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THE EVOLUTION OF THE PAINTED JACKET by Niklas Worisch


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BACKPIECE JACKETS

THE EVOLUTION OF THE PAINTED JACKET Niklas Worisch, 2014

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction...................................................9 Flight jackets „The Flying Tigers“.........................12 Flight jackets....................................14 Motorcycle jackets Hells Angels.....................................16 Anatomy of the MC jacket.................18 Motorcycle jackets..........................20 Gang jackets „The Black Spades“..........................24 Gang jackets......................................26 Punk jackets The leather jacket............................. 30 Punk jackets.....................................33 Graffiti Jackets Keith Haring....................................34 Graffiti and punk.............................38 Crews and gangs..............................40 Typography and language...............42 The graffiti backpiece......................44 Interview with Lady Pink................46 Graffiti Jackets.................................54

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Caine 1 with a brand new painted jean jacket for Martha Cooper, 1981


INTRODUCTION UNIFORMS ARE USED TO SHOW THE MEMBERSHIP OF AN ORGANIZATION. NOT ONLY TO SHOW THE COMMITMENT TO A SERVICE, PROFESSION OR BELONGING TO A SCHOOL, BUT ALSO TO SHOW THE PARTICIPATION IN A SPORTS TEAM OR PARAMILITARY ORGANIZATION SUCH AS POLICE OR SECURITY. Jackets are often used as an apart clothingpiece to show a political view, statement or participation of an activity or group. Throughout history, all kinds of groups and gangs used painted jackets as a collective characteristic and to communicate their rank or position within a group. But it is not always about the group identity or feeling. Since the 1900s, individualism and freedom of speech are growing, and so are the individual design approaches of jackets. Starting in the 1970s jackets get more and more individualised. Logically, the back part of a jacket is to be used as biggest communicative space. In this book we will focus on the phenomenom of backpieces* on jackets. We will investigate how the ritual of Backpieces started with american pilots in China and finally got picked up by the Graffiti subculture of New York of the 1980s where it reaches the peak of individualism.

* Backpieces are illustrations or paintings, created on the back of a (mostly) denim jacket.

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Members of „The Flying Tiger“, an american volunteer group


FLIGHT JACKETS 11


THE FLYING TIGERS WE ARE GOING BACK IN TIME TO THE EARLY 1900S, WHERE BROWN LEATHER FLIGHT JACKETS WERE FIRST PRODUCED FOR PILOTS OR „AVIATORS“ - MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY. DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR, THEY BECAME KNOWN AS „BOMBER JACKETS“. The jacket was often part of an overall uniform ensemble meant to protect bomber pilots from exposure to the extreme climate conditions found at high altitude, and sometimes incorporated sheepskin, using the intact fleece on the inside for warmth. With painting a design on the fuselage of a military aircraft - for practical reasons of identifying friendly units - the practice to paint jackets came up. Through that the pilots wanted to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of

the military. They also wanted to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death. Thats why, the aviators started to decorate their jackets - next to honor patches and medals also with motivational slogans, comics and pinups to cope with their fear of death. Today these unique handpainted jackets are collectorspieces, exhibited in museums all over the world and traded for a lot of money.

American air gunner 86th Bomb Squadron, 47th

The classic A-2 flight jacket with backpiece of an

Group. The outline of Italy indicates were he served

American Volunteer of the Chinese Air Force


Another item that shows the self-motivation of soldiers. Zippo lighter -Vietnam war, early 1960s

3rd Fighter Squadron „Hell Angels“, AVG

„The Flying Tiger“ insignia was created by the Walt Disney Company. Flight leader and fighter ace Robert „R.T.“ Smith, 1941 stands next to his painted P-40 bomber in Kunming, China. On his jacket you can see a red angel pinup with wings and halo. „R.T.“ for Roberts initials. „3rd Pur. Sqd.“ and the initials of the force „AVG“.

