edwin sacasa

A 17-year-old Shawn “Jay Zee” Carter, photographed at the Shirt Kings clothing store in the infamous Jamaica Coliseum Mall in Queens. He was photographed by co-owner Edwin “Phade” Sacasa on January 21, 1987 during the designer’s birthday party.

When the photograph was used on the cover of New York Magazine in March 2014, Phade was contacted by MTV to speak on the striking image. “It was my birthday party, so a lot of people showed up: DJ Red Alert, Jaz-O, the Afros, a lot of cats from Hollis, Queens showed up,” Sacasa recalled. “Jay just happened to be there with Jaz-O. He was a personal friend of the Shirt Kings …  In taking that picture, I knew I was capturing the moment because hanging out with this guy since young I already knew that he had phenomenal skills. He was better than anybody that was out… he was already a star in my eyes, [ever] since he was a kid.”

Phade would also say this of Jay and his standout outfit: “That leather jacket, nobody would even dare wear a Cincinnati Reds hat in New York, so he was already creating his own lane and his own fashion statements. He had a love of clothes and a love of art, which I believe drew him to hang around the Shirt Kings a lot.”

Phade was first introduced to a 14-year-old Hov by his SK partner Clyde “Nike” Harewood, who lived in the same Marcy Project building as Jay. Phade and co-owners Nike and Rafael “Kasheme” Avery (R.I.P.) made their livelihood by airbrushing custom designs onto t-shirts and sweaters; incorporating cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and the Pink Panther and making them hip-hop friendly with grills, chains, tracksuits, and sneakers. The shirts would take about two hours each and were retailed at $50 and up. 

Phade, Nike and Kasheme are recognized as pioneers of hip-hop streetwear and fashion. Queens legends LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay (their very first client), Nas, and Prodigy were avid fans of the shop. Check out the documentary “Fresh Dressed” on Netflix for more on the legendary Shirt Kings movement.