probably have to go with the original box logo tee. The one that I have has a really interesting story. It belonged to a Japanese man and he did all of his home work in it. He would paint his walls and do all of the general work that needed to be done around his house while wearing that T-shirt. He was the sole original owner of it and it highlights the fact that no one really knew what the brand was going to become.
What was the craziest experience you had trying to get a T-shirt for this collection? Did you have to travel to like another country or something like that?
When I was 17-years-old, I traveled with my friend Ibrahim to London to buy a large portion of box tees. And that's where I found the Tokion box logo and some of the better tees that I have in my collection today. If I hadn't made that connection, there's absolutely no way that I'd have some of the tees in my collection today. The tees that me, or no one else, has ever seen before.
How many tees did you get from that one guy in London?
I probably have 30 tees in my collection today, still from him. He had an amazing collection and he was a buyer for a shop he worked at in London. Whenever he was stocking products, he took a piece or two for himself to wear and skate in. And through that, he became super close with the brand. He was someone who allowed access to buy Supreme pieces on sale a year after when they hadn't sold.
So he was, I guess he was "Friends and Family" of Supreme, right? There's a fascination of who's on that list. What can you say about what those people are like?
I think what's so interesting about that and the reason why no one knows who these people really are is because Supreme is true to their brand identity right down to the very last person that's involved. And I think there's a reason why Supreme is where it is at today is because they define their own rules throughout every single last person within the company. Whether they were loosely associated, directly associated, previously associated, everyone is true to that brand identity, which largely is quite secretive. Those people, you would never guess who they are, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to identify them if you sort them out.
Did you ever get insanely lucky and ever find a really rare box logo on Ebay for a crazy steal?
Oh yeah, loads of times. One of the tees that I have in my collection today, which was sold to me by the person in London, was the WTAPS box logo t-shirt from 1999. That is arguably one of the rarest tees in the collection and in the world. I bought that t-shirt for $250 and recently one of those sold for $35,000. That is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime buy.
The most peculiar piece for me to see personally is this tie-dye box logo. To me, it's just this red on white box logo t-shirt with cotton candy tie-dye. How do you really know it was a sample made by Supreme and what made you comfortable spending $52,000 on it?
Big shout out to John Wynne, the founder of Kopbox. I emailed John when that T-shirt went up and I said: “Hey, if anyone's going to know about this tee, it's going to be you.” I showed him the digital archive on my site and said I was super inspired by the archive he put out before. Kopbox has been the Bible for kids like me forever. Funny enough, he said that it was actually his old shirt and gave me the lowdown on it. It's a one-of-one sample. They had tie-dyed it first and stuck the box logo on it. So, it wasn't just a random shirt that was pulled and then tie dyed after. It was actually manufactured that way. He said that if I had the opportunity to get my hands on that tee, I should do anything I possibly can.
My guess is there are probably more fake Supreme box logos on the market than real ones out there. How'd you verify the authenticity of your collection and how difficult was that to do?
It's super difficult. Now that I've touched thousands of these tees, I have a really good idea of what’s real. But for this collection, I had three stages of people who I checked all of the tees with. So, if it didn't pass the first guy, it didn't go to the second guy. And if it didn't pass second guy, it didn't go to the third guy. It also comes down to knowing who you're buying these tees from.
How do you think the box logo market has changed since 2014? I mean, you mentioned, for example, you copped this WTAPS shirt for like $200. Now it's worth $34,000. Is there a general trend just upward?
There's been a general trend of these tees going up in value since the brand's inception. If you think about it, they've just consistently gotten more expensive. But what's interesting is that what largely drove the market when I first started picking up these shirts was that everyone wanted the rarest. It wasn't necessarily what was most widely recognizable. It was really just that piece that would differentiate your outfit or collection from the next guy. Now, since these tees have been widely covered and people are a little bit more hip as to what the rare ones are, people are a bit more conscious in which pieces they do buy. Obviously, within sneaker culture it's shifted towards everyone wants the most recognizable item versus what's the rarest item. So, I think we'll probably see the market return to a place where people want to be different and they want those pieces to differentiate their collections or themselves from others.
What do you think about Supreme's deal with VF Corp.?
I absolutely love it. I think that everyone who's come out and said something along the lines of, “Supreme is going to be sold in whatever retailer you can imagine,” have absolutely no idea what they're talking about. Supreme has established such a good foundation for how they run their company and their brand identity. I think that bringing on a partner, not bringing on a partner, but selling to someone who is familiar with the brand and does let all of the other brands sort of run naturally and run according to what works best for them, I think it's going to be something really, really positive for the brand. And I'm super happy to see what the future brings. I like that they've taken a step back in a way from the Carlyle Group.
Has Supreme reached out to you about your collection by any chance?
No, they haven't. I've been asking around to anyone who I think might be loosely affiliated or know someone and I haven't been able to get a word back. I really hope they do though.
Do you think the box logo has become more of a collector's item? Is it still something that's dope to actually wear on a day-to-day basis?
It really depends on the person and what their motives are as far as how they want to dress. For me, it's been really difficult, since I've been buying these tees, to wear them. Obviously, I've worn a lot of these pieces in the past. But I think I look at it as a cultural identity now. It's so important and now it's so recognizable because of how many subcultures the tees span. I think moving forward it'll just be really interesting. I think that people are always going to be going to be buying the new releases and wearing them. But as far as the older pieces go, I think they've absolutely become a collector's item and have been situated as a collectors item for a few years now.