Started by Shawn Stussy in 1980, Stüssy is a brand with global reach and impact, far beyond its original surf wear roots in Orange County, California. An Idea Book About T-shirts by Stüssy, is a celebration of this heritage and a closer look at how the brand has managed to maintain its “cool” status for over 35 years.
The book is a combination of archival imagery, organised around visual or cultural similarities, from the brand’s history alongside newly generated work from a host of iconic photographers. The accomplished list includes Alasdair McLellan, Mario Sorrenti and Ari Marcopoulos who were given an open brief to shoot one vintage t-shirt, in their respective style.
Chris Glickman is the book’s art director, who cut his teeth in the creative world taking photos of his friends who were all on the path to becoming professional skiers and snowboarders. It was during his twenties, however, that he turned to design for a change of pace. “I went through one of those ‘Hate your job? Become a graphic designer in six months!’ type of programs – which was terrible but gave me the opportunity to take time and teach myself the fundamentals,” Chris tells It’s Nice That.
Now working as an art director, which “kind of fell into place” because of his varied background and obsessive interest with the fashion industry, Chris’ practice is heavily research and analysis based (a description he calls “the-most-basic-art-director&designer™" response). He works on everything from campaigns and digital experience to album art and publications – An Idea Book About T-shirts by Stüssy being one of his most recent.
Chris worked alongside editor Ryan Willms, to bring the venture to life. Although they had previously worked on projects such as the Stüssy Biannual (volumes seven and eight) together, the pair had never worked with Alastair McKimm who helped enlist the book’s impressive list of contributors. “One of the best things about a working with a brand like Stüssy is that almost everyone in this industry has their own relationship with it, meaning that the pool of talent you have access to, is truly incredible,” explains Chris.
Pinning down the ethos of the brand, however, was not as easy – Stüssy has over 35 years of history and a major international presence. Every city has its own culture surrounding the clothing, meaning “the way people wear Stüssy in London versus Toronto is completely different but equally as valid,” says Chris. Yet, the underlying tongue-in-cheek character surrounding the “international tribe”, and its approach to an industry that tends to take itself too seriously, is ultimately how they managed to define Stüssy’s ethos. When it came to choosing what to feature, these themes of internationalism and humour were at the forefront.
For a book dedicated to a brand with a distinct, maximalist graphic language, _An Idea Book About T-shirts by Stüssy’s_ design is incredibly uninvolved. Most spreads feature imagery with white borders, and simple sans-serif text is used throughout. Chris explains how “going into the project we knew there was going to be a lot of visuals competing for attention and we wanted to step out of the way and let the content speak.” This minimalistic style is only broken on the book’s cover, and in the section of new work, where the art director indulged in the signature Stüssy handwritten type. This acted as means to venerate the photographers who created work as “part of the tribe”.
In terms of format, the book has a direct split between the archival imagery and the new content to reflect the slower, sustained interaction that people have with books. “Both Ryan and I were used to pacing out magazines which are somewhat more formulaic in terms of how the features flow together,” says Chris. With this project, they were afforded the luxury of running larger blocks of content, without the concern of viewer fatigue associated with magazine editorials. It also meant they had control of over paper stocks – the new content is printed on a thick, high gloss stock whereas the archive is on a more mellow, uncoated paper.
This combination of simple design, strong imagery and tactile aspects – from the paper and binding – results in a book that strongly communicates the brand’s legacy in a way that can be enjoyed by anyone, super-fan or not.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.