Words: Jacob Davey

Whilst it’s hardly breaking news, hype-heavy brands continued to tap into working class culture this year. Gosha Rubchinsky collaborated with Sergio Tacchini and Kappa, football shirts inscribed with “Balenciagoal” became ~haute couture~, and recent collaborations between Stone Island x Supreme and Palace x Avirex are set to resale globally for eye-watering amounts. More than ever, designers are desperate to incorporate this sort of aesthetic into their appeal. Council Estates are increasingly becoming the backdrop for huge multi-national corporations like ASOS to sell their clothes, with this particular fetishisation even spilling over into a Reebok x ASOS shoe. 

All of this has been severely pissing off a certain Jonny Sportswright. You’ll have seen one of his T-shirts about—even if you didn’t know that they’re made by him. Your first sighting of Sports Banger was probably Skepta in that upside-down Reebok logo tee a few years back. And now the brand carries an underlying, yet notable, amount of weight in the UK and the bigger brands are seemingly taking notice, with Vetements and Alexander Wang incorporating some all-too-familiar approaches in both their garments and logos. It seems like the bootlegger is becoming the bootlegged.  

But rather than questioning the academic background of tracksuit-wearing tradesmen in McDonald’s whilst working for Supreme, Sports Banger has always reflected what Sportswright has actually been about. Jonny grew up in Colchester, working with his dad in a sports shop selling “hooky gear” and printing football shirts—which got him into the art of bootlegging. Today, his designs all focus on well-known iconography, taking cues from staple sportswear brands and household British pop culture, through to instantly recognisable National Rail and NHS logos.

Banger’s first iteration of tees was very much in the big, all-caps ‘GOLF SALE’ style, which featured timely captions such as ‘Free Tulisa’—after the N-Dubz member was embroiled in drug charges, back in 2014—through to the more serious ‘Save Fabric’ tees that launched after the club’s license came under review, which read: ‘THE MET POLICE ARE TARGETING LONDON VENUES’. The political tees are some of his most popular; a riot policeman swinging his truncheon at Margaret Thatcher whilst on horseback with ‘Ralph Lauren’ emblazoned underneath is nothing short of iconic, while the NHS tee has helped people pull on Bumble. 

Said tee features a big Nike swoosh underneath the NHS logo, and was made as an ode to the junior doctor strike of late 2016. The T-shirts are sold with a donation percentage of 15% going to the campaign; NHS workers also get a discount of the same price from his products. Alongside that, Banger’s background in music is clearly visible in his branding. Working in record shops and DJing as a kid led him to eventually MCing for one of the UK’s most influential dance music imprints, Swamp 81, and his clothing sees him drawing influence from formative music imprints like Moving Shadow and Dance Mania. 

THE
BOOTLEGGER
IS
BECOMING
THE
BOOTLEGGED.

Moreover, much like Martine Rose’s show last winter, which was held in her local Seven Sisters Market, Sports Banger’s shop presents the whole “working class style” in the humbler surroundings of the ever-fascinating Seven Sisters Road, rather than bringing it to the fashion kids loitering around Soho. The predominant amount of people wearing his garms nowadays are likely to have been heard chanting “Ooooh Jeremy Corbyn” at Glastonbury, yet everyone from Paloma Faith through to LCD Soundsystem have recently been seen sporting Bangers—highlighting the low-key yet wide scale proliferation of his products. 

Despite his delivery speed remaining as questionable as Anti Social Social Club’s snail-paced dispatch service, you can probably put that down to the fact that Sports Banger products are increasingly in-demand. Jonny is fast becoming the UK equivalent of Harlem king Dapper Dan (albeit on an underground level), and his very British form of bootlegging is a legit ‘fuck you’ to corporate greed. 


Posted on October 09, 2017