For over 30 years, Suicidal Tendencies have remained one of the most iconic bands in punk rock. The imagery behind the L.A. band stands just as flawless through the years as the music itself, building off of the street and skate culture that was prominent in their Venice surroundings in the early Eighties. In music videos, including their 1983 hit "Institutionalized," they brought a look much of the country was unfamiliar with: big flannels, flipped-up baseball caps, bandanas and Dickies. It's a West Coast working class-aesthetic that's never stopped being cool.
Now, the band has teamed up with Converse to celebrate their singular style with a series of apparel and shoes that embody what has made them so visually striking from the beginning. The line features a Chuck Taylor high top branded with poster images from throughout the band's career, and a classy black low top that features Suicidal Tendencies iconography and accents. The apparel line takes a different spin — combining Converse's imagery with ST logos printed onto hoodies, sweatpants, longsleeves and more. Much like the music, each piece is built to last and destined to become a favorite that you won't want to leave out of your rotation.
The new apparel line — which you can see below — drops on September 7th: the same day as the release of Suicidal Tendencies' new album Still Cyco Punk After All These Years. Converse is planning pop ups for the line at Boston streetwear mecca Bodega on September 6th and 7th.
We spoke to frontman Mike Muir about the band's collaboration with Converse, why Suicidal Tendencies' style has endured over the years, and why you'll never catch him wearing tight pants.
WHAT'S YOUR HISTORY WITH CONVERSE? DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST PAIR?
I think like most people it goes back to when you're young and there are certain things that for whatever reason you like and your friends like, and certain things you don't like. I remember when I got my first Chucks because that was a big deal, they were a little more expensive. They're so cheap if you compare it to whatever it is now, but they're a little more expensive than the regular old shoes and stuff. I was 11 or 10. My brother's five years older than me, you know, so I wanted to be like him skating: cool.
I put them on and like, you know, feeling like, Wow I feel like floating. It's amazing how those things work and sometimes you look back and you surprise yourself ... Having kids now that are young, I wonder if there'll be the same thing later on [like in] 30, 40 years they'll be going, "Dude, I can't believe I had those." But, you know, I was very lucky, I used to wear my dad's Pendleton's. [Everyone else] wore dickies. Fortunately, my parents had better style than some other people's parents that I knew.
IT'S A SUPER ENDURING LOOK. WATCHING ALL THE SUICIDAL TENDENCIES VIDEOS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, THE BIG FLANNELS, WORK PANTS, CANVAS SHOES, IT NEVER REALLY WENT AWAY.
Yeah. I think it's interesting because we took a lot of flack when we started because, "You weren't supposed to dress that way." That wasn't the way if you were in a band. And then you look now, and it's funny because even like Thrasher over the years ... did [articles on] "What's in" and it was Suicidal Tendencies, you know ... "What's out?" We never were out. [Laughs]. That's fortunate, we never wore the bell bottoms or the shag carpet. A lot was our environment. And fortunately, people older than us that we looked up to had better taste. So we don't have any of those old black-metal photos that a lot of bands have, you know. [Laughs] The makeup, glam or whatever.
THERE'S NO DECADE YOU'RE TRYING TO HIDE, IT'S ALWAYS BEEN CONSISTENT.
Yeah, it's funny because like Spinal Tap, you know, it's a funny-ass movie, but there are so many bands — especially the alternative bands and grunge bands — that went through three or four different things before they found themselves. And usually when people find themselves is when they have success. Rather than comfort, [which] I think that's the whole point. And it was like go with what we feel comfortable with rather than what other people you know, think is happening.
TOTALLY. HOW DID THE COLLABORATION WITH CONVERSE HAPPEN? WHAT DID YOU WANT OUT OF IT?
It's funny because when I was younger, my dad always said, "You have to think about when you're older and what's that older person gonna be?" And I said, "I won't be alive, it doesn't matter." [Laughs] But I get older and then I go back and I say, What would we think? What would that 13-year-old say [about us]? What would that, you know, 15-year-old say? What would that 18-year-old say? At those various points I was in a different mindset, but to all three of those [kids], if I told them, "Hey, one day you're going to have a shoe with Converse," they'd say, "Fuck yeah!"