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Aviators worldwide used to decorate the front of their airplanes with motivational slogans and paintings. That is called Noseart. The amount of bombs stands for the number of shot opponents in previous fights.

The original aviator jackets is known to have patches or drawings on the sides of the chest, the shoulders/upper arm and the back of the jacket. In individual ways, they marked, the location of a mission by paintings or patches. Next to that the patches on shoulders and the front right side of the jacket indicate more simplyfied - a sign or logo of the force. On the front side left - the heart side - the name and the squadron of the pilot are shown. Individual added drawings of bombs or tallies all over

the jacket, can tell about how many or which aircrafts of the opponent were fired off or destroyed. The symbols were added over time with the growing amount of missions. Themes are often related to comics or pinups. These jackets have a big range of typography. Simple lettering over gothic type to funny comic letters. The colours used come out of necessity for recognition or to contrast to the dark colours of the leather jackets. Frequently used were light yellows, reds, blues and whites.


1. B-17G “Schifless Skonk,”R.L. Parker, 2. The A-2 of Richard E. Fitzhugh, B-17G “El Lobo II“ 3. 401st Bomb Squadron 4. Satans Brood 5. „Flying Tigers steer hide Style 516“ flight jacket remake 1964 6. B-17, “Lady Lorrie,” 306th Bomb Group 7. A-2, Sgt. James Eagan, B-24 “Final Approach”8. Pete, B-17 “Goin’ My Way” 9. “Doc’s Boy”, G.H. Armstrong, B-24 “Puss-n-Boots”

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„Hells Angels“ clubmember and rider


MOTORCYCLE JACKETS 17


THE HELLS ANGELS OUTERWEAR DESIGNER IRVING SCHOTT AND HIS BROTHER JACK CREATED THE ICONIC PERFECTO STYLE IN 1928. A JACKET CUT IN THICK LEATHER, FEATURING WIDE SNAP-BUTTONED LAPELS AND HEAVY ZIPPERS, MAKING IT DURABLE ENOUGH TO PROTECT MOTORCYCLISTS IN THE EVENT OF AN ACCIDENT. It quickly became a popular choice among the biker gangs of the 1930s, and soon the perfecto became as infamous as the bikers who wore it, gaining a reputation through brands like Harley Davidson, the jacket’s first distributor. „The Hells Angels“ were founded 1935 in Illinois and are probably the most famous motorcycle gang worldwide. The „HAMC“ „Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, is a worldwide „one percenter“

motorcycle club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The „Frisco“ Hells Angels were reorganized in 1955 with thirteen charter members; Frank Sadilek, who designed the original death‘s head logo, served as president. This logo and the number 13 later became the club standard. MC stands for „motorcycle club“. This is a great example of what happenings influence the actual graphics on the jackets.

Perfectos were traditionally worn under the gang

the backpiece of a „Hells Angel“ MC. The „Deaths

jacket, mostly out of denim.

Head“ was designed by Frank Sadilak, 1953


COLORS „COLORS“ OR „PATCHES“ ARE THE INSIGNIA, , WORN BY MOTORCYCLE CLUB MEMBERS TO IDENTIFY MEMBERSHIP OF THEIR CLUB AND THEIR TERRITORIAL LOCATION. 1 2 3

The typical patches make up a set of colors: 1) Top rocker – used for club name 2) Club logo plus MC patch 3) Bottom rocker – shows territory

4 5 6

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4) 1% signifying „outlaw“ intent 5) Club name or location 6) Office or rank held within club 7) Side patch

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Later on, patches and other add-ons not only indicate a rank in the club, group or gang, but also communicate a story, a specific message or simply improve the looks of the gang jacket.

