Shawn Stüssy coming out of retirement: why it matters

Shawn Stüssy coming out of retirement: why it matters

by Robyn Pullen
5 min

Over the weekend Shawn Stüssy, founder of his eponymous skate-meets-surf California-born label, announced on Instagram that he’s coming out of retirement. Posting a life update, the designer wrote “retirement has been nice, but [it’s] time to quietly engage for a long ride into the future…” Here’s what you need to know.

Who is Shawn Stüssy?
Dior x Stüssy©

Despite being arguably one of the most important people in street culture, Shawn Stüssy has been off most of our radars since 2020, when Stüssy collaborated with Dior and Shawn told WWD: “If I’m going to come out for a last hurrah, why not with Dior.” Before that though, with nothing but a pen and a surfboard, Shawn Stüssy created a brand that’s become synonymous with numerous subcultures, and is now cult-followed and world known. Here’s how.

Stüssy as a brand was born in the early 1980s when, whilst scribbling his signature on handmade surfboards, Shawn Stüssy got the idea to start putting the logo on tees. He started out selling apparel featuring the “Stüssy” logo in Laguna Beach, California out of the trunk of his car, before bringing onboard a friend, Frank Sinatra Jr. (no relation to the singer) in 1984, who partnered with him to sell the clothing. By 1988, they’d expanded to Europe, and by 1991 Stüssy’s revenue had reached $17 million. In 1996, Shawn resigned as president of Stüssy but the brand continued on, only growing in notoriety.

How did Stüssy create the cult?
Stüssy©

There’s plenty of reasons Stüssy became a cult brand, but for one, a ton of cultural shifts were taking place in the ‘80s and ‘90s when Stüssy was still building its following. Shawn Stüssy took the opportunity at the time to tap into these growing communities, and that’s what helped to boost Stüssy’s reputation within subcultures. From rap to skate culture, Stüssy was quick to be adopted by creatives and young people who launched the brand into its now cult-followed status.

What’s Shawn been up to since Stüssy?
Stüssy©

Don’t get us wrong, though: Stüssy isn’t the only brand Shawn Stüssy has to be credited with in his career. He’s also behind numerous other ventures, including S/Double, a now retired brand tailored more towards a curated, personal aesthetic to Shawn, and he’s also owner of Shawn Vintage, a platform for reselling Stüssy and S/Double products. On top of that, four years ago Shawn filed a new trademark and logo for a brand called “Shawn,” although neither the “Shawn” brand name or logo has been touched since 2020.

Since then, he’s returned to his roots
Stüssy©

Back in 2020, before he retired, Shawn Stüssy released a limited edition of 100 surfboards in collaboration with Dior for its Men’s Pre-Fall ’20 show, but nowadays getting your hands on a Shawn Stüssy original board is harder than even that. Since departing from fashion and starting retirement, Shawn Stüssy’s gone back to his roots, surfing in Guéthary, France and selling bespoke boards to a highly select group of clientele who need to be very close to him. Seems like a pretty nice retirement, and since it’s how Shawn started out making his living, it’s a full-circle moment in his career. We guess even surfing gets repetitive though.

What should we expect?

Stüssy©

So, knowing all this, what should we be expecting from Shawn Stüssy coming out of retirement? Whilst most of us expect him to go back to the brand we know him for – Stüssy – we need to remember that this isn’t his only brand. It’s not been long since he filed the trademark for “Shawn,” so perhaps that’s actually why he’s making a return to the fashion world. We’ll have to stay guessing for now, but what we do know is Shawn Stüssy coming back means fashion’s about to get a much needed injection of subcultural nuance, and we can’t wait.

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