Clothes of the Year: Nick Melons Picks 10 Merch Items that Defined 2016
Arthur Hickman

Clothes of the Year: Nick Melons Picks 10 Merch Items that Defined 2016

From NAAFI shirts to Glo Gang phone chargers, these are the WeDidIt co-founder's favorite pieces.
December 30, 2016, 9:20pm

Illustration by Arthur Hickman

Nick Melons is co-founder and label manager of WeDidIt, the crucial Los Angeles label that's home to the likes of Shlohmo, RL Grime, Groundislava and more. Part of his duties include handling the label's clothing—known for simple, clever branding that sticks in your head, WeDidIt have long challenged expectations and explored new directions for electronic music merch. This year, we asked Melons to choose his ten favorite pieces—including items from punk, rap, and electronic artists—and explain what makes them so special. Read on and level up.

I think merch really evolved a lot just in the last year. Merch used to be mainly for promotion; band's shirts were how people found out about them because you couldn't look them up online. Now it doesn't need to serve that purpose. The form it's taken on is more in the realm of fashion. Certain people are pushing the bar so that things are taken seriously—even our brand, a record label, sells clothing at Opening Ceremony. That's a huge step for music merchandising. You'd never have expected a store like that to carry a record label's clothes five or six years ago. Now, I think, artists are starting to experiment with what people in high fashion have been experimenting with forever. I think it's great. The more creative and unique things can look—because a lot of stuff looks the same—I'm all for that.

1. DJ Lucas Darkworld x Left Hand LA

DJ Lucas, I think he's one of the most talented artists that I've met in a long time; outside of music, his approach to clothing and merchandise is very special and it pulls from kind of what crust punk kids do on their own with dental floss and patches and all types of shit. He has been doing it for his own merch—it's like rap merch—so it's this interesting hybrid that he's created. He works with Julie Kucharski of the clothing brand Left Hand LA—she does all the sewing and patch-making and stuff. I met her through Lucas this year and we're working on a project together. She's unbelievably talented; her whole room is just covered in clothing she's made, it's all hung up on the walls. I think they have a really good sensibility for palette and colors and graphically keeping it quite simple. I think it's different from all the stuff I see other people doing. It definitely stood out to me.

2. Sadboys x Eytys

I love the Sad Boys, I love Yung Lean and all those boys. They have a great attitude and a great approach to what they do; I have a lot of respect for them. I think it's exciting when people try to branch out into higher fashion stuff on the merch side, but only when they have good taste and good ideas, and I think this was an example of a really great collaboration. It's a very unique-looking shoe; I think they did a great lookbook for it. Most merch these days is kind of money-grab stuff; this is clearly not a money-grab because it costs money to make that product and it's a hard product to sell, so I have a lot of respect for people who take that risk. It's kind of a very morose theme, but it works well. It's very bondage-y, which I think is great. I've never seen shoes with zip-ties before. This was, I think, very DIY mixed with a high price point and nice materials, so it was really cool.

3. D33j Jeep Hat

D33j is my brother, I love him to death. He is an all-around sweet boy, everyone who meets him loves him. He's got a great eye. He's always had really great clothing that he's picked up along the way, whether it's vintage stuff in San Francisco or whatever. He knows how to put things together well. The inspiration for that hat came from him being a big football fan—I forget which team has the Jeep jerseys, but he would always wear that. I don't know when he figured out that when you flip it upside down it says his name, but it's a pretty simple design, and it really stands out. We haven't gotten any cease-and-desists from Jeep yet.

4. NTS Shirt

I love NTS; I have a radio show that I do on NTS twice a month in LA, and I think that they're a really great group of people that have a very solid mission, and I think they're doing a really good job of curating that space here in LA and in London. They also have a great design sensibility, it's kind of simple. I'm a big fan of Japanese masks—I always have been, I draw them myself pretty often when I draw—so that shirt just stuck out to me—the color choice, just very simple. I think they do a great job of branding NTS.

