Cultish Oddity

Cultish Oddity

In the spirit of questioning ethics or at least making a “half-arsed” attempt to probe and point the finger, I’ve got a bit of a Freaky Friday oddity on my hand.  Whilst browsing around the weird and wonderful wares of Harajuku’s Dog, I came across the name Tony Alamo.  Oooh, spray painted and diamante-encrusted denim jackets in a sort of theme-y Nudie Cohn vein.  A quick search on Etsy and eBay yields more examples of “The Tony Alamo of Nashville – For Designers for the Stars” – mostly denim jackets, intricately spray-painted and adorned with crystals.  They’re the sort of eighties   On Google though, the name Tony Alamo yields something far more alarming.  Forgive me on the count of ignorance on religious cult leader convictions in the U.S.A. but it turns out Alamo’s is prominent for being convicted for multiple counts of rape and sexual assault of minors, abusing his position as founder of the cult Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.  Alamo’s business of “Tony Alamo” branded sequinned denim jackets, later called “Tony Alamo of Nashville” was a surprising sideline to him and his wife Susan’s syndicated TV sermons – it adds a whole new spin to the word “cult”, when we used lightly in the context of fashion.  Eventually, the business was convicted for federal tax evasion in 1994 and of course, later Alamo’s other atrocities came to light and he is now currently serving out a life long prison sentence.  A fascinating article on the LA Times written in 1989 when Alamo was already on the run from arrest for felony-child abuse.  At one point, total sales of Tony Alamo jackets were anything from $500,000 to $1 million.  Whilst on the run, he took the time to be interviewed to say that he would send in sketches from his hide-outs, faxing them through – “Everything I do is a work of art.”  Interestingly, even as the charges against him were surfacing in the public, the stores still bought into them, apparently unable to resist their allure and their celebrity-endorsed cachet (Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson and Dolly Parton were Alamo fans), with only a handful of stockists pulling out.

It’s a sordid tale with a strange after trail of vintage specimens, that have since graced the likes of Nicky Minaj and Miley Cyrus, who in December last year was spotted wearing a Tony Alamo ensemble with Beverly Hills emblazoned across the back.  It’s unlikely Cyrus was aware of the origins of her spangled denim but it’s also hard to say whether the association would make it less or more appealing for her.  Weirdly, nobody else seems to care.  According to Miami legendary vintage store C. Madeleine, you can Shop This Look without any mention of Alamao’s past, and that there’s even a collectible value attached to Alamo’s pieces, because of his imprisonment.  The moral question behind even considering Alamo’s pieces as a fashion choice has one clear answer.  Especially when you read the slightly ludicrous statements like this, as seen on this fashion blog “You may find yourself asking, who is Tony Alamo anyway? Well on top of being a cult leader and a maker of awesome jackets, he is also a child sex offender! Neat-o!”  Neat-o wouldn’t be my first word of choice, but hey-ho, guess a convicted child sex offender and rapist isn’t exactly a shocking exception in a world when seemingly, entertainers offending in plain sight, are all coming out of the woodwork.

But why bother dwelling on this random defunct fashion line, you might ask?  Fashion has a long history of aligning itself with the debauched and the morally questionable.  A figure like Tony Alamo might well find itself on to a moodboard as a offbeat reference point.  It’s an industry that also unconditionally protects people like Terry Richardson (although it has to be said in the eyes of the law, he hasn’t committed a crime).  Only a handful have challenged this status quo, best summed up by this Hadley Freeman article.  She’s right – creepiness shouldn’t be confused with edginess even when the lines are increasingly blurred.  That applies to seemingly harmless ironic/cool/retro denim jackets.













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  1. WOWS

    2014-01-17 at 2:23 PM

    Awesome jackets!!!

    Kisses from

    Today I bring you a Casual but Chic outfit with plaid pants!!
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  2. TLV Birdie

    2014-01-17 at 3:26 PM

    I would wear americana one or Beverly Hills, I mean right now!

    TLV Birdie Blog

  3. Charli Beaumont

    2014-01-17 at 3:26 PM

    That jackets are absolutely fab! Will definitely be dragging my vintage levi’s denim jacket out again!

    Charli xx

  4. chanelle

    2014-01-17 at 3:31 PM

    the jackets look really cool!!

  5. Naelle - Once In Paris

    2014-01-17 at 3:51 PM

    Impressive look!!! I feel boring with my vintage dress lol

  6. Morgann Belle

    2014-01-17 at 3:52 PM

    Ahhh,so sweet, this got me nostalgic!

