In 1980, California-bred Shawn Stüssy began creating surfboards that combined innovative performance shapes with a graphic style combining elements from reggae, punk and new wave music, leaving his literal mark on each board with a broad-tipped black marker. His signature paid homage both to graffiti handstyles and his uncle, abstract painter Jan Frederick Stüssy.
In 1984, Shawn Stüssy went into partnership with accountant Frank Sinatra Jr. (no relation to the singer) on an apparel line using Stüssy’s name. The label was the first to make caps marked with signifiers for fashion brands, not sports teams. The idea came from kids who donned white painter’s caps — Stüssy reinterpreted them with his own graphics and colour schemes. Among two of Stüssy’s most enduring designs are a pair of linked S’s, a play on the famous interlocking C’s of the Chanel logo, and a graphic that says “Stüssy No. 4,” riffing on Chanel’s signature perfume. By 1990, the business was generating $17 million in annual turnover. By 2014, Stüssy, still independently owned and operated by the Sinatra family, had grown into a global streetwear brand with annual revenues of $50 million.