Classic or Trash: Chrome Hearts Clothing
Classic or Trash: Chrome Hearts Clothing
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date October 5, 2020
”Classic or Trash” is a recurring franchise highlighting a specific item and asking exactly that question: is it classic or trash? Granted, each member of the Grailed community is entitled to their own opinion, and while the Grailed editorial staff does its best to judge items objectively, we more than encourage you to disagree and sound off in the comments below.
Casting judgement on something trendy is easy—there are plenty of awful albeit incredibly popular brands and trends. Claiming a certain style or genre is trash when a number of undeniably stylish individuals wear it? That’s more difficult. Hence the issue with Chrome Hearts clothing. Though the jewelry itself is great (if incredibly specific), the clothing has always come second, and with good reason. Yet, with the unprecedented popularity of the brand’s T-shirts, trucker hats and leather applique jeans—a Most Expensive favorite—the question is one worth exploring.
To many, the Chrome Hearts aesthetic epitomizes our current cultural moment. Loud, abrasive, predominantly monochromatic in palette but unafraid to dabble with color, Chrome Hearts maximalist tendencies have won over countless fans both domestic and abroad. [Boasting more celebrity co-signs than bear mentioning](https://www.grailed.com/drycleanonly/chrome-hearts-history, it’s clear the label—and not just the jewelry—is considered cool.
But, upon closer inspection, the egregiously expensive leather jackets, cotton T-shirts and oversized sunglasses more closely resemble Ed Hardy or Affliction than anything one would find on the runway. A modern cross between vintage Harley-Davidson merch and Von Dutch, Chrome Hearts clothing is arguably the last thing you would expect A$AP Rocky, Pharrell, the late Karl Lagerfeld and the Hadid sisters to wear. Even still, all—at one point or another—have famously flaunted the brand’s wares. Hence, despite our best inclinations, labeling Chrome Hearts clothing “trash” is difficult to justify.
The quintessential "L.A." brand, Chrome Hearts boasts an illustrious history, with stockists and a client list second to none. The only brand of its size and caliber to forego ecommerce entirely, Chrome Hearts is available exclusively at its own flagship stores and a number of shop-in-shops in some of the most notable department stores in the world. This was not always the case, however.
Founded by Richard Stark in 1988, the Chrome Hearts brand was originally a small collection of Schott Perfecto jackets and leather riding pants for Stark and his motorcycle buddies. Following a gig as a costume designer for a Hollywood B movie, Stark was introduced to Sex Pistols’ guiatarist Steve Jones who immediately became a fan. A few years and custom tour fits later and Stark’s small brand became a go-to for rock icons.
After buying out his original partners, Stark—a carpenter with no formal design training—transformed the brand into a family business expanding into furniture, custom design work, oddities and, most famously, jewelry. For Stark, however, craftsmanship was always at the forefront. Those who need convincing need only visit one of the flagship locations featuring custom fabricated Chrome Hearts vaulted ceilings, dining tables and chandeliers. If anything, this unabashed commitment to craft and ensuing Chrome Hearts "lifestyle" that makes Chrome Hearts far more interesting than a few pieces of ostentatious jewelry or biker-inspired gear.
Take the brand's beloved jeans, for instance. Rather than simply source vintage Levi’s, Chrome Hearts instead works with notorious L.A.-based connoisseurs Gallery Dept., finding the rarest and most pristine vintage washes money can buy. Then, the team painstakingly ages each pair before removing every piece of hardware by hand. After replacing each piece of hardware (details like the buttons or pocket rivets) with a sterling silver Chrome Hearts equivalent, leather leather patches are added.
Sure, wearing leather cross appliques on faded jeans is corny. But, when done with such attention to detail, it is justifiable; there’s a reason Virgil Abloh collaborated with the brand on a limited-edition flame orange pair for Art Basel–one of many Off-White x Chrome Hearts collaborations. Abloh, like many other Chrome Hearts fans, knows the lengths the Starks will go to to ensure every pair is “perfect”... well, at least their version of perfect.
In the end, buying $7,000 cowhide leather jackets is ridiculous. But, the rich history and commitment that comes with every Chrome Hearts piece—to some, at least—makes it worth it. Chrome Hearts clothing may be preposterous, but it is defensible. Trash? Maybe. Classic? Definitely. It’s up to you to choose a side.
Now, we ask you, classic or trash? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Asaf on Instagram here.