Here a selection of 9 backpieces from well known biker gangs in comparism. You can find bend rectangles on the top and bottom of the back of each gang jacket. These areas are called „top rocker“ and „bottom rocker“. The top rocker tells about the name of the gang, the bottom rocker tells about the location of the motorcycle gang. The club logo and the MC patch, mark the rider as a officially active gang member. The motives used for club logos are mostly figural. Often they re-

mind of tattoo themes. Frequently used figures are the typical archytype rock and tattoo motives: skeletons, skulls, reepers, the devil, weapons, wings, wild animals or the motorcylce itself. Addons tell about political views or initials of the riders name. The typography and colors remind of tattoo lettering. The fonts stay mostly very readable. Often used typefaces range from very simple, clear lettering to bold and gothic handlettering. Often the rockers and the club logo are sewed on patches.


1. Cobras, Nashville 2. Outlaws, Germany 3. Drifters, Cleveland 4. Hells Angels, France 5. Fugawi, Hudson Valley 6. Bandidos, New Zealand 7. Pagans, Maryland 8. Hells Union, California 9. Sons of Anarchy, California

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Members of the Savage Nomads Skulls and the „Roman Kings“


STREET GANG JACKETS 23


THE BLACK SPADES THE PHENOMENOM OF GANGS CAME UP IN THE EARLY NINETEEN HUNDREDS. BUT IN THE 70S IN NEW YORK, THE NUMBER OF YOUTH GANGS INCREASED DRAMATICALLY AND THEREFORE THE NUMBER AND THE CULTURE OF BACKPIECES. IN THEIR MULTITUDE, THE GROUPS HAD TO INDIVIDUALISE THEIR IDENTITY. The Black Spades were at this time one of the most powerful gangs in New York. They consisted out of mostly African Americans and started in New York City during the 1970s. The gang was known to the most violent gang in the Bronx and began to spread out of the Bronx to Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. In the 80s they were spread over a big area in central America.

First „The Black Spades“ were known as „The Savage Seven“. Afrika Bambataa was warlord of one of their division before he decided to break apart. Later he formed „The Universal Zulu Nation“ from members of the Spades and other crews. This organisation was dedicated to the hip hop culture. It is also known, that there are relations between graffiti jackets and the jackets of the „Black Spades“.

the classic „Black Spades“ backpiece. Handdrawn

Kevin Donovan (aka. Afrika Bambaataa) released a

club logo, MC patch and top and bottom rocker

series of genre-defining electro tracks in the 1980s


The movie „The Warriors“,1979 by Walter Hill, tries to describe the problematics and differences between youth gangs in this time in New York.

Members of„The Savage Nomads“ the former name of „The Black Spades“ presenting self made backpieces on their jackets.

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A big part of a street gang is to fight for your territory. The Black Spades had over 50 divisions in New York State alone.

The layout of a street gang jackets from New York in the 70s is an evoluted adaptation of motorcycle gang jackets. The material of the jackets were mostly denim or leather. Colors of the material vary more but stay relatively dark. Since the youth gangs didnt have money, the graphics had to be handdrawn on the fabric. The name of the gangs were not always painted directly on the jacket, but mostly indirectly attached by sewing a patch of fabric on. Like most motorcycle jackets, there is a top

and a bottom rocker. The colors of the patches were mostly white. Street gangs use the colors of their jackets for their identification. Mainly used where black, white, red, blue and green. Numbers, illustrations and patch addons are used to communicate more information of all kind. The individualisation of backpieces was growing. Aggressive symbols like the ones on motorcycle jackets are used, also commonly used in the tattoo culture, which is a related closely to the subculture of youthgangs in New York.


1. The Majestics, New York 2. Outlaws, Germany 3. Drifters, Cleveland 4. Hells Angels, France 5. Fugawi, Hudson Valley 6. Bandidos, New Zealand 7. Pagans, Maryland 8. Hells Union, California 9. Sons of Anarchy, California

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Dr. Rat, graffiti punk from Amsterdam, 1974