5. Lil Ugly Mane Hoodie

I've always been a big fan of Lil Ugly Mane. I think he's a great artist all-around; whether it's visuals or music, he's fucking phenomenal. He's a wonderful guy, I've become friends with him over the last year or so. He plays off a lot of black metal images and all that type of shit, but there's something special about the images he chooses, like the guy hanging in the room. It feels different to me for some reason even though it uses the gothic font that I see a lot. And the logo on the front is just fucking great, it's super clean and looks good as branding. I appreciate the fact that he stays true to the things he likes. Using gothic font could be a faux pas to some people, but he doesn't give a fuck because it's really true to him. He's been doing this shit longer than any of these motherfuckers; he's just doing it differently and more authentically.

6. Matt Belosi for Scalped

Scalped is a punk/metal band from California. I really like their music, and I'm a really big fan of Matthew Bellosi, who did the illustration for them. He has been doing designs for lots of different bands within metal and punk, and he does it better than anyone else, I think. That photocopy vibe. He did some stuff for Pusha T earlier this year, also. His Grateful Dead bootleg shirt from this year was also really great. It's a classic type of composition for hardcore merch, like, bold, colorful, strong text with an image that's one color.

7. NAAFI x Barragan

NAAFI is rad! I fuck with NAAFI. I've never met these dudes, but my friends have—RL Grime, Shlohmo, and D33J—when they went to Mexico. They linked up with these guys. I think they are the most interesting thing happening in dance music and electronic music. They have a very great sound and sensibility that's infiltrating the states. They're getting love from people like Red Bull and shit like that. As for this shirt—the Thrasher thing is very played and has been all year, it is what it is. People really ran with that and, well, how they got the pass to wear that…I mean, if I was wearing Thrasher and I didn't skate when I was younger, I would have gotten the shit beat out of me, but things are all good now. So that shirt was a collaboration with this guy Victor who does a line called Barragan in New York. I've never met him, but he's a friend of my girlfriend's and I've been following his personal line and saw he'd been doing this thing with NAAFI and that it was kind of special. It's another example of taking what someone would consider music merch into a higher realm doing cut-and-sew, chopping them up and sewing them back together. I think it's very well executed design and shirt, and despite any Thrasher-type shit, the colors are excellent.

8. Timetable x Union

Timetable is Nosaj Thing's label. Our friend Bryant Rutledge, who's done visuals for us and used to go under the name Low Limit, he's a great guy, I think he has great taste. He did the design for this. It's a very simple design, a font on a shirt. They made it look good. Those colors are great. The font is great. It's simple and it works. It's just another example of simplicity in design, and that you can make something special with not very many elements. I think that was a collab between them and the store Union in LA.

9. Glo Gang Power Charger

Some of this Glo Gang merch is just insane; I could never wear it. But some of it I love, I don't know why. I'm a huge Chief Keef fan, I have been for a long time, I really love his music a lot and listen to pretty much everything that he puts out. I think he's one of the better artists making rap music right now. I think it's amazing how they've created this weird universe of characters and bad art. It's so random, as a musician, to sell a phone charger. It's great.

Keef's whole house is full of paintings by these artists—he has tons of paintings of himself in his house, all stylized in similar ways. Regardless of whether or not you like the aesthetic and the design, there's something very special about somebody who does that.

10. Kali Uchis Sunglasses

She's cool. I like what she does. These were a trendy of sunglasses this year, the Kurt Cobain-influenced ones that Supreme made, and it was dope that she did it at a price point that people could afford—only $30. That's another thing: sunglasses and perfumes are such money-makers in fashion. If you have a brand and make no money off the clothes from your collection because nobody buys it because they're so conceptual, you make money from sunglasses and perfume, because the margins are crazy. So that she didn't price-gouge on that shit, and I respect it. I think it was a good simple design that sticks with the image she's created for herself, and I like when artists stick to a thesis statement that they've created.