You might think you know Ed Hardy, but his story goes way beyond the gaudy tees, trucker hats, swimwear and even bed sets featuring bold splashes of metallic trim, camo print, panthers and hearts—all at the same time—that he’s mostly known for today.
Don Ed Hardy was a protégé of Sailor Jerry, perhaps the most famous tattoo artist even today. Sailor Jerry (real name: Norman Collins) was responsible for creating the expansion of tattoo ink colors, thanks to his work developing innovative, safe pigments; he even designed less-traumatic needle formations for the skin. Sailor Jerry is also the one behind the persistent presence of nautical tattoo designs: bold outlines, pinups, swallows, roses and the like.
His two disciples, Hardy and Mike Malone, went on to make their own names, following in his footsteps to become some of the best-known inkers around.
As a tattoo artist, Hardy is mostly recognized for his incorporation of the Japanese tattoo aesthetic into his designs, helping to stealthily lead the charge in the tattoo-as-art revolution that went hand-in-hand with the lowbrow movement. And Hardy now has a successful studio in San Francisco, with a handful of students. Pretty awesome.
But then French fashion designer Christian Audigier came around. In addition to the Ed Hardy line, Audigier’s résumé includes designing super-tuff graphic tees and hoodies with swirlies, skulls, crosses and general overall tool-academy-deco for brands such as mixed-martial-arts favorite Affliction and Von Dutch—that’s right, he’s the guy responsible for the wardrobes of half the dudes in Orange County. (By the way, new word I just learned? “Bro-dozer.” Come on, that’s funny.)
Audigier has made a career for himself marketing the gaudy, overpriced, garish and just plain ugly—while somehow convincing an entire West Coast populace suffering from the monkey-see-monkey-do attitude to snap up the $62-to-$132 T-shirts, and then promptly pair them with their pre-bleached, pre-torn True Religion jeans with the fancy back-pocket design featuring contrast stitching. They’re for those especially fancy nights out, when the three-sizes-too-large Kenneth Cole Reaction striped button-ups and square-toed Aldo shoes just won’t do.
Audigier has taken the imagery and legacy of Hardy and transformed them into something entirely different, going from being exclusively known as one of the most well-respected, admired tattoo artists in the world to having his name associated with splatters of “LOVE KILLS” on the crotches of barely there bikini bottoms and what-looks-like-boxer-briefs-but-I-fear-they’re-actually-swim-trunks. Hardy’s probably laughing at them—all the way to the bank.