Rock Star Fashions, Without the Douchiness
It would be corny if the enterprise revolved solely around hero worship. But the Joe Strummer shirt, for instance, doesn't boast a generic photo of the former Clash guitarist. Instead, it riffs on a shirt Strummer once wore promoting Dread Control, the radio show of obscure reggae star (and Clash producer) Mikey Dread. Last April, GQ named the shirt one of its "8 Tees You Need."
You need this t-shirt.
Will Smith has donned a "Float Like a Butterfly" tee from Worn Free's Muhammad Ali line, a rare divergence from its music-related licensing.
The credit belongs mostly to Coe. Speaking with him, you sense a deep love of the music behind the merchandise. He describes his ideal day as digging through a rare photo archive of rock and reggae shots from the '70s, or soaking up stories from the families of the deceased greats. One day, he dreams of licensing apparel worn by Fela Kuti, and he rhapsodizes about his latest musical discoveries: Pakistani icon Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and '70s Thai funk.
Since launching in 2005, Worn Free has opened satellite offices in London and Chicago, while manufacturing is done in Rancho Dominguez and Mexico. The company originally sold to mostly small boutiques but has begun popping up in Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom. And each shirt sold arrives with a brief explanation of its genesis.
"There's a lot of graphics that we don't use because they have to stand alone. You don't carry a hang tag around saying, 'Oh, John Lennon wore this,' so it has to be cool [by itself]," Coe says. "The people who wore these were tastemakers in the first place, so they had their own style that remains stylish today. The logos and the music stand the test of time."