If you follow fashion—and you’re here reading this, so duh—you’ve certainly seen stories on the history of streetwear. Those pieces, whic
h often attempt to explain how something created by degenerate skateboarders and graffiti bros could, gulp, overtake establishment fashion houses like Louis Vuitton, can be a little spotty. They often mention Shawn Stussy, the surfer-cum-tagger who launched his eponymous line in the mid-1980s, but usually fail to cite Vision Skateboards the company that created the term "street wear." They usually list some of streetwear's influences, be they surf, skate, hip hop, graffiti, or even punk rock. But they also often neglect to mention a key streetwear muse: marijuana. Thankfully, we're here to correct that with this, part one of our history of streetwear's love affair with cannabis.
Streetwear didn’t exist until the 1980s, but it had important precursors. And in the 1970s that meant humor T-shirts and band merch created to let people know, hey, I like to get high AF. The ’70s were the historical golden age of graphic tees, as accessible iron-on prints became popular. Bands like Bad Company released weed tees, while independent illustrators dropped similar product, showing cannabis and comic characters getting high as hell. Rolling paper brands like Zig-Zag also made merch, as did weed bible “High Times,” which sold cannabis tees out of its magazine.
Despite birthing streetwear, the 1980s weren’t great for weed-wear. Reagan was in the White House, hippies became yuppies, and the president’s wife was shouting “Just Say No.” Even Dr. Dre wasn’t into weed then, letting everyone know that he didn’t “smoke weed or sess” on 1988 N.W.A banger “Express Yourself.” That meant weed references on ’80s clothing were infrequent or veiled. Grateful Dead fans, famous for selling homemade wares to fund their trips, made some of the best weed shirts of the period, often adding marijuana leaves to the band’s art or showing Jerry Garcia toking up. Still, actual streetwear companies like Stüssy, often took the surreptitious route, printing “Rasta” graphics in green, red, and yellow as a nod to rebels and smokers. They weren’t showing actual marijuana but everyone got the hint.
Ok, this is when the streetwear really got into weed, as rappers like Cypress Hill and Snoop Dog put marijuana leaves on their merch and donned the gear themselves. But it was actually MCs’ references to rolling up Phillies Blunts that had the biggest impact on streetwear, as Not From Concentrate inundated the world with T-shirts bearing that cigar’s logo. With the floodgates opened, brands like Fuct, let it (bong) rip, dropping references to “skunk” and various smoking apparatus, while graf-inspired Notorious B.I.G.-favorite Conart leveled up, offering sequined weed T-shirts. Worthy successors and less clever imitators both followed suit. Brands like Porn Star, Serial Killer, and Blunt made herb tees too, alongside bootlegs like the now famous weedy riff on the adidas trefoil logo that simply read “addicted.” This deluge of cannabis product proved popular and profitable, setting the stage for the eruption of weed-related streetwear that was to come during the 2000s.
Stay tuned for The History of Streetwear’s Secret Muse Part Two.