PUNK JACKETS 29


THE LEATHER JACKET SINCE THE FIRST HARLEY DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLE JACKET APPEARED IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1919, THE LEATHER JACKET IS A SYMBOL FOR REBELLION. BIKERS, GREASERS, GOTHS, METAL HEADS, MILITARY AVIATORS USED THEM. IN THE 70s, THE LEATHER JACKETS BECAME SYMBOL OF THE PUNK MOVEMENT. Like we already learned earlier, the quintessential leather jacket was born out of functionality. The first leather jackets of aviators were bulky, often featuring shearling-lined collars and lapels to protect pilots from the elements. But since the birth of the perfecto jacket, the leather jacket has become as essential in fashion as the little black dress. The leather jacket abandones its more practical uses in favor of the evolution of trends. In the1950s, the

greaser subculture was born – mostlyamerican countercultural groups fueled by teenage angst rebelled against just about everything. They adopted the leather jacket as a kind of social signifier that identified them as “outside the law.” The leather jacket arised to a symbol for Rebellion. The punk era of the 1970s erupted with anti-establishment sentiments and a desire for individual freedom, expressed in part through patch-covered leather jackets.

outerwear designer Irving Schott and his brother

punkjackets are often transformed into vests,

jack created the iconic perfecto style in 1928.

like this example from 1982.


Greasers are a working class youth subculture that originated in the 1950s among young northeastern and southern United States street gangs. The style and subculture then became popular among other types of people, as an expression of rebellion.

In the early 90s in London, punks would paint the sleeves of their jackets in different colors to make a statement about their poltitcal view or conviction. In the punk scene this phenomenom of colorcodes is also known to be practised by defining the color of the boot laces.

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A punk jacket gets modified over a lifetime. Singer of the punkrockband „Sex Pistols“, Sid Vicious wrote in his suicide note: “Bury me in my leather jacket…”

The individual creations on each punk jackets are very divers and unique. In the subculure of punk, spikes, safety pins and razor blades where not only used as jewellery or part of bodymodification but also to improve the looks of the leather jacket. Anarchistic slogans, spiderwebs or logos of punkbands make the jackets more personal. Mostly these are attached to the jacket by sewing on patches or drawing with a paint marker. Often a part of the jacket is colored by spraypaint or marker.

The range of motives and typefaces used is really wide, but always connected to parts or music of the punk movement. To add duktape or other pieces of fabrics to hide holes and renovate the jackets are very common. Often the motives on the back of the jackets are related to the music flavour of the owner. Patches of logos or designs of famous Punk and Rock and Roll legends or their music CD covers are frequently used. Often you can find the logo of the english punkband „Subhumans“.


1, 2, 3. Jackets from London, 1980s 4. Keith Haring, 1988 5. Jean Michelle Basquiat, 1988 6. Cafe Racer 1980 7, 8, 9. three iconic examples of 3 english punk vests (leather and denim)

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Graffit jackets of Seen, Bogas and Iz the Wiz


GRAFFITI JACKETS 35


KEITH HARING VARIOUS GRAFFITI JACKETS ARE EXHIBITED IN MUSEUMS NOWADAYS. THE VALUE OF AN ORIGINAL JACKETS IS HIGH AND MANY OF THOSE INDIVIDUAL PIECES ARE RELATED TO PERSONAL STORIES OF WELL KNOWN PEOPLE. The late graffiti artist Keith Haring for example, did a lot of painted jackets throughout the 80s. These jackets were hand painted with acrylic or paint markers. Not only did he design paintings for leather jacket companies like Schott, but also painted private motives. Keith was good friends with Madonna, who was adorer of Graffiti. They were spending more time together. So it came that Keith painted several jackets for Madonna. For example an individual denim jacket saying „Boy Toy“.

Other famous jackets are exhibited in various museums like the MOMA in Los Angeles or the museum of modern art in Phoenix. The Yogi Lala shop in New York has a couple of original jackets from famous graffiti artists of the 80s like Caine One. The gate of the shop was also designed by Caine who got killed in 1988 because of his activity in gangs and witch cults. Since 36 years, the painting has been maintained by other artists.

