The Suburbanization of Supreme
Alright, alright kids, let’s gather around and listen to Grandpa rant about how Supreme used to be way cooler back in his day; before all these 14-year-old suburban White boys, screamin’, “Whole Lotta Gang Shit,” and “Slatt!” had to come and ruin the fun.
First thing’s first, fuck Playboi Carti. Nothing really against him as a person, but I had to type “slatt” just now and I fucking hate myself for it. I blame him.
Anyway, now that that’s been said, I’m ready to air the real grievances. I LOVE Supreme as a brand, I really do, but their recent suburbanization — that is the adoption of their brand by White adolescents, whose understanding and appreciation runs thin — is quickly leading to a changed general perception of the aforementioned, thus negatively affecting their own fashion agency and ability to independently operate. I apologize, I know that this is a whole lot of jargon to essentially say “Supreme was bought out by VF because White kids love them,” so let’s unpack things a little, shall we?
Perhaps the most alluring aspect of Supreme has been their unapologetic devotion to exist as the antithetical to the contemporary retail experience. In a time where capitalism rules, and corporate consumerism is defined by greed, hubris, and excess, Supreme has found their own success not by conforming to standards, but in fact by doing the opposite. They’re provocative, non-P.C., and maintain a “I do what I want” attitude, subsequently leading to this resonation with a vast majority of teenagers, and like I said in my last blog piece, the Kids run this shit; if they like it, it ain’t long until others come along and take their share. In a weird meta way, Supreme has recognized this too, and instead of catering to the increases in demand, they’ve chosen to perpetuate a certain exclusivity, which whether or not it’s unbeknownst to them, has served as breeding grounds to those in positions of privilege to more easily attain the coveted product.
Now the problem with these people getting their hands on Supreme is that they begin to divert attention away from the skateboarding origins, and direct it towards a more commodified one. See, when Supreme was founded in NYC in 1994, it opened under the guise of a safe-haven social-club for “train-hopping, taxicab jumping, runaway” skaters, who for whatever reason, were trying to escape the trials and tribulations of life. James Jebbia, the founder, has even gone on record to say that these skaters, and their plethora of personalities, shaped the brand into what it is today. This is undoubtedly true, as there is a certain level of authenticity that’s generated through overcoming adversity; adversity that affluent White people have never endured, nor ever will endure, yet for God knows what reason, desire so badly to. They yearn for the right to be part of a counter-culture, but fail to recognize that in their own privilege lies the fact that society is built around them, constantly finding ways to reconform to the Caucasian-American lifestyle. Their obliviousness is laughable, because their culture… scratch that, their LIVELIHOOD is the exact thing people want to counter.
If there is one thing that people hate more than socially unaware White people, it’s Corporate America. Big Business is so often out of touch with their audience, and unreluctantly choose to draw their focus to potential dollar signs rather than subscribing to foundational beliefs. It’s easy to see Supreme tumbling down this path, I mean they’re like halfway there already, mostly in part to the fact that their consumer’s reputation is now one of entitled, spoiled children rather than skaters. Coupled with VF’s recent purchase of the company, and now CEO Joe Smith from ButtFuck, Nowhere, who wouldn’t even know what Supreme was if not for his kids, is busy pandering to Mr. Slatt and Mrs. Whole Lotta Gang Shit.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have some faith for the company. Vans for instance, also owned by VF, still appreciates collaboration with OGs like Tony Alva, Christian Hosoi, and Steve Caballero, reflecting some sort of a commitment to its roots. I mean I could be wrong about all of this; it could be a blessing in disguise! Maybe we’ll see Supreme attempt to erase some of its Carlyle days and use the new Vans connection to bring some of these skating trailblazers in for a collab. Tony Hawk did just sign with Vans. Look me in the eyes and tell me a Tony Hawk x Vans x Supreme collection wouldn’t hit.
Anyway, I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking as I worked through this and I can’t help but hold a couple lasting questions. How much bureaucratic bullshit will Supreme now have to deal with as being a part of the VF family? Their creative independence and brand direction will inevitably be altered, the real question is to what extent?