The Beauty and Influence of Custom Culture
We are massive fans of customizing clothes and custom culture, as you might have noticed. It is a defining part of Tenue de Nîmes and the world of fashion, and more specific denim, in general. Taking apart a pair of jeans and repurposing its fabric or components to repair another pair, or simply decorate them, is an art in itself. In our archive, we have amazing jeans that have been altered multiple times to create some kind of denim Frankenstein - in the best way possible. These alterations create a curious connection not only to the owner but also to the beholder. Only that single pair exists and you’ll never see it elsewhere.
Custom culture reaches much further than the realm of denim though. When flicking through our library of books at the office, we always feel immensely inspired by pictures from earlier decades in which youth movements were able to completely flip the script on certain garments. A beautiful part of custom culture is that individuals can express themselves, and with that expression, show off their ideals in life, or rebel against establishments. Custom culture is a great example of how fashion is not just ‘simply clothes’, it fulfils a much deeper purpose. Take the hippie movement for example, which was famous for adorning any garment they had at hand with badges and stitching, showing the ideals of the flower-power peace movement. Or the punk movement who would write bold, anarchistic statements on their clothing as a middle finger against the norm and the establishments.
Picture of the iconic leather punk jackets, through Dangerous Minds.
These examples, and many more, would inspire designers growing up in these eras to apply these aesthetics and ideals to their collections. It is no secret that Vivienne Westwood was influenced by the punk movement in the UK, and also contributed to it. To this day it is still a staple in her brand. Or take a look at the many workwear-oriented Japanese brands that draw inspiration from youth movements in the 60s, like the Miyuki-Zoku. One could argue that American heritage clothing nowadays is mainly upheld by Japanese brands, all thanks to the influence of these counter cultures that redefined the meaning of those garments through custom culture. Stories like these inspire us to partake in custom culture and spread its message.
Members of the Miyuki-Zoku hanging out in Ginza, through PutThisOn.
For our Chuck 70 TdN ‘Camp Mellow’ Custom, we drew inspiration from the famous screen-printed tees from the 60s and 70s. Although the technique was invented over 1000 years ago in China, it only started to make noise in the US during the 50s. During this era, the basic t-shirt had become part of the everyday wardrobe - on which you can read everything here. Resort owners in Miami discovered the technique and started screen-printing their staff’s uniforms. Little did they know this would form the foundation of all decorated garments to come. A bit later, an entrepreneur from New York, named Michael Vasilantone, invented the rotary screen-printing machine, making production much quicker. From that point onwards the screen-printing business took off.
The aforementioned hippie and peace movement from the 60s and 70s cemented the screen-printed tee into the history of pop culture. Youths discovered this now-widespread phenomenon and would repurpose the intent of the screen-printing technique and decorate their t-shirts with the logos of their favourite bands or they would screen-print statements on topics that were larger than themselves. It was an easy and accessible form of custom culture with which you could make bold statements. You just needed a plain t-shirt and a little cash to pay your local printer.
A man and his screen-printed tee.
With these customs and our many others, like our series of Birkenstocks and Vans shoes, we hope to introduce as many people as possible to the concept of custom culture. We are firm believers that custom culture can offer solutions to the detrimental effects the fashion industry has on our planet and society. It doesn’t just reduce production and waste, but it also creates an awareness of how endlessly customizable even old garments can be. People don’t need to buy more, people should just appreciate the garments they have more. We can assure you that everybody has a few potential killer customs in their closet! It just takes a little creativity.