Madonna and Keith Haring, 1985

another classic illustrated backpiece on a white

Madonna is wearing a jacket painted by Keith

leather jacket by Keith Haring, 1984


Madonna in her “boy toy� denim jacket, painted by Keith Haring 1984 Madonna also performed in a two-piece skirt suit illustrated by Keith

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GRAFFITI AND PUNK LIKE PUNK, THE GRAFFITI MOVEMENT CAME UP IN THE EARLY 70S. THE POOR YOUTH WENT OUT IN THE STREET TO RIOT AGAINST THE SOCIETY. THESE YOUNG PEOPLE IN NEW YORK, PHILADELPHIA OR AMSTERDAM AROUND 1969, WERE STILL LISTENING TO 60S BANDS LIKE LED ZEPPELIN AND PINK FLOYD. Punks like to write their slogans and statements not only on their jackets but also on public buildings and walls to revolt against the establishment. Thats why the spraycan was an obvious choice for a tool. Especially white people and the punk and rock and roll movement were celebrating the backpiece jacket as a fashionpiece in the early seventies. Messy hair, flanel shirts and painted jackets.

But since also punkers turned to graffiti, the phenomenom of leather jackets covered in graffiti signatures was an coming up. Opposite to the gang jackets - graffiti jackets are more individualised, like the jackets within the punk movement. Dr. Rat from Amsterdam (1960-1981) was an iconic example for a dedicated punk who helped starting up the graffiti movement in the Netherlands.

Harley Davison leather vest. Collabortion of

Dr. Rat, pioneer of the graffiti movement in the

signatures from different New Yorker graffiti writers, 1983

Netherlands, late 1970s.


Queens, 1986. A white boy in a leather jacket with graffiti signatures on it.

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CREWS AND GANGS WITHIN HIP HOP CULTURE, GRAFFITI HAS EVOLVED ALONGSIDE HIP HOP MUSIC, B-BOYING, AND OTHER ELEMENTS. BEEING IN A CREW WAS AN IMPORTANT THING. GRAFFITI CREWS ALSO MARK THEIR TERRITORY LIKE GANGS, BUT DEFINE THEMSELVES MORE AS A SOCIAL STATUS THAN A CRIMINAL ORGANISATION. Graffiti writers sometimes agree to work in a group and spread their groupname together. Such a group is called a „crew“. The graffiti crew is more a social status then a criminal movement. Contrary to gangs, Graffiti writers do not wear their jackets in a everyday live since they dont want to be recognized by law or writers of other crews. „Graffiti crews are not like gangs at all. Street gangs where really well organised to do crime. But graffiti crews are a social status. There is

backpiece of graffiti writer „Mode“, Paris 1984

non of that violence or organised thing going on, you could belong to a dozend crews, doesnt matter. If you belong to a crew your save in certain areas of the city, you have friends, you wont be hurt. If you belong also to the enemy crew, chances are you might get robbed and cant put your graffiti up in enemy territory because it would be destroyed. Crews value their artists. If you can put up really good or do a lot of work, these are things valued by a crew.“ Lady Pink

jacket by graffiti legend Dondi (embracing Lady Pink) photo by Martha Cooper, 1983


Uncommon: The whole crew is wearing red sweaters with their writername on it.

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GRAFFITI TYPOGRAPHY BEFORE WE START GOING IN DETAIL WITH THE EXPLAINATION OF THE JACKETS WE FIRST NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT THE BASIC GRAFFITI TERMINOLOGY IS UNDERSTOOD. THERFORE, WE ARE GOING TO COMPARE THE WORK OF 3 OLDSCHOOL GRAFFITI LEGENDS FROM NEW YORK, EARLY 1980s. THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF GRAFFITI THAT ALTER WITH A THE AMOUNT OF EFFORT. THE COMPLEXITY AND TIME OF A WORK - AND THEREFORE A HIGHER RISK - ARE A FACTOR FOR THE VALUE OF AN ARTWORK. WITH USE OF COLOR AND EFFECTS LIKE SHADOW OR LIGHTREFLECTIONS, THE TYPE OF WORK CHANGES.

