Spotlight On: Class of Seventy Four, Streetwear Giants In the Making
In this Spotlight On, we feature one of favorite (under the radar) but absolutely lit brands, Class of Seventy Four (“Class”). Everything Class releases is fire. A few years ago they came out with a must have “Three’s Company” shirt. I saw it, wanted it, but something came up and I didn’t order it right away. The next day it was gone. Don’t sleep on Class.
Class is a nostalgia-based lifestyle brand and design group that cleverly marries the very best of pop culture past and present. Their pieces function as tangible time machines that transport you to those amazing childhood memories that last a lifetime. Whether you were the kid who got up every Saturday morning to watch your favorite cartoons or the one who would watch wrestling and copy the moves with your friends, [they’ve] got you covered.
My first exposure to Class was their iconic Ric Flair T-shirt. You can tell that the designers at Class put their love and passion into making this shirt, because the reaction you get from wearing it is nothing but love—and how could it be any but love? Ric Flair, straight pimped out with Cazals, Jesus pendant necklace, Class belt buckle, and plaid sport coat, representing what Class calls Nostalgic Opulence. I subsequently bought other incredible pieces featuring Andre the Giant (featured above), Ted DiBiase (Million Dollar Man) and Virgil, Darth, Luke, and Leia, and Lando Calrissian living XXL.
Awesome caught up with the founders and creative geniuses behind Class, Winston Brown and Aaron Wilson, to find out more about this incredible brand.
ATA: How was Class of Seventy-four started?
Winston Brown: I actually got the idea in the shower. I wanted to do products that paid homage to shows, music, and movies I grew up with. I didn’t want it to just be us getting pics online and slapping them on a shirt. So, I began to play around with the idea of crossing genres and mixing hip-hop elements into the mix. I immediately contacted my partner Aaron Wilson and he got the vision. We started working immediately.
Aaron Wilson: It’s true he literally called me with tons of ideas. We were big fans of the feeling we got from watching old VHS tapes. We would zone out playing wrestling games, watching Kojak and any form of wrestling we could get our hands on. As Winston stated, being born around the same time and in the same town, we have a connection and work hard to display the love and admiration we have for all the pop culture we came up with through the years.
ATA: What is the inspiration behind your designs?
WB: I know it’s the “cool” answer, but inspiration comes from everywhere. Music is probably what fuels the machine. We have meetings with all types of music playing, and before long we have a bunch of ideas flowing. Saturday morning cartoons, wrestling, old commercials, and television play a major part as well. Aaron and I were both born in the same year, so we got to experience life at the same time. We met as teenagers and got to have that experience as well. So. we are like two walking hard drives of memories from those times.
AW: My inspiration will always be music, old films, sitcoms etc. Personal memories of a packed movie theater when I went to see the first House Party, Terminator and Purple Rain at the Mercury and Norwest which were neighborhood movie theaters come to mind. Also, sneaking into double features of the Last Dragon and Gremlins. These memories always spark creativity for me. I also love 3-D anything!
ATA: What are your favorite designs that Class has designed?
WB: I think a favorite of both of ours is the Three’s Company homage we did. I haven’t worn mine yet, and I don’t think he has either. We both are kind of waiting for that perfect situation. Three’s Company is on my top ten list of all-time favorite television shows. The Ric Flair is a favorite for obvious reasons. The very first Forest Gump we did also. Aaron, who is Lead Designer, picks Chucky and the Mr. Perfect shirts as a couple of his personal favorites. It’s really tough to say. They all are like kids to us.
AW: YES! I am a Chucky fanatic, and Mr. Perfect to me had the best promos. It’s tough because we remember so much detail beyond the shirts and we want to make sure that we get the feeling right so that people feel the love as soon as they see it.
ATA: Talk about the influence of hip-hop accessories, pro wrestling, 80’s television and Star Wars on your designs.
