The clothier Alexander Julian once quipped that imitation is the sincerest form of aggravation. In the years after he designed the inaugural uniforms, in 1988, for the Charlotte Hornets, his purple and tealâespecially the tealâstarted popping up on everyone from the Detroit Pistons to the San Jose Sharks and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The streetwear label Supreme, founded six years after Julianâs colors dÃ©buted, loves bothÂ mischievous appropriationÂ and nineties pop culture, so itâs not hard to see where it got the idea to drop aÂ Hornets-inspired basketball jerseyÂ last year. Thatâs an easy reference to spot, but not every Supreme graphic and logo design has an origin that is so simple to place. Enter the Instagram account Supreme Copies, where a curious streetwear fan might go to find out why Supreme putÂ intersecting screwsÂ on a T-shirt, or why the labelâs name isÂ aflame on a hat, or the story behind a jacketâsÂ â666â patch.
It’s safe to say the ‘666,’ Field Parka releasing this season was inspired by the late great Notorious BIG. Many times in the ’90s, Biggie- along with his crew- were pictured wearing vests patched with the red ‘666.’ This is an exceptional inspirational piece, for I doubt Supreme had anything in hand when referencing. The simple red patch is something that can easily be replicated- and it’s noteworthy Supreme made a field Parka, not a vest. As to why they would change the article of clothing is unclear- but I can assure you this is one of multiple pieces this season with inspiration drawn from ’90s Rapper outfits (Tupac is next). Thanks to the many who sent this one in!#supremeforsale #supreme4sale
A post shared by Supreme (@supreme_copies) on Feb 20, 2017 at 8:33am PST
The person who created Supreme Copies is an eighteen-year-old high-schooler from Oregon who asked to remain anonymous. Heâs not one of the hordes camping out for Supreme releases in person or stalking the brandâs online shopâhe stopped collectingÂ Supreme a couple of years ago. But he understood enough about what Supreme fans crave to hit a sweet spot in the stream of look books, drop dates, and collaboration news that surround the brand. The accountÂ blew up soon after he started posting, last July, and it was only weeks before the magazineÂ DazedÂ interviewed himÂ about âdemystifying the brandâs designs.â Now, nearly sixty thousand followers strong, he plans to self-publish a Supreme Copies coffee-table book, due out sometime this summer. (âI felt like it was the next-best medium to Instagram,â he said.) He mutes his identity because he wants to keep the focus on his work: âI donât want the account for any sort of clout,â he said. âI donât want to do it for the wrong reasons.â When he told the streetwear blog Hypebeast that he wanted to launch his own brand at some point in the future, he was decried as an opportunist. âPeople were hating on me for saying that,â he said.
Supreme Copies learned about Supreme when he was a preteen, drawn into what the rapper Tyler, the Creator, once called âa little club, a little secret societyâ by skate videos and the Odd Future collective, but he didnât start considering an Instagram about the brand until he saw the account of Sean Wotherspoon, the co-owner of the Round Two chain of vintage-streetwear shops. Wotherspoon would sometimes post Supreme clothesÂ alongside old designer gearÂ he found at flea markets, online, and at thrift stores. âMy goal was, if you like this Supreme rugby, or this Supreme jacket, youâd love this vintage piece,â Wotherspoon said. Supreme Copies copied that format: âI thought, Someone should cover this,â the teen-ager said. Wotherspoon, who is contributing to the Supreme Copies book for free, liked the account enough to follow it shortly after it appeared, and he still sends in photos of references that heâs discovered.
A movie reference to start the day. In “Meatballs” the 1979 comedy with Bill Murray, he is seen wearing this Hawaiian shirt. In S/S ’12 Supreme made a shirt eerily similar. Now before I get a million comments saying “it’s just a Hawaiian shirt smh” look closely at the flowers, the boats, ripples in the water, and all other small/big details of the shirt. The print, along w the style or the shirt (that wider neck and weird top button that every Dads bust out on vacation) is practically identical to the one Murray is wearing. Is it possible that they were just referencing Tommy Bahama or whatever other brand made that shirt? Yes. Is it more fun to assume it’s from the classic Comedy however? Yes.