  7. Queen Michelle

    2014-01-17 at 4:34 PM

    PLEASE tell me all of the above comments are deeply sarcastic?!! “Wowzers I’d totally wear these cool jackets by a fucking child molester” Jesus wept….

  8. Anastasia

    2014-01-17 at 4:48 PM

    Interesting find. In all aspects of artistic creation there are similar paradigms where highly questionable figures blur the lines of ethics and art. And while it’s a common social phenomenon to overlook these behaviors and reach straight to praise, it’s a mystery to me how one can make this illogical jump. The same things that condemn some people can elevate others’ work to high art. And another point I think is worth discussing is the fact that the latest obsession in fashion are “ethical” materials, artisan methods and environmentally sustainable choices while we can be so blind over the “creepiness” factor.

  9. Steff

    2014-01-17 at 5:08 PM

    Obviously too many people visit this blog to look at pictures and not read. Which is a shame, since this is about the meatiest fashion blog around, word-wise. Sigh.

  10. echeveau

    2014-01-17 at 7:47 PM

    Wow suji fashion sense very Amazing! !
    Jacket very good i long time it eye on

  11. The Fashion Fraction

    2014-01-17 at 8:12 PM
  12. Charlotte

    2014-01-18 at 7:48 AM

    Perhaps a less tainted denim artist to bring attention to would be Leslie Hamel, who famously decorated a pair of cut off Levis’ worn by Madonna. She nails the 90’s graffitied denim aesthetic also

  13. claudia

    2014-01-18 at 12:33 PM
  14. Alexander

    2014-01-18 at 1:49 PM

    absolutely fabulous…love the Tokio jacket

  15. Dress fair

    2014-01-18 at 2:27 PM

    It’s amazing. This design is rare

  16. lena

    2014-01-18 at 2:58 PM

    WOW, these are denim jackets!

  17. NadiaJoy

    2014-01-18 at 4:50 PM

    It would seem lots of people simply look at the pictures on this blog as many of the above comments seem to COMPLETLEY MISS THE POINT OF THIS POST. Shame, because you deal with the issue extremely eloquently!

    • Anne-Marie

      2014-01-30 at 12:58 PM

      My thought exactly. People you need to read! before saying that a child offendor piece of “art” is “soooo amazing OMG I totally need this!!!

  18. DinoB

    2014-01-18 at 5:36 PM

    Dear Susie,

    I was in the middle of your article, few people came into my mind, so I thought to myself – why does Vogue hire one-step-to-pedophile people like Richardson to take thought-out yet amateur looking photos? Or why do millions of people (including myself) love creepy old movie directors that have inappropriate love relationships with young girls like Woody Allen? I don’t know honestly…
    Sometimes it feels like art annul crimes or bad history, like people remember only when it’s ‘relevant’ in their own little minds…

    But the case you’re talking about, Tony Alamo’s denim jacks, is more of a ‘crime makes them even more famous’ case… That’s more due to the global love of Geordie/Jersey/Gandia and other banks & beaches and likes of horror movies – crime & irrational stuff is considered fun(ny) and intruiging.

    xx d.

  19. Angie

    2014-01-18 at 5:47 PM

    It´s admirable that every post and every offer you get, fits perfectly to your style, dude. Crazy jackets, I think I´m not that brave to wear this, especially here in Germany. xx

    Comme une giroflée

  20. Rowena

    2014-01-18 at 10:20 PM

    Grim. A good example of when clothes are not just cloth.

  21. Rowena

    2014-01-18 at 10:21 PM

    Did someone actually use the word “sweet”??!

  22. Doc Blue

    2014-01-19 at 5:57 AM

    These comments are hilarious. As far as the jackets themselves go . . . couldn’t make something similar yourself? And even if you couldn’t, it doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult to find something similar on etsy. Looks like the most difficult part would the spray painting . . .

  23. INTIRA

    2014-01-19 at 11:09 AM

    I didn’t visit your blog for a while Susie -_-” Really surprise to see you on Nowmanifest. That’s great, but I miss the original platform..Anyway,your posts are awesome ! The jeckets are super cool! I love them 🙂 xo

  24. Beautiful Things

    2014-01-19 at 11:29 AM

    Disturbing how many of the commenters don’t seem to have read the article, or even worse, have read it and don’t care.

