Barnzley Armitage and the Lost Art of Streetwear
by Jey Perie
I began this year with a new resolution. Since I am always on the road meeting new people and looking for stories, I asked myself, “why not start sharing these stories?” So, I started by going to London and tracking down the infamous Barnzley Armitage. He’s been involved in street wear and high fashion since the ’80’s, and though I had never met him before, I had been living in Japan for a couple of years and always heard people talking about him. It was almost mythological. Anyone involved in the industry who had a “London story” would always mention Barnzley. Sometimes it was very positive and sometimes it was very negative, but it was always interesting.
One story I heard was that he was responsible for the “smiley face” t-shirt. So true or not, it was funny that someone had claimed that Barnzley invented such an iconic graphic tee. So, I mean, the evolution of this guy in the industry, in music, and in fashion, has really impacted both Tokyo and London. It’s amazing. He’s kind of a self-made legend, an urban legend that is very undocumented on the Internet. And that’s exactly what I find so fascinating about him.
If you try to do a search on Barnzley, there’s almost nothing. And that’s partly because most of the stories about him were created through memories. He never did press releases for any of his projects; they always just kind of happened. So if you were there to witness it, it was amazing. And if you weren’t, the only way to know about is was by hearing about it from someone else who was!
So I went to London and asked an industry colleague to “hook me up with Barnzley” and he said “ Yeah, I know Barnzley, he is a good friend of mine! I can set you up with an interview.” So we met up on a rainy Friday afternoon in Shoreditch. We talked about his entry into the London club scene and how the scene itself was pushing subculture style forward on a weekly basis. That is, until internet culture and the explosion of the fashion industry changed everything.
Read the full conversation on Culture Crush.