BY: ERIKA JOHNSON
Graham Nystrom and Mike Glory have cleared their own path to create a clothing brand inspired by Southern California’s street art, skateboarding and biking scenes. In 2005, Us Versus Them was first conceptualized as a small suburban clothing boutique and art gallery. Nyst rom and Glory opened the boutique in their hometown of Temecula, Calif., where they featured work by well-known artists from around the world and sold streetwear clothing. “We brought in people who were established and well known and put them alongside artists we thought had potential,” Nystrom said. “We put every artist on the same platform and let the art speak for itself.”
With ties to subculture communities such as street art, skateboarding and biking, the transition from carrying other clothing lines to creating their own clothing line was inevitable. Nystrom and Glory elaborated the original boutique name, Versus, and called the clothing line Us Versus Them.
“It has always been what we’re into versus what everyone else is into,” Nystrom said.
Coming from a small suburban community, the founders of the company said they had to find and create their own path into the competitive streetwear scene. They said they did not want to take a path that was already made but instead cleared their own. After the line was created, James Banuelos joined the crew with visions to expand the line. Down to the logo, Us Versus Them creates messages through symbolism. According to Nystrom, the palm tree is representative of the Southern California lifestyle, which largely influences the brand’s art direction. The machete which is a tool used to clear a path through a jungle is symbolic of clearing your own path through life and taking the hard road.
“Graphics allow for dissemination of ideas and artwork in general to the masses,” Nystrom said. “If someone is wearing a t-shirt with a graphic on it walking down the street, you don’t have a choice to ignore it or not.”
Nystrom handles all of the art direction for Us Versus Them, which has become not only graphic centric but has evolved into an expanded cut and sew line as well.
The company now produces items such as shirts, jackets and hats, along with its signature graphic T-shirts. Us Versus Them has strong ties to the street art community. Glory is part of The Seventh Letter, a Los Angeles based graffiti crew.
“There is always a purpose behind what we do or some sort of message,” Nystrom said.
Nystrom said Us Versus Them and those involved in the company simply want to express their opinions and share them with the world, while inspiring others to do the same.
“We had a desire to create and that’s all it’s ever been,” Nystrom said. Nystrom said it has been hard to put Us Versus Them into a category or niche.
The company’s clothing and graphics could appeal to a variety of people, whether they are into the street art, biking or skating scene.
“Any kid could get into it, but if you dig a little deeper you can find some Easter eggs,” Nystrom said.
Nystrom said he hides messages in his designs but makes it appealing to different types of people. He compares the brand to musicians like Bob Marley, an artist he considers aggressive to establishment but relatable to different kinds of people.
“If you have taste you have creativity,” Nystrom said. “Look at people who are creative and you admire, and try to be better than them.”