There’s certainly no shortage of homages to the gangster genre in streetwear — having notably been employed by the likes of Supreme, SSUR, Kingpin and others to show their overt love for films focusing on various facets of organized crime.
Supreme has been especially fond of Martin Scorsese’s film, Goodfellas, which told the semi-autobiographical tale of Henry Hill, who despite being only half-Italian, managed to earn the trust of his Cosa Nostra peers — who allowed him to both get his hands dirty and enjoy the spoils of victory after hijacking trucks and executing daring robberies — before his own missteps made him their enemy.
One of Supreme’s earliest homages to the film was their 1998 “motion logo” which honored the Saul Bass-created type used for the film’s title sequence and seemed to perfectly illustrate through graphic design that a mobster’s life was similar to that of being a shark; there was no stopping. And if you did, you were dead.
The brand would later once again pay tribute to the film quite succinctly with T-shirts and hoodies that encapsulated Henry Hill’s worldview as a teenager; “to me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States.”
However effective those references were, Supreme’s 2007 “Fuck You, Pay Me” collaboration with Porter, and separately with legendary graffiti artist Futura, remain the quintessential wink at Scorsese’s masterwork.
Supreme opted for a section in the film — where Ray Liotta’ Henry Hill has transitioned from teen to early 20’s — as he explained what it meant to be in business with mafia, saying, “Now the guy’s got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy’s gotta come up with Paulie’s money every week, no matter what. Business bad? ‘Fuck you, pay me'” Oh, you had a fire? ‘Fuck you, pay me.’ Place got hit by lightning, huh? ‘Fuck you, pay me.'”
It’s a particularly good assessment of how the general public/fashion enthusiasts react to products in the marketplace; they are simply never satisfied, and will gleefully watch a business burn to the ground after having utilized all its vital resources.
Supreme refuses to play victim. They are better suited in the role of prickly old wiseguy who only trusts a handful of people. The shirt reinforces the idea that the consumer isn’t the only one to wield the power.
It would have easy to have chosen a different scene to reference. Most people often quote the now iconic, “funny how” speech that Joe Pesci delivers with vigor. But then it would have simply have been a Goodfellas shirt.
That’s why “Fuck You, Pay Me,” work so well. If Goodfellas never even existed, one could imagine the shirt living next to other graphics they did like their “Fuck ‘Em!” rug, “Illegal Business Controls America” T-shirt and “Fuck Bush” stickers.
- Lead Image: Warner Bros