True Colors: How an A24 T-Shirt Became an Essential Piece in the Downtown Wardrobe

The website Grailed is the streetwear world’s go-to place to find rare, coveted items of clothing being resold by fashion aficionados, often at grand markups from the retail price. A Louis Vuitton x Supreme backpack from 2017 will set you back $35,000. An Off-White x Burton snowboard? It’s just over $18,000 as of press. Assorted Chrome Hearts chrome hearts: activate the platinum card. Lately, right alongside all the covetable totems of drop culture, a burgeoning swath of the resale site has been catering to a strange variant of hypebeast lust: promotional merch for films produced or distributed by A24, the boutique movie studio started by three mid-career Hollywood execs in 2012 that engendered the kind of cult appeal once reserved for skate brands and certain punk bands. Many of the assembly-ware shirts with imagery from A24 movies were likely produced for the cost of a decent tee, ink, and maybe some garment dye, but can sell on Grailed for more than $200; hoodies can fetch $500.

“It all came together and now A24 has a streetwear brand,” said Lawrence Schlossman, a former Grailed brand director who now cohosts the hit menswear podcast Throwing Fits. He mentioned offhand that, even with his large collection of designer grails, he owns an A24 shirt, and wears it often.

That A24 currently has a handful of movies in the Academy Award conversation that’s now underway—including the now playing Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon and Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, which stars former MTV VJ Simon Rex in a breakout role—might have something to do with the brand’s zeitgeist appeal. But there’s more to it than that—enough to at least warrant a column’s worth of investigation from True Colors as the holidays bring us fully into Oscar season. So since when did movie studios start clout-chasing? Just a few years ago, even the idea that anyone would care about the people who put out movies was enough for Robert pattinson to express disbelief that he was being contacted for a story. “It’s crazy that there is an article about a distribution company,” Pattinson told GQ. “That’s completely nuts.” (For the record, A24 expanded into production in 2016. Its principals declined to be interviewed for this story.)

But as far as indie film companies go, none in recent history have A24’s manic track record. After the company’s first theatrical release of the now forgotten Roman Coppola project starring Charlie Sheen, the company kicked off a yearslong hot streak with zeitgeist-capturing flicks like Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, and 2016’s A24 film Moonlight had captured the Oscar for best picture. They’ve also lit up the box office with buzzy not-dumb horror hits like Hereditary and Midsummer.

And they’ve used said buzz to sell T-shirts that fashion geeks fight over, proving that we now live in a world where skate fans and sneakerheads are trading grails that were made by Hollywood suits to promote an art house movie. It used to be that merchandise was simply what a band signed to an independent label like SST sold at a folding table by the stage after the show alongside stickers and CDs. Skate brands made T-shirts so their skaters could rep the logo not just under the deck but across the chest. The merch wave has of course been cresting for some time—arguably since the mid 2010s when all the off-duty models at Paris Fashion Week rocked T-shirts made by the skate magazine Thrasher, and Kanye West sold $90 hoodies celebrating a one-off Life of Pablo listening party at Madison Square Garden, despite estimates that some of his sweaters cost barely $20 to make. (They can now sell for double on Grailed.)

The emergence of quotidian apparel as a high-fashion object had a whiff of conceptual art project, a Duchampian attitude in which a urinal could be transubstantiated into museum-worthy sculpture just because the artist said so. Clearly a studio curating hundreds of items on a dedicated shop page on their website want fans of their movies to lust over the A24 dog leashes and A24 beach towels.

But what they might not have expected was for the idea of an A24 fandom to become one’s entire ethos. Coastal elites who think lit-mag tote bags are basic started ‘gramming themselves in A24 snapbacks and hoodies with the earnestness of a Knicks fan wearing blue and orange to the Garden. On dating apps, there have been reports of 20-somethings stating, in the box where you describe your personality: “A24.” Naturally, the celebrities have gotten wind of the mania. In September 2020, Emma Stone emerged from quarantine in a white hat emblazoned with the studio’s logo, and in February of 2021, Hunter Schafer, star of the A24-produced Euphoria, braved the snow in Manhattan with a peach-colored version.

The key to A24’s merch supremacy may lie in its taste in collaboration; from the get-go, they’ve enlisted taste-making streetwear and apparel heads to lend a hand in terms of design and, well, clout.

“Any graphics-driven streetwear studio would relish the opportunity to collab with A24,” Schlossman said. “It can platform a collaborator. To some extent, they have the pick of the litter.”

Elijah Funk, one half of the duo behind hippie streetwear titans Online Ceramics, which has made apparel based on A24 films including Saint Maud, The Lighthouse, and Midsummer, explained that the feeling is mutual when I spoke to him this week.

“I go on Reddit and there are like, A24 kids—it’s a full on lifestyle,” Funk said. “Their merch drops sell, it’s a full-on streetwear drop.”

The mysterious Chicago-based graphic-tee-as-appropriation collective Boot Boyz Biz teamed up with A24 for an Uncut Gems T-shirt that’s now on Grailed for $105. (“Rare. Sold out in seconds,” reads the listing.) A24 also tapped speed-metal and splatterpunk-inspired merch duo Brain Dead, started by Angelenos Kyle Ng and Ed Davis, to lend their imprimatur to a line of A24 products.

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True Colors: How an A24 T-Shirt Became an Essential Piece in the Downtown Wardrobe

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