Live True, be True. The Ethos and Energy of ‘Always True’ Make it a Captivating Clothing Brand
By Ryan Merkel
What does truth mean?
I mean, it’s a simple idea, really. Don’t lie. Be truthful.
But as a person living in a nuanced, ambiguous, and often frustratingly gray world, truth is just a short breath away from naivety. Once bespoken essentials about life can be muddied by politics, religion, business, community, and looking good - what I consider the big five.
So, when I spoke with Drew Howard, one of two founders of ‘Always True’ (the other being Kevin Masaro), I was less interested in the fashion, which we will get to, and far more interested in the why. Clearly, there was a sincere underlying purpose for this eccentric and vivacious brand to exist beside money and “making cool shit.”
And I landed on it pretty firmly.
“Why? My brother passed away six years ago and his stage name was Always True. He was a rapper, musician, and artist. We wanted to live on his legacy, with the same aesthetic and vibe, and push that through clothes and art,” said Howard, with as much conviction as any college student with a dream and the guts to execute it.
The company began three years ago as a fitness brand, but it didn’t work out. They took the foundation of clothing and created new streetwear, establishing the brand as a unique Gainesville vision.
But something else took hold in late 2017. The two co-founders brought Samuel Howard, Drew’s little brother onboard, and a new dynamic formed. The team played around with painting clothes, taking what they already had and reimagining it. “Everyone has so much shit nowadays.” The guys created a mess in their downstairs garage space, and inevitably ended up covering nearby items. “Painting clothes turned into painting whatever was in our way.”
The end result? A fascinating, daring, sometimes bizarre, but always sincere line released in April 20th, 2018 - “No Signal.” Such collection additions include typewriters, tires, skate decks, scissors, and, my personal favorite, a small-sized construction cone - all coated in thick swaths of paint, often mixed with delicate strokes and the defining letters, AT.
The idea of painting clothing evolved into “paint whatever,” and the team managed to drown out the noise and create something true to their own sensibilities, not just fashion and not just art. It is legitimately unlike anything I have seen before. A new fashion brand is like a hipster coffee shop. There are too many, and most of them sell drip not much better than a Circle K.
Drew and Samuel Howard, and Kevin Masaro, ultimately add much-needed color and atmosphere to a variety of items, merging art with fashion. They paint everything from shoes to office chairs, giving exceptionally mundane items an extra kick in the pants. The two take their creations to fashion shows, popups, and more.
Will this “hand-painted” approach continue with ‘Always True?’ Somehow, I doubt it. “Our next collection is releasing sometime later this year. It’s called ‘Chill Pill,’ and it’s a real next level step in my design,” said Drew.
I got a view into this “next level,” and it’s truly something I am excited and eager to see with my own eyes. Considering these guys painted over at least 11 CRT televisions that I’m aware of, and somehow made them all look like phenomenal and worthy additions to my popup skate park, I’m sure it’ll be batshit insane.