What’s the Meaning Behind the Obey Clothing Line?

Mike Mozart/CC-BY 2.0

According to its website, the Obey clothing line is a challenge to youth to “take heed of the propagandists out to bend the world to their agendas.” Created by Shepard Fairey, the word obey is used as a method of reverse psychology; instead of following the status quo, or “obeying,” this clothing line aims to challenge youth to do the exact opposite and think for themselves.

Shepard Fairey attended the Rhode Island School of Design and in 1989, created a sticker that would later spawn the production of this popular clothing line. Working with designers Mike Ternosky and Erin Wignall, Fairey has created a variety of clothing for men and women alike.

While attending art school, Fairey worker part-time at a skateboard shop in Providence, Rhode Island. There, the artist was exposed to graffiti art and the unique styles of the skateboarding community. Along with his interest in punk rock music, skateboarding influenced Fairey’s future clothing business. The Obey clothing line remains a popular apparel choice for skateboarders, and Fairey’s art appeared on the cover of Transworld Skateboarding magazine in 2011.

Fairey’s art was put into the spotlight during the 2008 presidential campaign in the United States when he created a red and blue portrait of future president Barack Obama titled “HOPE.”