I also know a lot of the skaters on the Converse team. A lot of people I like went to Converse, a lot of people I had good experiences with and understand the band and have seen the band, even when I didn't have anything to do with them. So it was just a really good fit from the point of where we came from and where we're going. And same for them.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE SEEING THE DESIGNS COME TOGETHER? WHAT WAS IT LIKE SHOWING PEOPLE?
Basically it started off small and it got a little bit larger, with a few different things that they do and put our spin on it. That's one of the things you'll see, even when I got the first sample on the high tops, one side has the circle ST and when I showed people, the first reaction was, "Oh, I see what you're doing. You kind of like doing a Converse rip-off." [Laughs] But you flip it to the other side that has the All-Star logo, and you're like, "Wait, whoa, it is Converse!" [Laughs] You go somewhere and say, "Oh, you see this," and hand somebody [the shoe] and they're like, "Wait, how do I get it?" They just see it. And they're like, "Ah, fuck dude, when is it coming out?" So it's great to be a part of something that so many people are excited about.
THE DESIGN OF THOSE HIGH TOPS HAVE OLD-SCHOOL SUICIDAL TENDENCIES POSTERS PLASTERED TOGETHER. DO YOU HAVE A STASH OF OLD FLYERS YOU GO THROUGH?
Yeah, there's the original ones and then ones people get offline and they print and they sell. We used to obviously make flyers for all our shows, and we kept the ones that were left over. We have a garage just full of old, old stuff and a bunch of it just in boxes and sometimes people come over and they go, "When are you going to archive all this?" And I go, "I'm not. I'm hoping my kids will do it when I'm dead." [Laughs] I don't even want to go there. I tried it a couple times and it's like three hours later and I haven't gotten through a fraction of one box, and I'm like, "Ah, this is gonna take forever." So in other words it has a lot of meaning and too much to actually go through it because it would just kill me.
WHAT DEFINES SUICIDAL TENDENCIES BOTH AESTHETICALLY AND ATTITUDE-WISE?
When we started, there were obviously a lot of people that didn't understand what we were doing. Punk rock was very, very small and did not have the best opinion of us. We came in and did two shows and were already voted the worst band and biggest assholes. We weren't very welcomed in punk rock.
One day, one of my friends got real honest and said, "You know, this isn't music. No one's going to like it, listen to the radio, try to do something like that." I'm like, "I don't like the radio. I don't wanna do something like that." And then on the other side there was someone that was trying to do that helpful thing and said, "You know, you guys are actually different and I like what you're doing, but you'll never do anything looking like that."
I don't want to say who it was, but I'm looking at him with his eyeliner and his leather and all that. [Laughs] And I'm like, "Uh, if I got to dress like that to be liked, I don't really want to be liked. I'd rather like myself and other people."
And so for us, Suicidal is just doing what you feel comfortable with, not trying to impress other people. It's clothing from where we're from, from where my family's from. It's funny, you know, you look at all this stuff like Dickies and things like that. That was for poor people and now it's become fashion, and then the rich people try to do a way more expensive version of it. That's how the world's gone wrong again, but when the world goes right, then, you know, that's probably when it's over. [Laughs]
We wear clothes that we like, that we're comfortable in, that will last. Our own [merch] too, you see people that have stuff that we made 20, 30 years ago and it's still there. Like I said before, you don't see something [of ours] and laugh at it, whereas some other music it's gone out of style. It leaves you like, "Oh wow, I can't believe people wore that." You can age without your clothes showing your age.
IT'S KIND OF RIDICULOUS LIKE I'LL SEE PEOPLE ROCKING DESIGNER "WORKWEAR" PANTS THAT COST $120, WHEN YOU CAN JUST GO GET A PAIR OF REAL PANTS AT A WORKWEAR STORE FOR A QUARTER OF THE PRICE.
Yeah. They wouldn't skimp on the material either, so they weren't so tight. [Laughs] It's just not comfortable! I remember when I was 16, I worked at the bank, where it's really important to be on time, and one day this girl came in late so it was quiet and everything. She had this look like some family member died. I talked to her best friend afterward and she was late because she couldn't get her pants on. [Laughs] They were too tight! They had to lay her down and had two of her friends try to pull them up for her. [Laughs] And I was like, "Now that takes commitment." And the look on her face was like she couldn't breathe. But that's the price you pay, you know? That's not a price I'm willing to pay. That's why I'll stick with our collab with Converse.