The Supreme Weekly is a regular column examining and breaking down the influences behind the brand’s weekly drops, courtesy of our resident Supreme expert, Ross Wilson.
This week, Supreme approaches the climax of its FW17 season with one of the most audacious collaborations of the year – a custom Stratocaster by American guitar manufacturer Fender.
This all-white Strat has been exclusively produced in the U.S.A. for Supreme and features the New York brand’s infamous Box Logo adorning the pickguard, plus a branded strap, picks and guitar case.
Founded in Fullerton, California, by Clarence Fender in 1946, the company currently manufacturers guitars, basses, mandolins, banjos and amplifiers, but their most famous product is a solid-body electric guitar named “The Stratocaster”. The best-selling electric Stratocaster has been in consistent production since 1954 and is regarded as a highly versatile guitar, usable for all styles of music from rock to soul, metal to blues and many more genres.
The Fender Stratocaster was the first electric guitar to feature three pickups and a spring tension vibrato system, as well as being the first Fender with a contoured body, designed for comfort. Over the past 60 years the Strat has been produced in numerous colorways and played by some of music’s greatest icons including Ry Cooder, Buddy Holly, Pete Townshend and Nile Rodgers.
When Supreme works on a collaboration project it often takes a brand’s most iconic design and makes it its own, so it comes as no surprise it would chose the Fender Stratocaster to work with as its first electric guitar. So why go with an all-white version of the classic axe as opposed to the more obvious choice of one decked out in Supreme’s signature red color?
The influence in this project could possibly be that of long-time friend of Supreme, the English guitarist/singer/songwriter Eric Clapton. Old “Slowhand” himself has been a well-documented streetwear head for years, having often been photographed in cult Japanese labels such as NEIGHBORHOOD, visvim, BAPE and WTAPS. In the early ‘00s, he was first introduced to Supreme by his wife Melia (who was working in the design industry at the time) and became a fan of the then low-key underground skate brand.
During this period Clapton was a regular visitor to the Lafayette Street store and was even the proud owner of one (of only 36-produced) custom Supreme BMX cruiser bikes made by Brooklyn Machine Works. The former Yardbirds/Cream guitarist also showed his love for the skate store by turning up to Wyclef Jean’s star-studded (Stevie Wonder and Destiny’s Child also shared the bill) All Star Jam at Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall in January 2001, wearing a black Supreme Box Logo T-shirt.
Eric Clapton is one of the select few musicians to have the honor of creating his own signature Stratocaster model with Fender. The Eric Clapton Stratocaster was customized to the guitarist’s own specifications and was first released back in 1988. Still in production, the EC signature model has been released in a selection of colors including the “Olympic White” version which was first released in Supreme’s founding year of 1994.
Another potential inspiration for the Supreme Stratocaster could come from the legendary Seattle-born guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Although his musical career was far too short-lived due to his tragic passing in 1970 at the age of just 27, Hendrix is often voted the number one guitarist of all-time in polls, and his three studio albums as “The Jimi Hendrix Experience” remain classics to this day.
Hendrix favored the Fender Stratocaster as his guitar of choice but found left-handed versions hard to come by, so he flipped over and restrung a regular right-handed Strat. The different string tension and microphone location formed Hendrix’s signature sound of bright highs and delicate lows, creating his own sound.
One of the most iconic guitars of all-time was Hendrix’s 1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster, that he bought from a music store in New York and went on to be known as “The Woodstock Strat”.
Dressed in a white fringe top, blue jeans and pink headband, Hendrix performed one of the stand-out sets at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. With his favorite white guitar, Hendrix captivated a huge crowd over a 12-song set that included his famous rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Despite owning multiple guitars, the Woodstock Strat would often be his instrument of choice and was played throughout his final concert at the Isle of Fehmarn in September 1970.
The legendary white guitar was eventually sold to Paul Allen in the ‘90s and now features as a permanent collection in the “Experience Music Project Museum” in Seattle.
If either of these great guitarists were the inspiration behind this new release from Supreme and Fender then they have certainly created a fitting tribute to both musicians in this well-executed project.
Now find out how Supreme’s box logo became an iconic design.
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