In addition to his full time gig as the owner of PremiumGoods. sneaker stores at Park Slope and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Clarence Nathan is perhaps one of the most notable collector of Supreme goods. In addition to his mind-boggling Supreme sticker collection (which Freshness featured in 2009), five-panel camp caps and skate decks, Nathan also possess some of the most exclusive items by Supreme, including this original 1994 Supreme “Taxi Driver” (Travis Bickle) T-Shirt autographed by over 100 skateboard pros.
What started as a side project by Chappy, one of Supreme’s original store employee, the autographed tee became somewhat of a tradition among skateboarders visiting the Lafayette Street store location. Hang at the shop’s back room, the faded markings recall some of today’s best skaters, then mere urchins who hang around the store…
To learn more about this t-shirt and the overall influence of Supreme, we recently caught up with Clarence Nathan and to see this most unique item first hand.
Please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Clarence Nathan. I own the PremiumGoods. sneaker shops in the Park Slope and Williamsburg sections of Brooklyn, NY. Over the last 20yrs I have collected most things Supreme. Even though I’ve slowed down on the collecting I still have a deep appreciation for what they do and how they do it.
Tell us about Supreme's tee designs in the late 90s.
The older Supreme tee shirt designs were cool because streetwear had a different look and feel back then. Most brands at that time had imagery (graphics) directly related to what they represented. So if you were a skateboard company or skate shop you made clothing that had skateboards or someone riding a skateboard on it. If you were a graffiti inspired brand you had graffiti tags on your shirts. So when Supreme comes along they’re making tee shirts with airplanes on them. Something that had absolutely zero to do with anything relating to skateboarding. The only other brand prior to Supreme doing this kind of separation would have been Stussy. For someone like me who was into skating but I wasn’t a hardcore skater these designs appealed to my taste. I didn’t want to look like a 17yr old but I also didn’t want to look like the suit and tie guy. So the minimal Supreme tee graphics suited guys like me as well as other artist, musicians and graphic designers.
What's the background on this very unique t-shirt?
This tee is very interesting… I first saw it at Supreme in the stockroom when I started to hang out there. It was just hung up on an exposed beam with thumbtacks. From what I remember; my friend Chappy who worked there would have pro skaters autograph this shirt when they came to the shop. Over the years the signatures accumulated and it became it’s own thing. Then you had local downtown guys, artist and shop staff who worked or hung out at Supreme would autograph it as well.
How did you become the owner of this t-shirt?
My friend Chappy knew that I collected Supreme stuff. So when he needed to unload some og stuff we sat down and discussed what would be the best thing to do with it. He wanted to sell it on eBay and I persuaded him not too. The reason was that at that time (about 2006) it wouldn’t have sold for much of anything because it’s priceless. I say priceless because there is no reference point to base a price off of.
1- you couldn’t find original Taxi Driver tees for sale anywhere. Let alone any original Supreme design.
2- the autographs make this tee shirt that more special. Some of the autographs are by skaters who are no longer with us. Harold Hunter, Justin Pierce, Keenan Milton for example.
3- it would only be of value to someone who is into Supreme. To let it go to someone who would just resell after they purchased it from us would be disgraceful.
He decided to leave it with me because he knows I would never sell this shirt and if I ever decided to let it go I would give it to Supreme owner James Jebbia.
What do you think about the the re-release of these 2 graphics?
I think it’s incredible. There are soooo many Supreme tees I wish they would remake. Anyway the only reason I’m even doing this interview with you guys is because of the re-release of these graphics. The box logo doesn’t really count as a re-release because they have produced box logo tees throughout the years. But the Taxi Driver release will be the first re-issue Supreme tee shirt ever. Part of what makes Supreme in demand is that everything is made only once. After it sells out you can’t get it again unless you hit the resellers market. That’s the same reason the box logo 5 panel caps sell for so much because kids started noticing them after Tyler the Creator wore them at the VMAs. Think of how many 5 panels were made between 1994 and 2010? Anyway being that they’re re-releasing I wanted to show this special tee along side the re-issiue and to give some history on it. The Supreme table book just shows photos but I can explain how and what it was about.
How did you get this tee into the Supreme book?
When I got wind the book was being put together I immediately called the Supreme offices and asked James Jebbia if he needed anything or was looking for anything in particular for the book. I knew that I collected at a time when most people didn’t care to or weren’t thinking about Supreme in that way. So I was confident I had something that would/could be of importance to this book. He told me that he was looking more for photographs of the staff and their friends who hung out in the back stockroom not necessarily clothing pieces. So I said let me send you some pictures I have and if I find some other things I will send that as well. So I’m digging thru my stash and I see this tee shirt in a bag and I’m like "OH SHIT!" I gotta send this. So I emailed him letting him know "hey I have this shirt, are you familiar with it?" He literally called me in 15 minutes. He was so siked that I had it. He mentioned that he and A-Ron (Aaron Bondaroff) were trying to find out where the tee shirt was and who had it. I dropped it off to them the next day and that was that.