30sec - 1min

2-5 min

30min - 3h

THROW UP

PIECE

3h - 10h

DONDI

LEE

SEEN

TAG

MURAL

one color

2 colors

multi-color

multiple colors

simple signature

double letter typography

double letter, effects

composition, effects

explaination of graffitiwriting styles with examples and time effort scala


GRAFFITI LANGUAGE IT IS ABOUT „GETTING UP“, „ROCKING“ AND „BEEING THE KING“. THE IDEA OF STYLE AND COMPETING FOR THE BEST STYLE IS THE KEY TO ALL FORMS OF „ROCKING“. The rap mc rocks the mic (rapping and rhyming) for the b-boys it is rocking their body (breakdancing). for writers, it is „rocking the city“ (with painting their name on a train)“ quote „Style Wars“

poster for the hip hop documentary „Style Wars“, 1983

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THE BACKPIECE IN THE 1970, DERIVING FROM PUNK, A NEW YOUTH SUBCULTURE DEVELOPED: GRAFFITI. TOGETHER WITH THE PHENOMENOM OF NEW YORK GANG JACKETS OF THE 70S, THE PUNK JACKET IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE TOWARDS THE GRAFFITI JACKET. Black people were not in touch with the phenomenom of wearing painted pictures of Jim Morrison on the back of their jackets like the „white people“. Dressed in flannel shirts, with painted jackets and their hair all messy. The music of the black people was rather contrary. Funk, disco and oldschool hiphop. But graffiti was a phenomenom neither related to the white nor the black culture. White and black people together in the same crew was a common thing. The „white“ phenome-

nom - to paint music heros on the back of their jacket - evolved and got applied by the rules of graffiti. Since graffiti artists painted basically everything and one tries to be „the king“ himself, the step to the next fashion statement was close: The Backpiece jacket. A graffiti backpiece is made by the owner itself or a present for another respected writer. It is a composition of a colorful piece and often a character. It is essential that the artist signs his creation by adding a signature on the bottom of the jacket.

Two characters brakdancing on the piece. The owner

„Mode 2“ famous graffiti writer from Paris presents

is probably active in the b-boy movement, 1987

his creation to Martha Cooper, 1984


1980s: The jeansjacket is common clothing piece in the graffiti, breakdance and hiphop scene. Here you can see Dondi, working at the New Lots Yards, NY 1980 - photo: Martha Cooper

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INTERVIEW LADY PINK

Lady Pink wearing her jacket made by Caine One

LADY PINK

Pink painting a wall in Queens wearing her jacket, 1981.


LADY PINK 47


INTERVIEW LADY PINK, WAS BORN IN ECUADOR, BUT RAISED IN NYC. IN 1979 SHE STARTED WRITING GRAFFITI AND WAS SOON WELL KNOWN AS ONE OF THE FEW FEMALE CAPABLE OF COMPETING WITH THE MALE WRITERS OF NEW YORK. SHE PAINTED NUMBEROUS SUBWAY TRAINS FROM THE YEARS 1979-1985. BECAUSE OF HER SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTIONS TO GRAFFITI SHE IS CONSIDERED A CULT FIGURE OF THE HIP-HOP SUBCULTURE IN NEW YORK. Q: Hi Lady Pink! How did you get into the graffiti movement? I started when I was 15. My boyfriend at that time was arrested for graffiti and send back to Puerto Rico, and I was so sad that I was starting to write his name around the school and everywhere. Thats how i got to learn graffiti. But then I went to the highschool of art and design, where I met kids from every

corner of New York City. Under them where some interesting people, that knew where and how to paint trains, without getting hurt or arrested. Q: When was the first see a jacket, painted on the back? When I was a teenager, i cannot remember excactly, but I was very young. When I saw these jackets back then,

portrait of Caine One, graffiti legend from Queens,

Cane One at work, with one of his Rock and Roll

his jacket is also painted on the frontside, 1980s

styled backpiece vests.