    • stylebubble

      2014-01-19 at 1:48 PM

      Boo to comments that are just there to promote their own blogs/links. Oh well, at least SOME people have read my post.

    • DinoB

      2014-01-19 at 4:57 PM

      that’s just contributing to your article – wanting something just because it’s ‘sparkly’ and ‘cool’ without caring about its backgrond 🙂

  25. shameak

    2014-01-19 at 10:00 PM

    Jackets look sexy

  26. shameak

    2014-01-19 at 10:01 PM

    Jackets look sexy

  27. What to wear

    2014-01-20 at 2:54 AM

    I learned so much from this post, cool piece of fashion back story.

  28. Gaela Wallapop

    2014-01-21 at 10:54 AM

    The jackets are so vintage ! I love the Barbie one !
    Gaela from Wallapop

  29. Tosin

    2014-01-21 at 5:28 PM

    This is a really great piece. It actually made me think about all the times I’ve bought vintage pieces simply *because they look nice* without knowing anything about the labels behind them… That strikes me as being more of a reason for buying a Tony Alamo piece than a weird attraction to the creepy but edgy cult leader sex offender vibe (…?)

    Great read,


    Tosin (On Becoming a Lady)

  30. puherock

    2014-01-22 at 10:00 PM

    està muy buena la idea de los dibujos pero què mal lo que hacìa en paralelo. greetings (=

  31. N Lynde

    2014-01-23 at 2:30 PM

    This is such a thoughtful, well-written post, really questioning where we ethically draw the line on what we will put on our body. It’s a shame so many people didn’t take the time to properly read it. Personally, clothing, especially that which is handmade has an implicit relationship to the maker sewn in to it. Some of my favourite things are sewn, knitting, altered by others, and I don’t think I would feel right having supported the efforts of some one whose actions not only don’t agree with, but that are downright wrong.

  32. Haru Wilde

    2014-01-24 at 12:15 PM

    I admire you now even more as a fashion journalist, because you have the guts (pardon my French) to speak out about this.
    I think the whole idea of ‘badness’ or decadence is largely glamourised in visual media, and a lot of people don’t realise that there is a difference between being ‘edgy’ and being a disgusting human being.

  33. Sophie

    2014-01-28 at 6:07 PM

    Wow, this jacket is lovely!

    Please check out my own blog

  34. Lilia Tagirowa

    2014-01-28 at 8:06 PM

    Fantastic! Very nicely.

  35. mridula

    2014-01-30 at 3:49 AM

    yes, the blurring of creepy and edgy is problematic. We need to develop a vocabulary to go after this blurriness, to sharpen our focus. Not all discomfort is the same.

  36. Sophie

    2014-02-02 at 9:14 PM

    i love your blog

    check out mine

  37. Layla

    2014-05-07 at 12:29 AM

    These jackets are so lovely, I don’t know if I personally would want to pay around $500 for a jacket designed by a child molester though.
    It really sucks because the jackets are so unique but personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing one, just something about the association with him.

  38. Daisy

    2014-07-11 at 8:21 PM

    I personally own one of these jackets (Barbie Super Star) and I didn’t know the story of Tony Alamo until I googled him.. Still won’t stop me wearing the jacket though.

    True, its absolutely disgusting what he has done and as a mother its horrifying – however a jacket is a jacket and fashion is fashion.. I wouldn’t hand back a pair of Louis Voutton if there were a back story such as this.

    Fashion is more powerful!

  39. Emma

    2016-02-13 at 4:12 PM

    You can be vegetarian and like meat, you just choose not to eat animals. You can like Birkin bags, but don’t like the fact that they are made of animals. You can like Gun’s and Roses, but Axl Rose brutally beat and hospitalized is girlfriend. You can like someone’s work, but don’t like their way of living. If you choose to support it or not is but to your conscience. We are not the same.
    I love the jackets, but I wouldn’t wear one, but that’s because I wouldn’t feel good with myself.
    Fashion is a very superficial world, sadly. Always buying, polluting – because is out of fashion so ‘is garbage’ – and torturing and killing animals for no special reason. Louis Vuitton, for example, the bags they don’t sell they burn, so it never goes on sale and just rich people gets them. Animals are killed to be bags, and then if not ‘chosen’ they became ashes, it’s disgusting.

    • Rose

      2018-06-07 at 5:13 PM

      The children that were abused and molested were actually the ones making the jackets not him.

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