There were no shortages of homages and references in Supreme’s FW17 drop — ranging from Nas to Andres Serrano’s graphic design work for Metallica dubbed “Blood and Semen.” Yet it’s surely the brand’s work with iconography from Brian de Palma’s 1983 film, Scarface, which will have collectors chomping at the bit to honor antihero Tony Montana.
It seems rather surprising that this is the first iteration of Supreme’s usage of Scarface as a point of reference after having honored another gangster classic, Goodfellas, on a number of different occasions. But whereas the latter utilized strong, textual elements, Supreme’s tribute to Scarface is much more overt.
One of the earliest usages of Scarface imagery in streetwear was courtesy of Bleu Valdimer and his KINGPIN imprint which rose to popularity in the early 1990s thanks to reappropriated pop culture elements from Kojack and The Godfather II. Spearheaded by Art Director, Kevin Lyons — who was at the epicenter of New York’s streetwear scene as 555Soul and Supreme emerged — he opted for a film still of Tony Montana toting his machine gun.
What makes Supreme’s design particularly clever is that it insinuates that the brand is first and foremost a fan of the film. The leather jacket could have just as easily been swiped from behind glass at Planet Hollywood or won as the ultimate price at Six Flags as it is a contemporary creation.
That isn’t to say that the design is necessarily tacky, but rather it oozes a time and place where Wesley Snipes channeled his best Tony Montana impression in New Jack City and rappers were pulling out Scarface DVD’s on MTV Cribs.
James Jebbia himself moved from his home in Sussex to New York City the same year the film came out, perhaps introduced and intrigued by what the American Dream meant for those who hadn’t been born Stateside.
A fashion homage to Scarface is certainly not a new phenomenon. The New York Times’ 2005 trend profile noted, “The face [of] street-level fashion statement belongs, indisputably, to the scowling visage of Al Pacino as Tony Montana, the high-living, drug-smuggling Miami kingpin of Scarface repute.”
At the time, Universal Studios had begun licensing official memorabilia for the film, which was embraced by those looking to sartorially enforce their belief in an America where one could get anything they wanted if they decided to take it.
Aesthetically, “Scarface” was woven into design elements — with graphics depicting a machine gun toting Tony Montana and textual flourishes embroidered on the sleeves.
Not surprisingly, the same year that Scarface merchandise was regularly selling for between $59.99-$79.99 USD, Supreme also released their now iconic photo T-shirt of Raekwon brandishing an Uzi and a Tickle Me Elmo doll which spoke to the brands love of the old, new and the unexpected.
Supreme’s usage of Scarface also echoes James Jebbia’s sentiments regarding his desire of his brand to have worldwide appeal.
“Even though we’re from New York, what we do is a mindset: it’s got to work in Japan, in Los Angeles, London, wherever,” Jebbia told Business of Fashion.
Tony Montana’s odyssey may be considered a Miami-centric story, but his rags-to-riches story definitely fits an ethos for Supreme enthusiasts everywhere.
As the film tells us so overtly: “The world is yours.”
So why did Supreme make a paperweight with actual money?
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