Just imagine: It’s 3 AM. Everyone’s asleep… except for you and your best friend. You’re dressed all in black to blend in with the night. The adrenaline’s started to kick in. (This isn’t the first time, but it’s a rush every time.) Grab each bag of a thousand. Get in the car. Get on the freeway…
It’s time to sticker bomb all of Southern California.
Not what you expected? That’s how Ryan Smith and Jeremy Hanna, best friends and co-owners of Sullen Clothing, got their brand exposed before the convenience of social media: guerilla marketing. According to Smith’s interview with Another Tattoo, they “would enter and exit every freeway and stop in the middle of traffic and streets to get stickers in good spots. You figure a couple thousand people got to get on that freeway every day and all of them are seeing our stickers. With no marketing budget it was thousands and thousands of stickers.”
Sullen Clothing, one of the most widely-recognized alternative lifestyle apparel brands today, is what it is because of that dedication. Sullen is now a brand you love, and we’re proud to have lots of it. But in case you don’t know anything about the brand you’re representing, here’s the 411.
Just Two Guys with a Vision
Originally inspired by skateboard art, Ryan Smith and Jeremy Hanna wanted their clothing company to be for that industry. Their direction towards tattoo-inspired art was almost happenstance, when Hanna saw a couple of Smith’s rough sketches for unfinished tattoo designs lying around and convinced him to test them on t-shirts. Smith isn’t new to the industry—he’s been tattooing since 1996—and when he started collaborating with local artists on a regular basis, he and Hanna had the foundation on which Sullen was built. That was also the beginning of what we now know as the ever-growing Sullen Art Collective, which is home to more than 100 artists, like Carl Grace and Bob Tyrrell.
Fast-forward through Smith and Hanna working day and night, night and day for years, sticker-bombing all of Southern California on the regular in the early days, forming tight relationships with brilliant artists by word of mouth along the way, and you’re back to today—a day when Sullen is the lifestyle brand for tattoo collectors, artists, skateboarders, and other enthusiasts.
Angels with Attitude
Though the tattoo industry can still be considered a very “male” space, more and more tattooed women are surfacing and not only being accepted, but also being elevated to a sex goddess status. Sullen establishing the Sullen Angels and their women’s clothing line has played a big part in that evolution. Who are the Sullen Angels? Think of Victoria’s Secret Angels… except these angels have no secrets or shame about being the badasses they are.
Sullen Angels started as just a monthly contest to let tattooed girls be seen and make them feel proud of who they are. It turned into a type of brand awareness that Smith and Hanna weren’t anticipating, and it brought great exposure to their women’s clothing line.
The awesome thing about Sullen Angels clothing is that it breaks the mold. They’re not churning out one cookie cutter t-shirt or tank top after another. The Sullen Angels line embraces all things feminine, including style variety. Take this tank top, for instance; it features custom artwork by Vicky Morgan, and the asymmetrical style with lace paneling keeps things interesting—especially if you want to show off any chest, shoulder, or arm work.
The Here & Now
Thanks to the innovative ways Smith and Hanna networked, marketed, and casually but tirelessly worked their way into the lives and hearts of people with a wide variety of alternative lifestyles, Sullen Clothing has become a style icon. Musicians, like Cypress Hill, rock Sullen Clothing. Action sports athletes are seen wearing Sullen regularly—even the women of wrestling on E!’s Total Divas wear Sullen!
Sullen is a thread that runs through and ties together so many people with alternative lifestyles, and now they’re giving back even more than that sense of community between brothers (and sisters) in ink. They’re doing good works, like raising money for cancer research, and showing the world that being a badass doesn’t make you a bad person. So proudly wear that Sullen badge! It’s a badge of unity and passion for art that’s so intense, that passion will radiate from you wherever you go.