Men are dressing like artists—and paying hundreds to do it

May 20, 2021

Fashion designer Ralph Lauren’s workwear-inspired sub-brand Double RL (RRL) currently is selling a pair of jeans covered with Jackson Pollock-esque paint splotches. While the price, $429, couldn’t buy you even a square inch of an original canvas by the world-famous Abstract Expressionist artist, it’s significantly higher than that of an average pair of slim-cut denims, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Paint-splattered gear is increasingly on offer—often at elevated prices—in clothing shops of late:

Anyone who’s splatter-curious but budget-conscious can sample the trend in sneaker form: Both Nike and Converse sell relatively affordable $100-ish shoes lightly drizzled with pigment.

However, the Journal notes, ready-made clothes that suggest you just haphazardly repainted your bedroom are not novel. In the 1990s, New York city-based  Helmut Lang sold coveted jeans with a restrained sprinkling of white paint. Maison Margiela has peddled its own paint-splashed sneakers for years—and in 2018, released an entire collection built around paint-drenched chore coats and Levi’s jeans.

It’s no surprise that paint is being profitably splattered again in 2021, when other forms of crafty clothing are key to the fashion zeitgeist. Several years ago, the Big Apple brand Bode kicked off a trend for doodled-on garments with its $1,000-plus corduroys featuring hand-drawn images. Luxe Los Angeles label Amiri sells a spotty $750 bleached hoodie that makes whoever’s wearing it look like he got in a fight with a Clorox jug and lost. And we are many years into a tie-dye craze that has made tweens, retirees, and everyone in between look like devoted Deadheads.

When asked about this craftwork craze, Roma Cohen, the owner of Miami boutique Alchemist, told the Journal that, after the pandemic year, shoppers just want to “wear something that makes people happy.” Customers crave the devil-may-care, “no worries, man!” image that comes from wearing a tie-dye top or jeans that look like an action painter’s drop cloth.

Cohen believes that shoppers gravitate toward Alchemist’s in-house line of paint-splattered clothing because it reflects a human touch. He often plays Pollock himself to create these clothes and noted that the one-of-a-kind pieces often sell within days, despite their three-figure price tags.

Cohen said that many of the brand’s paint-dappled hoodies and joggers are produced in large batches by outside contractors. This is simply a decision based on scale. “When we’re selling thousands of garments, it’s hard to spend two hours or so [painting] on each garment,” he explained. Also, based on sales, customers often don’t seem to know or care if paint splotches are carefully hand-done by the actual designer or not. As with tie-dye,

And some guys are just making their own. The Journal reports that Eugene So, 23, who works in TV production in Los Angeles, was recently smitten by a $495 painted-on hoodie by Los Angeles label Gallery Dept. Still he couldn’t justify paying that much for “something that could have been an accident.” Instead, he created his own version using a $20 hoodie and a $20 paint set. At that price, he felt comfortable turning a sweatshirt into a wearable Pollock knockoff. The DIY project, he said, “provided a nice sense of accomplishment.” He created something “I could be proud of instead of buying someone else’s.”

Research contact: @WSJ

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