FORTY YEARS OF STÜSSY T-SHIRTS
“I don’t think Stüssy would consider itself a fashion brand ever,” says Ryan Willms, editor of the new An IDEA Book About T-Shirts by Stüssy. “It’s more of a lifestyle and a mentality—creating an evolving idea of what contemporary Californian sportswear is and can be.”
Started in 1980 by Shawn Stussy, Stüssy garnered cool status among the skaters, surfers and hip-hop DJs of the era—and somehow has maintained it nearly forty years later. At a time when trends are ever-evolving, staying relevant—and, especially, “cool”—isn’t easy. “I think the resurgence of the Nineties has helped, as there is a lot of nostalgia around the brand for certain generations,” says Willms. “However, its current design is more in tune with the market and has more of a point of view, which combines well with its classic graphic language.”
Launched just last week, An IDEA Book About T-Shirts by Stüssy celebrates the heritage and lasting impact of the brand. With photos by iconic photographers including Alasdair McLellan, Amy Troost, Ari Marcopoulos, Collier Schorr, Dan Martensen, Daniel Jackson, Glen Luchford, Inez & Vinoodh, Josh Olins, Mario Sorrenti, and Terry Richardson, the book is an examination of culture and style as much as it is about the t-shirts themselves. “The book is a bit of a perfect storm for me and something I’m really proud of,” says Willms. “Being able to work with Alastair McKimm to put together an incredible list of contributors, to dig through an amazing archive, have it published and work with IDEA Books and then launch at Dover Street Market—it felt really special and the response has been incredible.”
Willms didn’t want it to be “purely a Stüssy” book, but wanted to focus on a medium that was important to Stüssy, but goes well beyond the brand. Dover Street Market’s current t-shirt retrospective provided the perfect launch pad for just that. “I come from publishing myself,” he continues, “so I’m always interested in finding ways to print things. Of course they need to mean something more than ever but with the t-shirt retrospective at Dover Street Market, it made perfect sense to do this book and focus on the t-shirt.”
But why the t-shirt? For a brand that sells jackets, hoodies, hats, beanies, swimwear, sunglasses, and more, one may think limiting to a specific article of clothing might be an odd choice. “The graphic language [on a t-shirt] is really special and has always been,” Willms explains. “Aside from that, it’s been a great platform to work with interesting and unique collaborators over the years.”
The book includes interviews with people who have used the t-shirt themselves either in their own brand or for other people. Wills asked them what the t-shirt meant to them growing up, and what it means today. Some of the photographs featured in the book are over thirty years old: The archive section includes both known and never-been-seen-before photos from the last few decades. “It feels like two books in one when I look at it myself,” Willms says. “First, you go through all the new material, but once you get to the archive section, it feels like a whole new world you’re uncovering. I think the way we’ve edited them together is really unique and feels fresh.
Perhaps surprisingly for a book so focused on fashion and visuals, the book’s cover does not feature any photography. “The brand is made up of so many people, vibes, æsthetics, graphics, and images,” explains Willms, “so it’s hard to say one specific image that it is.”
An IDEA Book About T-Shirts by Stüssy is available now.