Kick-Ass T-Shirts for Troublemakers
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you never get a second chance to make a fist impression. (See what we did there?)
By Eugene S. Robinson
Just to raise hell, South East London’s Millwall Football Club sang their battle cry — curiously enough, to a Rod Stewart melody — when they were going to matches their team wasn’t even playing: “No one likes us, we don’t care.” Years later, two guys in Costa Mesa, California, vibing on that same unrepentant desire to go tribal, repurposed the battle cry as “Nobody Likes Us, We Don’t Care.” And Violent Gentlemen clothiers was born.
It was in 2011 when the almost perfectly named Mike Hammer and his longtime friend Brian Talbert had been at an Anaheim Ducks hockey game hanging with then-player George Parros, who was part of the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup win. But more significantly, in the next season, the 6′6″ and 235-pound enforcer was 183 penalty minutes deep for duking it out on the ice.
“On the drive home, Brian remarked how good George’s vibe was. He’s a Princeton grad who chose to play hockey for a living,” says Hammer from VG’s corporate offices in Southern California. “And he is still incredibly intimidating, even in his postgame suit.” The wheels started turning as Talbert referenced a phrase he had circled in a magazine article on soccer hooliganism and kept on his shelf for years: “the violent gentleman wears …”
We put a name on how they’ve felt their entire life: violent on the ice, gentlemen off.
Mike Hammer, Violent Gentlemen founder
A phrase that Hammer says “was so fitting” — they had been chatting wth Parros about helping him with his charity clothing line, Stache Gear. “We’ve since been told by numerous hockey players, musicians, athletes and so on that we put a name on how they’ve felt their entire life: violent on the ice, gentlemen off.”
So they kicked off a clothing line for men, women and children that now includes barrel bags, coats, T-shirts, hoodies, hats, jerseys, posters, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gis, stickers, fleeces and coffee cups, fer chrissakes. All extolling the virtues of walking a certain walk if you’re going to talk a certain talk. And make no mistake: This is all about that talk and that walk. A T-shirt is a standardized piece of gear in the shape of a T no matter where you are — so it’s the vibe that makes one more valuable to you than another.
“I dig on the billboarding effect,” says avid Jiu Jitsu player Sal Russo. He says the brand’s football team jerseys, which announce who you are from afar, just make “life a lot simpler in the city. Like nature’s warning signs.” Indeed, the largely black backgrounds emblazoned with boldfaced white text are pretty damned declarative, and with legends that read “Enforce,” ”Dream Crushers,” “Black Eye Specialists,” Hammer and Talbert are singlehandedly doing for, at least the sport of hockey, what the rule changes attempted to undo: making it edgy as hell again.
An edginess that’s a skosh less than interesting for real-world fashionista Mick Edwards, who doesn’t “get the bellicosity” but acknowledges she’s probably not the target market. “It’s not for me, but they’d need to be concerned if I thought they were fabulous. Oddly, it makes me feel a little left out.”
But then in a weird pro-social twist to Violent Gentlemen’s agit-antisocial line: “We’re very particular,” Hammer winds up. “In the same way we’d never make a product we wouldn’t wear, we wouldn’t want to send clothing to anyone we wouldn’t personally get along with.” Or, put another way: Hardasses unite!