Lady Pink with one of her works, 2010

I was always associating them with white people. There was very little racial divide. It were really different worlds. I did see this jackets, but it was not for me. I am latin and i ran with african american people, not white people. That was „out“. You dont dress like them, dont act like them, you act like „us“. My group of people didnt have to do a lot with these people. We didnt listen to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, that was for the white people. Who all dressed in flannel shirts, had painted jackets and their hair all messy. Q: How id you get in contact with backpiece jackets? I met Caine One, in I guess 1980 and he was already doing many jackets.

He also taught me how to airbrush and how to paint backpiece jackets. His thing was doing the rock and roll jackets. He was running in a different crowd, these were rockers, punkrock gangs who wanted to see him painting sexy naked chicks next to lions holding chains, on the side of their trucks, so he was the man to do it. But they were not much related to graffiti. He had stencils to the most popular requests and he did them by commision from a jewellery store in New York, called Yogi Lala. He had stencils of Jim Morrison and some of the other famous album covers. He would put on the stencil and would spray on the basic design, because that was the quickest way to do it. 49


Different colors, different backgrounds, but basically always the same image, so that more people would actually walk around with it. He was involved with some bad people in New York when i came across. He had been the king of graffiti in Queens, painting the number 7 trains and all the big ones.

Q: Where do you think the backpiece phenomenom comes from?

Q: Caine One was killed, Do you know if he had relations to gang movements?

Q: So graffiti has nothing to do with gangs?

By the time he was twenty - I think - he found his biggest interest: the gangs. I believe it was either that he was active in gangs or that he has been part of a witch cult. He was arrested for dealing with human skulls once andhe was put in jail for that.

Graffiti is a very specialised skill. It takes years to master lettering and fonts and styles and how to do it correctly, there is very little crossover. You need so much time and energy and focus so there is usally not much time left to do something else. Having an active gangmember invites serious police scruteny. Not to mention the possibility that they do some violence while your with them. You can not run with hardcore criminals, because shit happens. There were always crossovers of breakdancers, rappers or gangmembers who were doing some graffiti on the side, but generally, they were really interested in other stuff.

Then he left the witch cult. According to him they wanted to take him out. Because there is no way out of that witch cult. Maybe they caught up to him or maybe it was the gangs that he has been involved with. These were white people that didnt mess around, they just went and killed people. I was just getting him back in the graffit scene, the the people welcomed him and embraced him. He did lots of good work at this time, wonderful paintings and nice exhibitions. He was just starting to come back and realising his worth and value as an artist. But at the age of 23, his life was cut short.

According to my husband, it is all copied from the gang jackets, especially from the Black Spades I believe... Thats were they were originally sold from.

Q: Do you belong to a crew? I belong to the TC5 crew. Thats my main crew. This crew started out in the early 1970s. „Blade“ was president at one point and then „Blackscene“ was president and now its „darkTC5“. I still put the crew up and I belong to this social club which is mostly these large black man in their late 30s.


This jacket was painted by Caine One for Lady Pink and Lee Quinones.

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I dont really have anything in common with tgose people, but we all belong to the same crew. There are all kinds of social events and it is very prestigious to belong to TC5.

Q: So a graffiti jacket was not an everyday clothing piece?

No, like I already mentioned, this fashion is not for me. They exist, but there are ot a lot of them.

Not really. Wearing such a jacket is only for events like gallery openings. Normally you don´t identify yourself as a graffiti writer or with your crew. If you would wear your name on a sweater or a t-shirt, it would be just inviting to be arrested or to get recognized from other writers. It is like a confession.

Q: Did you ever paint yourself a jacket?

Q: Do you have a favorite jacket?

No you dont do that! You dont put your own name on a jacket. You only paint jackets for other people. I maybe painted a dozend jackets in my lifetime. Only comissions people asked for their name and some kind of an image, I also painted tiny baby jackets. I did a design for a limited edition Levis jacket which were sold at the MOCA in LA. So they really got mainstream.

