I Traveled to Every Supreme Store in the World to Understand the Meaning of Supreme
Read an exclusive excerpt from 'Supremacist,' a book about the cult of Supreme that's written by a guy who's obsessed with the streetwear brand, despite not knowing how to skate.
The following is an exclusive excerpt from David Shapiro's new book Supremacist, out July 5 on New York Tyrant. Part love letter to the cult streetwear brand, part cry for help about his own substance abuse issues and general existential dread, the novel involves a fictionalized version of the author as he travels to every Supreme store in the world. The below chapters take place during a visit to Supreme LA.
I woke up and vomited in the shower. I drove to Supreme with Camilla. We got there before it opened and waited outside. Supreme Los Angeles, the only other Supreme store I'd been to. I felt like I was home.
We browsed the clothing together. I touched every item. I knew the prices by heart. For some of the items, I knew the percentages of each material used to make them.
Camilla nodded and made utterances of approval as we went through the clothes. We stood in front of the Hi-Vis backpack with the reflective stripe. It might look just all right to you, but I loved it. It was just right.
She asked, "What's different here from the one in New York?"
I said, "It's exactly the same, and the same as the online store, except they sell a few T-shirts here from local designers that they don't sell at the New York store or online. But I'm not interested in those. Even the décor is the same—the white walls, the hardwood floors. Even the same shelving and the same bench. But there's no skateboarding bowl in New York. So I guess that's the part that's different."
I picked up the patent leather camp cap and examined it.
Camilla said, "Are you going to buy that?"
I whispered, so none of the employees could hear me, "Oh no, it's awful. Could you imagine a human being actually wearing this?"
She whispered, "You don't like all of this stuff?"
I shook my head.
She whispered, "I was pretending I liked all of it because I thought you did."
I whispered, "You don't have to do that. I know a lot of it is ugly."
Camilla looked around. There was an employee near us. She whispered, "Can we go find a Diet Coke and come back? I want to talk about this outside."
I nodded. We walked outside and down the street towards Canter's.
I said, "I think most of what they make is embarrassing to be seen wearing. Not wearable in public. Like, for example, that jacket with the patch of Ronald Reagan's face on the sleeve.
I continued, "But I think they do it on purpose. Like, because they make small quantities of each item, if every piece of clothing they made was something that a lot of people liked, people would buy all of the clothing. Which seems like the object of a clothing store. But the store would be empty, and after a while, no one would come. Supreme wants to be a community center for skaters, so they want people to come, and to have some pretext for being in there—looking at the clothes. They come out with new clothes every week, every Thursday morning, so people have a reason to come back to the store every week. They could make greater quantities of each item, but part of the appeal of the brand is that every item is rare. So they can't make that much. And they have to make a bunch of unwearable clothing so there's something on the shelves."
Camilla asked, "Are you just making this up?"
I said, "One time, in college, I went into the New York store and looked at a jacket. I asked one of the employees if they had any left in my size. He said they didn't, and then he sort of laughed and said that they were shocked that anyone had bought this jacket, let alone that they'd sold out of it. He made it seem like the jacket was designed not to sell, like selling it contravened their intention for the product as something to draw people into the store to touch, talk about, and then come back the next week to do the same thing."
Camilla seemed like she was considering this.
We found a Diet Coke and came back to the store. Camilla sat on a bench in the middle of the store. I looked through the clothes again and again.
I couldn't stop buying Supreme stuff. I'd spent $15,000 on it. They were taking my money from me. Every item in the store that I might have wanted, I already had. Things I didn't even like. I didn't have any control over it.
She tapped me on the shoulder.
She said, "I'm bored."
I said, "I understand. You don't have to stay here."
She said, "How long are you going to stay here?"
I said, "Probably all day. Or, like, until they close. At 7:00."
She said, "Are you just going to do this for eight hours? Touch the clothes?"
I said, "I'll probably sit on the bench outside in a little bit. Maybe come back inside later. I like being here, you know?"
Victoria came to pick her up. Camilla got into the front seat.
I leaned in through Camilla's window. I asked, "What are you going to do?"
Victoria said, "I'm going to take her to get a B-12 shot, and then we're going for a hike in Runyon Canyon." She added, hoping I said no I assumed, "You wanna come?"
I said, "I can't."
