Style History of the Stüssy logo

History of the Stüssy logo

Andrea Tuzio

This is the story of how a scribble made with a broad-tip marker on a surfboard became an icon of streetwear, and fashion in general, for an entire generation. The Stüssy logo is one of the most recognizable and identifiable ever made by a brand, making its debut on the surfboards that founder Shawn Stüssy began crafting in the early 1980s.

Designed, or should we say written, by Shawn himself, inspired by the signature of his uncle Jan Stussy – artist, film producer and professor emeritus at UCLA, where he taught for 42 years, and Oscar winner for the documentary film Gravity Is My Enemy – the logo is a child of the influence that the punk style of the 1970s had on the brand’s young founder as he grew up and trained

“You would start hearing the Sex Pistols and then the Clash…and in late ’79 I got into the punk aesthetic. When I decided to build surfboards myself, I scribbled Stüssy, printed it out nice and big, and put it on the first board I built”. 

Shawn’s surfboards were a huge success, and the logo played its part. Shortly thereafter that same logo ended up on the first Hanes total white tees, which, however, were not sold, Stüssy did not yet have a store, but were given as gifts to those who bought a board. 

In 1984 it all began for real. Together with his longtime friend Frank Sinatra Jr. – no relation to the Italian-American singer – began producing and selling clothing inspired by the beachwear and streetwear of the time, though innovative in both cut and coloring and new wave-inspired graphics, and oriented no doubt by the design of that first “edgy” logo, which was nothing more than the founder’s last name. 

Four years later, in 1988, the brand expanded to Europe, opened a store in SoHo, New York, as well as opening many others throughout the 1990s, reaching $17 million in sales as early as 1991.

It was at that time that the stylized logo of the two intertwined S’s, designed and created by Shawn, was born, mimicking the Chanel logo with the two interconnected C’s. The brand’s founder replaced the two Cs with his initials, two Ss in fact, creating a new historical logo for the brand.

“I made this logo for myself, taking the luxury shit out of it with the spirit of the beach and the street … hip hop was in a good moment, the dots were connecting with other things besides the beach, it was a good time”.

In ’96 Shawn left the brand, selling his shares to his friend Sinatra Jr. However, he could no longer use his surname for other personal projects. There is no doubt, however, that Stüssy’s handwriting, so peculiar, specific and inimitable, and the logo he “scribbled,” represented and continues to represent one of the most shining examples of the indissoluble link between graphic representation and aesthetic character in the world of fashion.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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