“Organic streetwear” is a bit of a loaded term. It seems almost contradictory considering the myriad of brands that deal with relentless commodification. However, with emerging labels such as Online Ceramics, Come Tees, and SOMEWARE dominating the streetwear scene with their holistic, community-focused brand ethos, Do-it-Yourself culture is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance.
At the heart of this renaissance is 21-year-old Austin Williams from Centerville, Ohio—a student at the University of Dayton who is redefining the customization of vintage garments through his eponymous label Petrified Good.
Petrified Good—what Williams describes as “petrifying” or changing a “good” or garment—is best known for its mind-blowing selection of rare and vintage Patagonia customized to resemble bootleg (unofficial or fan-made) merchandise. Using vintage and original patches, Williams reimagines iconic wardrobe staples as merchandise for his favorite bands—but namely the Grateful Dead. A passionate “Deadhead,” Williams built Petrified Good to further explore the intersection of music and merchandise.
“I think the resurgence of the merch just introduces more people to the Grateful Dead and what their music is all about,”says Williams.
Brands like Petrified Good tend to capitalize on a mutual fandom and adoration for merch. Whether they are explicitly influenced by the Grateful Dead—using official imagery (like graphic designer Jeremy Dean), or indirectly inspired by the mantra and ethos of the band (such as Online Ceramics)—these brands and other one-off bootlegs are the byproduct of a massive revitalization in the Grateful Dead community.
The band’s ardent fanbase have a legacy of making their own merch, and with John Mayer currently fronting Dead & Company on numerous tours, it’s brought Deadheads’ unique style and predilection for psychedelic graphics and colors to the forefront of the menswear conversation. That archetypal hippie style may fade out of prominence like the scent of freshly burnt palo santo, but Williams believes the DiY mindset and positive subculture that informs it is here to stay.
“I hope to see authenticity as a lasting trend,” says Williams. “Why shouldn’t products be filled with passion and love? That’s what organic streetwear does. That’s how it continues the legacy of the [Grateful Dead].”
Beyond his strong passion for music, Williams also holds a predilection towards the sustainable nature of his products. It’s for this reason that all of Petrified Good’s designs are displayed on a wide array of pre-made garments.
“As far as sustainability goes, there is not a better heritage brand than Patagonia. They have also ways been committed to providing quality and sustainable gear,” he says. “I use existing Patagonia garments because they are better quality and better for the environment than anything I would be able to manufacture in Ohio. There is something valuable about making a product only from things directly in front of you.”
Occasionally, Williams will come across vintage garments he finds too beautiful to customize, and sells them un-altered instead.
“I find giving new life to such a familiar product to my customer is fulfilling,” says Williams.
As a college student, Williams recognizes the stigma and financial difficulties preventing other young, aspiring creatives from starting clothing brands of their own. His advice is to just go ahead and do it, but be realistic and start small—like printing graphics on Gildan blanks.
Originality is key for Petrified Good and the versatility of Patagonia’s offerings definitely help to differentiate the brand, though he does recognize the venerable outdoor label’s current place in the style spotlight, which helps make his reinterpretations feel more current.
“Patagonia is having a ‘moment’ because it offers a product that is familiar and cool, without being too loud,” he says. But Patagonia’s egalitarian appeal also makes it the ideal canvas to make his work speak to a more mass audience. “It’s the clothes people want to wear with jeans when they don’t feel like dressing up, and with the myriad of colored fleeces Patagonia has, there is something for everyone.”
The catalyst that pushed Williams to start Petrified Good was a COMME des GARÇONS patchwork jacket from 2003 that he couldn’t afford. To fund his purchase, Williams created an Instagram account and posted seven customized jackets that sold out immediately. Ironically, by the time he had the funds to buy the jacket of his dreams—it had already been bought. But in solace, Williams discovered there was a demand for his products.
Today, Williams has quite an illustrious clientele spanning both music and fashion. Including the likes of Vampire Weekend frontman (and subtle style icon) Ezra Koenig, chef and TV personality Matty Matheson, and Mordechai Rubenstein—better known as the roving NYC cultural anthropologist Mister Mort. Petrified Good is no longer a college passion project, but a fully-fledged clothing brand.
Beyond his typical offerings, Williams continues to expand Petrified Good to include vintage garments from classic labels like Stüssy and L.L. Bean as well as new patches from bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac. He’s even made a few products featuring the Apple logo. As of late, Petrified Good is trying its luck at producing original graphics printed on recycled cotton tees, but he has some more projects in the works.
“I’ve been stock piling Engineered Garments pants for a reworking project I am super stoked about,” he teases. In addition, Williams admits he’s been stockpiling boxes of vintage Patagonia Retro-X fleeces, and plans to introduce original cut-and-sew garments made from Japanese fabrics and Irish linen. To further hone his skills, he plans to get his master’s degree at The New School.
A byproduct of music and design, Petrified Good rethinks DiY and community-focused design altogether. Williams doesn’t see music and fashion as two separate entities, but rather as an inextricable relationship. Merch is typically used to show affiliation towards a specific cultural entity, and Petrified Good effortlessly appeals to this notion. Between a strong commitment to his community and an unyielding passion for design, Williams is elevating the concept of bootleg merchandise beyond a simple graphic T-shirt.