A post shared by Supreme (@supreme_copies) on Jul 10, 2016 at 8:41am PDT
But if Supreme Copies is a Genius page for the companyâs designs, there exists a cadre of day-one fans who scoff at its amateur interpretations of the Supreme mystique. David Shapiro, whose book âSupremacistâ fictionalizes his global travels to all but one of Supremeâs ten stores, once toldÂ DazedÂ that âthose who understand it more and are greater participants in the culture that Supreme touches are kind of sneering at everyone who is a lesser participant in the brand.â Brian Procell, who opened his Procell Vintage boutique four years ago, is a streetwear picker who takes annual weeks-long trips around the country to source pieces for fashion-house clients. Procell has worked directly with Supreme to find references that designers use as a âstarting point or blueprintâ for itsÂ tees, and his insider status makes him wary of would-be Supreme whisperers. âFor a lot of these kids, Instagram is their Wikipedia,â Procell said.
Supreme Copies onceÂ riffed on a Supreme teeÂ that appeared to reference the Crown Fried Chicken logo, writing that the tees were âpaying homage to New York, by parodying the logo for what I can only assume is good chicken.â Itâs the educated guesses that most rile up Procell. He brought upÂ another meat-based post, this one concerningÂ a tee featuring the Boarâs Head logo and the words âOnly the strong.â Supreme Copies wrote it up thus: âFrom fried chicken to baked goods, itâs clear Supreme enjoys the occasional food reference. As to why they select the brands they doâand whether or not they are based on vintage tees of the brandsâis beyond me.â
From fried chicken to baked goods, it’s clear Supreme enjoys the occasional food reference. As to why they select the brands they do- and whether or not they are based on vintage tees of the brands- is beyond me. 2008 featured the enjoyable “Boars Head,” graphic pictures above- featuring a small Simple logo rip on the upper chest, and a large “Only The Strong,” motif printed on the back. As for the Olde English style font opposed to the one pictured below- It transpires from the original Boars Head font from years back- as the famous meat and cheese company dates back to 1905. #supreme4sale #supremeforsale
A post shared by Supreme (@supreme_copies) on Jan 12, 2017 at 9:43am PST
But, for Procell, thatâs not enough. He helped designÂ the shirt and said that the words were a callback to âLord of the Flies.â The head was a nod to the pigâs head that the bookâs newly feral boys mount on a stick, and the text ties that moment to the idea that Supremeâs core demographicâwell-dressed New York skate ratsâhad to grow up fast in order to play in city streets. âItâs Ph.D.-level shit,â Procell said. âItâs beyond the bar.â That Supreme Copies didnât pick this up and properly explain it to its followers is, in Procellâs eyes, a blow to the accountâs credibility. Supreme didnât respond to a request for comment on the Supreme Copies account, but Procell said that the guys he knows in the company know about it and take it less than seriously.
In a 2015Â interview withÂ GQ, the former Supreme brand director Angelo Baque lamented that sometimes a reference âgoes right over our customersâ headsâ to the point that anÂ item doesnât sell. The company does explain itself sometimes. Thereâs the occasional interview. A collaboration might have a paragraph of historical summary. A book, released in 2010, catalogued the brandâs output alongside text explaining its ethos. But, in that 2015 GQÂ interview, Baque fondly likened the brandâs self-imposed remove to the way that record-shop clerks used to exude hostile indifference toward him: âIâd be, like, âYo, can I listen to that new Reflection Eternal 12-inch?,â and theyâd be, like, âNo,â and Iâd be, like, âOh, shit, they actually spoke to me today.âÂ â (The rudeness of Supremeâs shopâs staff is an oft-repeated part of the brandâsÂ lore.)
The inscrutability is kind of the point. When theÂ TimesÂ wrote about SupremeÂ in 2012, its writerÂ had to visit the brandâs headquarters three times in order to speak with Baque and the brandâs founder, James Jebbia, because they âneeded convincing that the reporter would âget the references.âÂ â But even without Supremeâs blessing or the endorsement of its in-crowd, Supreme Copies will keep on posting for those less acquainted with the brandâs deep cuts. âIt comes as a total surprise to a lot of people,â the teen said. When heÂ announced his bookÂ at the fifty-thousand-follower mark, he told them, âI hope you guys all can enjoy this book for what it is.â