WB: We LOVE wrestling. Out of everything we design, I honestly think that’s where we have the most fun. If I weren’t doing this, I probably would have a job doing something in wrestling for sure. Not actually wrestling, but something in creative. I think for us this is our chance to rewrite history in a sense. We get to create Ric Flair, who is already a legend, and present him in a whole new way that doesn’t stray too far from who he already is but kicks it up a notch. One thing we stress when designing is to stay as close to the character as you may remember them but turning the volume up a couple notches so that it comes off cool and not corny. When you mess with pop culture icons, you have to be careful. These are individuals who are a part of the fabric of people’s lives. So, if you are going to do anything at all, make sure it adds value and keeps their integrity. We always said that if the person on the shirt actually saw the shirt, would they think it was cool?
AW: For me, its dope we get to do this and it’s accepted by the public. Honestly, it’s great to see the younger guys walk up and say they dig it. I have professional music and sports friends that say they really dig it, and it makes you go harder when you see people rocking your shirts on stage or in a warm-up. It’s an overwhelming feeling that makes it worth doing.
ATA: There is such a strong element of fantasy in your designs. Like when I first saw your Ric Flair shirt, I had to have it because it’s not just a T-shirt of an icon, but a T-shirt of your icon—living proper. Is fantasy something you try to integrate into every design?
WB: Aaron is a big Sci-fi guy. I am to an extent. We both love Star Wars. So, it was really about just having fun with it and presenting it in a way that we hadn’t seen before. You would be surprised how many shirts were created simply by one of us saying, “What if we took this person, and added this to them?” Sometimes we strike gold, other times the idea may suck. I think now we understand it’s a process. We may get it right away. It may take twenty tries to get those butterflies. That’s when we know we’ve hit on something. The first run of Star Wars inspired shirts took us a while to get right, and we still feel like we could have made some changes to it. That’s one of those things you don’t want to mess up because the fan base is so intense. But, I feel like you can tell by looking at our work that we have a genuine love for what we do. When it’s fun, creativity flows freely. We’ve actually got some new Star Wars themed pieces coming down the line that I think you will enjoy if you liked the previous works. It takes some characters out of their element, but it works.
AW: Winston stated it best. I’m a BIG SCI-FI DUDE. Shows like Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Adult Swim programming I’ll watch all the way to through the end credits.
ATA: Where do we see CLASS in a year from now?
WB: Aaron and I talk about this all the time. In the near future, I can promise you more online content. We have some collaborations coming that are going to be awesome, as well as expanding the brand beyond just t-shirts. Most definitely becoming more of a lifestyle brand.
ATA: Five Years?
WB: In five years, we’ll be doing films and probably in the video game market. That is something we’re working on now. We’d also like to work with some wrestling companies doing something really creative. I feel like it’s been almost ten years for us, but we are really just starting to come into our own.
AW: I’m more into how we can make a great connection to our consumer. We have backgrounds in retail, so I love to study the trends and movements of popular brands so I can try to make sure that what we are doing is going to make the most impact and being translated properly in five years.
ATA: What is your opinion on the state of streetwear today?
WB: I think it’s fine. You have so many creatives with so much access to the entire world. As technology continues to grow, I see the opportunities for creatives to just become greater. We are living in a time where there is literally something for everyone. I feel like if people concentrate on their own lane, they can’t help but have success. I do enjoy 10 Deep. They continue to push the bar higher and higher. I do feel like it’s at a place where you can’t just rely on good design to get you over. Brands are creating really strong visuals and utilizing the power of Social Media to further their brands’ story.
AW: I personally dig just about everything I see that’s creative upon sight. I try to lend an artistic eye to anything before I make a judgment on it. But, I’m in love with our brand so much I still lay shirts out like its the Christmas of ’84. I am just thankful we get to keep doing this on our terms, hit or miss. I have the best tag team partner in the business, and wouldn’t change that. We are just getting started with what Class of Seventy Four has to offer.
ATA: Where can we find you on social media?
WB: Class: You can follow us on Instagram @classof1974 on Twitter @CLASSALLDAY.
Our website is www.classof74.co for all things Class of Seventy Four.
You can follow Aaron on Instagram @A30X, and I have a podcast with my daughter Laiko called “Brown vs Brown” coming this Spring.
ATA: Anything else for us to be excited about?
Class: Look out for our Spring releases coming very soon. If you are a fan of wrestling and have liked what we did wrestling themed before, you are REALLY in for a treat! I know Aaron has photography and graphic design projects coming up, so 2018 is gonna be a busy one for Class.