If ‘Supremacist’ is a joke, it’s a joke based on the joke that is Supreme.
David Shapiro’s Supremacist is a perfect modern novel, thin, funny and culturally acute. In the meta-manifesto from Tyrant Books, we accompany a failed writer caught in the emotional purgatory of being twenty-six on a wasted pilgrimage to every Supreme store in the world. Looking to cement a philosophy elevating New York’s iconic streetwear brand from fuccboi insignia to an artistic statement on consumerism, David confronts the disappointment of realizing the world as an adult.
On a trip marred by self-induced adversity, Supreme offers the only salvation David can’t OD on.
Writing under the pseudonym David Shapiro, our IRL protagonist is a lawyer at a corporate firm in Midtown. Allowing anonymity by maintaining separate lives, the book is mostly true. He did write a piece for the New Yorker on a Chinatown spot that flipped Supreme. He was banned from their New York store. He did go on the trip. From NYC to LA, Japan to London, David lurks the stores for days, uncomfortable at all times. Camilla, travel partner/love interest, exists annoyed by his failure to balance addictions and generally off social rapport. Lots of pills, whiskey, fried chicken, cigarettes, a humiliating night out in Japan with the Stussy crew. On a trip marred by self-induced adversity, Supreme offers the only salvation David can’t OD on.
Founded in the New York nineties, Supreme occupies an intersection of all things cool. Skateboarding, rap, high art, veins of pop, graffiti, drugs… anything subversive or popular in the right circles. They’re known for taking an iconic image and ripping it off by selling, say, Hermes ash trays that say “Supreme,” or Louis Vuitton print skateboard decks. While totally illegal, they avoid lawsuits by only producing a few copies of the particular item, which sell out immediately. Lines stretch around the block when collections drop. Kids buy in bulk to flip on ebay or Instagram with incredible mark ups. The market of Supreme exists underground, predicated by a hierarchy of sneering:
“I read online this explanation of the phenomenon of Supreme as a hierarchy of people sneering at each other. Like there are 13-year-olds from Westchester who make their parents take them to Supreme because they saw Drake wearing a Supreme jacket in a video. And there are 17-year-old skaters sneering at the 13-year-olds, who aren’t worthy of Supreme because they’re with their parents. And they don’t skate. And then there are 21-year-old fashion student skaters sneering at the 17-year-olds because the 17-year-olds don’t get fashion references, or even understand that there are references to get. And then, at the top of the hierarchy are the aggressively aloof store employees themselves, who are sneering at everyone except each other because everyone else there is submitting to being silently tormented by their disapproving faces. And paying a lot of money to be part of some sort of joke they don’t even realize is being made.”
“The idea that working in a creative industry or capacity is more fulfilling than working in a traditional industry or capacity has been entirely false in my experience.”
Supremacist is a continuation of the joke that is Supreme, appropriating a cultural phenomenon by exposing the irony behind it. Through the lens of millennial disillusion, Shapiro defines a controversial monolith. We spoke to him regarding his novel.
The Skeeve: How true is the story?
David Shapiro: I did go on a trip to every Supreme store in the world during the break between fall and spring semesters at school. Beyond that, the line between truth and fiction in the book is this: Any aspect of the book flattering to the narrator is true of me in real life and anything embarrassing or troubling about the narrator is fictional.
The Skeeve: Talk about practicing law full-time.
David Shapiro: I practice corporate law at a large law firm in New York. I love to work — more than I enjoy writing, more than I enjoy almost anything else. Maybe it’ll wear off. I know that there aren’t many jobs that I could have that would endear me to your readers less than “corporate lawyer,” but hey, you asked. The idea that working in a creative industry or capacity is more fulfilling than working in a traditional industry or capacity has been entirely false in my experience.
The Skeeve: What made you want to keep your two lives separate?
David Shapiro: The idea that people wouldn’t think I was serious about practicing law because of my writing, because writing was my passion or something like that. You know what I’m saying.
The Skeeve: As you write under a pseudonym, have any colleagues found you out?
David Shapiro: I’m not hiding. I have a copy of the book on my desk. However, I would say that most of the people I work with are not aware of the book, but that’s because it’s not pertinent to my work. Professionalism, for me, has meant not talking about my novel about going on a trip around the world to skateboarding-inspired men’s clothing stores.
The Skeeve: Talk about getting banned from Supreme’s New York store.
David Shapiro: They made it clear that I was not welcome. I understand that. They do their business and I do mine. I wish that they wouldn’t see me as an antagonist, but an admirer, but I’ve written what I’ve written and will live with it. To me, Supreme is the most profound, the most romantic cultural product in existence.
The Skeeve: Given the amount of press you’ve received, has the company reacted at all?
David Shapiro: No. I imagine they have bigger fish to fry than some dickhead with a book. Nobody reads books.
The Skeeve: It’s cool how the polaroids of your purchases interact with the text. What are some favorite pieces? Cases of buyer’s remorse?
David Shapiro: The Hardcore Hammer, the Hermes ashtray and the fire extinguisher are some of the choicest items in my opinion. I have never regretted buying a Supreme item, although I suspect that I someday will regret having bought all of it. Some would say I don’t need to own the Moth L/S Tee in every color, but you only live once.
The Skeeve: The book seems to act as an extension of the joke that is Supreme, exposing the irony while positioning yourself as an outside participant. Did the trip shape, or change, your theories?
David Shapiro: It didn’t shape or change my theories. I went on a research trip to confirm what I already believed and did so. The trip also gave me a vehicle through which to explain those ideas and to intersperse them with other things I was thinking about at the time.
The Skeeve: How important do you feel factors like relevance, pacing and length are in terms of penetrating diminished attention spans?
David Shapiro: Even if you hate the book, if you finish it, to me, that’s the highest compliment. Someone who reads the first half and says, “I love it!” but doesn’t finish, to me, they hated it. I fucked it up. I suppose I get the first two or three pages for free, but after that, I’m on my own. So the book has to be short and read fast.
The Skeeve: Where would you position the book within the sneering hierarchy?
David Shapiro: Somewhere below the employees, below the company.
Supremacist is available from Tyrant Books. Order it here.