Yeah, it is definitely my jacket painted by Caine One. It has already been to for different musums for exhibits. The last one was in the Phoenix art museum, they did an exhibit of fashion inspired by graffiti.

Q: Do you own a TC5 jacket?

Q: How do you think the phenomenom of the backpiece jacket came up? Its just a fashion statement. People where painting on the sides of their pants aswell. It is a way of displaying your art, getting up on another moving object, like a train. Even though you paint it for someone else, the bottom of the jacket has to be always signed by the artist. And it is always a matter of money. All artists want to sell their works, and it was just popular to wear these in the 1980s. Mostly people wore it for a gallery opening or other events to represent their skill, but not that often.

Lady Pinks backpiece design for Levis in cooperation with the MOCA of Los Angeles, 2011


Famous fashion designers inspired their collections by graffiti and have done some incredible stuff. Martha Cooper also has a vest painted by Caine One. She even wears her museum piece to events, even though I tell her to stop wearing it! Q: What makes a good graffiti jacket? There are not many graffiti writers that have the skill to work with the brush. Most graffiti writers can only work with spraypaint. They dont have the knowledge and the skill, about what materials to use. Knowing how to paint a jacket has to be taught. You can not just buy a jacket and start painting it.

Q: So how do you paint a proper jacket? First of all you need to iron the jacket and properly pin it down. You have to chasel it correctly with white paint, because you can not paint on raw fabric. Mainly you use acrylics so it lasts forever. Using brushes or airbrush you paint on one layer after another. Caine One, who did most of the jackets with airbrush, suggested me, if you wear the jacket, to rub monthly a little vaseline over it, especially next to the arms. So the colors dont crack. Q: Thank you for the interview! You are welcome!

Martha Cooper wears her jacket at Carmichael Gal-

other jackets exhibited at the show „city as

lery in LA, 2011, thirty years after Caine painted it.

canvas“, Museum of the city of New York, 2014

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JACKETS FROM THE 80s: 1. Tack FBA 2. Astek Kings 3. Suar & Light 4. Melvin 5. Dusty, INC 6. Julio 7. BASF, OBS crew 8. Secret Wars jeans 9. Samoan, Sugar


JACKETS FROM THE 80s: 1. Iz the Wiz 2. NCISK 3. Snox 4. Baier, the turners 5. Caine One for Lee Quinones & Lady Pink 6. Caine One for Martha Cooper 7. Teus, NSA 8. Dondi 9. Busker 14

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JACKETS FROM THE 21st CENTURY: 1. Cycle 2. Dowjones 3. Subway Art 4. Poontanglers 5. Dusty, INC 6. DMX 7. Nychos 8. Sumo 9. Bauch Money


JACKETS FROM THE 21st CENTURY: 1. Dr. Octopus 2,5,6,7,8,9. Jukeboxcowboys 3. Rosy 4. Henne

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BACKPIECE JACKETS THE EVOLUTION OF THE PAINTED JACKET THROUGHOUT HISTORY, A LOT OF GROUPS AND GANGS USED PAINTED JACKETS AS A COLLECTIVE CHARACTERISTIC AND TO COMMUNICATE THEIR RANK OR POSITION WITHIN A GROUP. BUT IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT THE GROUP IDENTITY OR BELONGING. SINCE THE 1900S, INDIVIDUALISM AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH WERE GROWING, AND SO ARE THE INDIVIDUAL DESIGN APPROACHES OF JACKETS. IN THIS BOOK WE WILL FOCUS ON THE PHENOMENOM OF BACKPIECES* ON JACKETS. WE WILL INVESTIGATE HOW THE RITUAL OF PAINTING JACKETS STARTED AND HOW IT FINALLY GOT APPLIED BY THE GRAFFITI SUBCULTURE OF NEW YORK OF THE 1980S.

2014


Backpiece jackets - The evolution of the painted jacket