Sophomore’s clothing brand combines sustainability and streetwear

In high school, Jacob Warman found himself hanging out with the wrong crowd and needed to escape it. He turned to his childhood hobby, drawing. Later, his doodles became part of his clothing brand.

“I’ve been dreaming about it for so long,” said Warman, a sophomore in visual media arts.

As a child he would meet his mother on Fridays to go to Barnes and Noble, and once he grew up it became a safe space where he would go to study anatomy books and draw.

“I’ll just be here until they kick me out,” Warman said.

The drawing becomes an outlet on which he can always count. One day while on a train ride, he made a doodle based on the word “knucklehead”, a name his mother used to call him.

“It’s an insult, but it’s endearing, and that’s why I love it so much,” he said.

He then started drawing characters based on the style of his knucklehead drawing. His “No Monkey Business” t-shirt design was based on a drawing he had done at Chipotle. When his friends brought him to Zumiez and introduced him to streetwear and skater designs, he based many of his designs on them. He was also inspired by the art of traditional Japanese tattooing.

Photo by Jacob Warman

Warman decided to launch his own clothing brand called KNUCKLEHEAD when he saw he could incorporate his art into his clothes. At the time, however, he was still a sophomore in high school and couldn’t afford it, putting the project on hold. In the summer of 2021, he saved his film internship money and brought it back.

“It’s always been my goal to merge high fashion and skate streetwear,” Warman said. “I knew that every part of the garment had to be really thought out for the highest quality.”

He found a manufacturer in Los Angeles that was ethical and sustainable, which he wanted to prioritize for his brand. The clothes are made with 100% cotton by seamstresses paid at least $18 an hour. They are screen printed with eco-friendly water-based ink made in New York.

“I just really wanted to make sure that when people put on a knucklehead shirt, they’d be like, ‘Wow, that’s the best shirt I’ve ever had,'” Warman said.

The designs on the clothes are of characters – some he started drawing in high school – which each have their own stories and meanings. He said the meaning of each character is a reflection of himself and who he was.

“To me, a knucklehead is someone who is able to show resilience in tough times,” Warman said. “[It is] someone who isn’t shy about doing things they may love, even if it’s against the grain. It’s not a very popular term, so it’s also exciting for me to be able to almost reinvent it.

KNUCKLEHEAD also had pop-ups at an Afterlife Presents LLC concert at Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub and Emerson’s Double Exposure event.

“I had some good sales, but just the fact that people were really interested in the store, it was quite emotional,” Warman said. “It’s a really terrifying thing to get completely out there in the world where the designs you’ve been sitting on for about five years are just there for people to look at and say they don’t like them.”

The people who bought her clothes were mostly her friends. The first stranger who bought a hoodie was an Emerson student who attended the first pop-up he visited.

“I was just having a bad day and going into the dining room just to grab something to eat,” Warman said. “I [saw] she’s sitting with the hoodie, and I have no idea who that person is, I don’t know her name. And I was just like, ‘Wow.’

In the future, Warman hopes to create animated sketches to tell the characters’ stories about his clothes. He is also passionate about mixed martial arts and hopes to donate profits or fighting equipment to a non-profit organization, introduced to him by his cousin in Rio de Janeiro, that helps formerly incarcerated people learn martial arts. self-discipline through martial arts. Warman also hopes he could eventually sell his clothes through consignment stores.

KNUCKLEHEAD took five years to create, with Warman constantly facing trial and error, but he said he’s proud of how far his brand has come.

“Those times when I’m so close to failure, I’m really grateful for how far I’ve come and that people are carrying it,” Warman said. “That’s the craziest part.”

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