Victoria looked relieved. She said, "Why not?"
I said, "I have to be here."
Victoria said, "Why?"
Camilla looked at Victoria and shook her head, like, "Don't even ask."
Victoria said, "Also, I thought of something this morning—did you go to the New York Supreme store before you left? It doesn't seem like the trip would be complete if you didn't go to that one."
I said, "I don't think I am welcome in the New York Supreme store."
Victoria asked, "Why not?"
I said, "I wrote a blog post for The New Yorker's website about a store in the basement of a mall in Chinatown, in New York. The store resells Supreme merchandise that the owner buys at Supreme. And when it sells out at Supreme, he resells it for a lot more than he paid for it. And the blog post was popular, within the world of men's fashion I guess, and the people who work at Supreme saw it, and then—"
Camilla asked, "Is it legal to do that?"
I said, "Why wouldn't it be? They buy it and resell it fair and square."
Camilla tried to think of a reason, but there was none.
Victoria asked, "How does the article make you unwelcome at the Supreme store?"
I said, "The last time I went in to Supreme, the manager came out and said, 'Are you the kid who wrote that article?' I was like, 'What article?' I probably started sweating when he came over to me. I knew what was happening. There was probably a puddle forming at my feet. And then he was like, 'That article fucked with the store.' I said, 'Why? I thought it was complimentary of the store and the brand.' He goes, 'You wrote that we keep sold out stuff in the back for our friends? And now every fucking kid comes in here and is like, 'Yo, you got that sold out shit in the back? I know you do.' It's such a fucking hassle.' And then the manager escorted me to the door. I left and never came back. I knew they didn't want me there. And I didn't want to find out what they would do if I tried to come back."
Victoria said, "Do you write about anything besides Supreme?"
I said, "I tried to write a play before I went back to school. But I didn't finish."
I sat on the bench outside Supreme for a long time. I left some eBay feedback. Five stars all around, even when they waited three days to ship. I'm not a confrontational guy. I'd never found 'standing up for myself' to be a profitable activity, like any other form of complaining.
I thought about my play. It was about a skateboarder who gradually broke into every apartment in his apartment building by climbing in through the windows from the fire escape in the alley behind the building. He installed tiny surveillance cameras in other apartments and monitored the camera feeds from his computer. And then, when people left their apartments, he went into them and stole things to sell on eBay. The rest of the time, he just skateboarded. And then a neighbor caught him. I didn't know what would happen after that, or if it should end. I thought they could sleep together, but I couldn't come up with a natural series of events that would end in them sleeping together. But I thought it could have been a good play.
I thought to myself, I am a loser, have always been a loser, and will always be one. I thought that would be a good title for my play, but it had nothing to do with the play.
In the afternoon, the store filled up with skaters. I sat on the bench outside and smoked.
I went back inside and looked through all of the merchandise again. I bought two packs of Supreme-branded Post-It Notes for $2 each. They were selling on eBay for $18 each.
I noticed that the guy working behind the counter was the white kid from Odd Future. I couldn't remember his name. He gave me a curious look. He must have noticed me sitting outside the store for four hours.
He said, "Do you need a bag?"
I said, "No, it's OK. It's just Post-It Notes." I put them into my jacket pocket.
I walked back outside and sat back down on the bench. I lit one.
I texted Camilla, "The guy behind the counter is the white kid from Odd Future. I just bought some Post-Its from him."
I Googled "white kid odd future" and looked through some pictures of him. He changed his hairstyle from blonde to black. Looked cool either way.
Camilla texted back, "Thought he looked familiar."
I walked over to Canter's to use the bathroom. I got a pastrami sandwich on rye bread with mustard and I ate it in a booth by myself. I slipped an Ativan into the sandwich and ate it like when a dog owner makes a dog take its medicine by mixing it in with its food.
I went into the bathroom, walked into a stall, and drank some vodka out of my bag. I took 5 milligrams of Mellow Yellow and 10 milligrams of Propranalol.
I walked back to Supreme and sat outside again. The sun was bright. I bought a pair of sunglasses from the white kid in Odd Future.
David Shapiro is the author of You're Not Much Use to Anyone and Supremacist, the latter which is out July 5 on New York Tyrant and can be pre-ordered here.
Follow David on Twitter.