Meet 68-Year-Old Supreme Head Thomas from Germany | Grailify
Meet 68-Year-Old Supreme Head Thomas from Germany

Meet 68-Year-Old Supreme Head Thomas from Germany

Thomas Helgert is a retired tax consultant. At 68, he has been on the hunt for streetwear for three decades. As his passion, windsurfing, took him around the world, he discovered brands like Stüssy, A Bathing Ape and - eventually - Supreme. The latter became the love of his life - right after his wife Brigitte, who has been with him for 43 years. His collection of shirts and memorabilia is literally unmanageable. Yet he insists he is not a "collector" because he wears every shirt on any given day. He has never sold a single shirt and never will. He has no social media account and no particular interest in any kind of "scene". His interest in "hype products" has not diminished one bit.

Thomas, please introduce yourself to our readers first.
My name is Thomas Helgert and I originally come from the town of Tirschenreuth in Bavaria, right on the border with the Czech Republic. I grew up there, learned to ski and ended up on a ski racing team. The town is actually in the middle of nowhere, but when I was 16 I started venturing out into the world and using the money from my construction business to go to Munich to buy new ski equipment, for example.

You mentioned that you ventured further out into the world when you started windsurfing?
Yes, when I was about 30 years old and living in Bonn, I was one of the first people here to start windsurfing. That was in the early 1980s, and nobody was around then. I had a Nash board! So I surfed in Europe at spots like Sardinia or Tarifa and also spent a lot of time, up to three months, with my wife in Hawaii - in waves around 5 to 6 metres.

When did you first come into contact with streetwear?
Around the 1980s, I don't remember exactly when, we saw the change from "surfwear" with brands like Billabong to what we now call "streetwear". The first piece I had was a Stüssy shirt. Nobody had that at home! So when I came back with one of the t-shirts, it caused quite a stir.

One look at your T-shirt collection is enough to say that Supreme is above any other brand for you.
My heart belongs to Supreme and I almost cry when I think about it. Simply because of what it means to me and because it's not what it used to be. Back in the 90s, I used to do these mountain bike tours around New York and one time I ended up in front of the Supreme store. All the skaters were hanging out there and I went in to check it out. I was immediately fascinated and knew it was going to be the hype!

How did you come to fall in love with Supreme?
I can't really say. Maybe it was the lettering. Maybe it was the design of the shop, the atmosphere... The whole flair was different. And whenever they had an event later on, people were queuing up on the street. I was immediately hooked. We must not forget that I have done many extreme sports in my life. And five or six times it almost killed me. Once an avalanche threw me 20 metres through the air and against a tree. In Hawaii, they had to get the helicopter to rescue me after I swam in six-metre waves. I was out there for several hours. As crazy as it sounds, Supreme was always there, always in my heart.

You mentioned that you never had to wait in line for the releases, is that true?
No, I knew the guys and they always let me in. They knew they could trust me because I guess they liked me and I wasn't a reseller. So they just waved me through when something was going on, "Thomas come in and look around". That was a little advantage (laughs).

You also admitted that you weren't always up to date with the latest drops, but in the end you still got some hot pieces, like the Heineken Dunk.
That was sometimes the case. With the Heineken Dunk, I had no idea what it was. Later I realised it was really limited, but Heineken didn't come to mind when I looked at the star. There were about 500 to 600 people outside, and I had no idea they were all here for this shoe! I got the shoe anyway, and as soon as I was out the door, the first illegal reseller came and offered me an extra $200 and dinner. At that time, the rule at Supreme was "one shirt, one man!" Later, the illegal resellers changed that rule to something like, "One bag, one dollar!" It was no longer about the individual identifying with the brand, it became a gigantic business.

The funny thing is that on the same day we were invited to this party in NYC by our friend June, who is now a famous singer in Japan. Everyone was hanging their heads and I was rocking the dunks. As it turned out, I was the talk of the party and everyone was asking about the guy with the Heineken SBs. And that was me - Thomas from Sankt Augustin.
You are 68 years old and retired. Has your fascination for Supreme diminished over the years?
It hasn't diminished, but it's different. The collections are structured quite differently now and don't interest me as much. But I will never lose my fascination for Supreme as a whole. And I have never given away a shirt, not in my entire life! You've seen how much Supreme I own. It means so much to me, but I only do it because I want to wear the shirts. I wear all my clothes every day. It's part of my lifestyle. All my pieces have gone through life with me. They have been with me in every situation.

Does it make your heart bleed when Supreme goes in a different direction and releases products with Louis Vuitton, for example?
No, they just appeal to a different audience that simply has the money. Now they've done a pinball machine, I don't know how much that thing costs. But someone who can buy a Porsche can also buy a pinball machine. And if he has a flat or a house at that level, he will get it. But that's another direction, and that's fine, because it has to go on somehow.

Recently a new t-shirt came out and I queued up in LA for my young friend at home. And I've never had to queue before. Afterwards I was so happy that I got this shirt for him that I almost cried. It was the Akira shirt with the print on the back. I bought it in XL for him and he was so happy. But that's just me. I also like to share.
Speaking of sharing, are you also active on social media?
No, it's just my own stuff. I like to go out on the street and wear my clothes and my "sacred" pieces. Sometimes people literally run after me with money in their pockets to buy a shirt or a shoe. People come from all over the world. Japanese people always say "Utsukushi kutsu!" Wonderful shoes! That makes me happy, but I never let anyone take a photo.

And the interesting thing is that you don't live in LA or New York or Tokyo, but in a small town in Germany. Do your neighbours have any idea what you're wearing?
No one understands, no way. But I like it that way. It's different in Cologne, where they talk to me and call me "Mr. Supreme" and stuff, especially in the summer. But mostly they are very young people, around 17.

Your professional background is quite different, you worked for the German tax authorities for 45 years. But you always wore Supreme to work, right?
Yes, I wore Supreme every day, except sometimes when I put on an Alife T-shirt or something like that. But 90 percent of the time I just wore Supreme. That's how people knew me. There was really no dress code. When it had to be formal, like high-profile cases involving executives of automobile companies, I would put on a navy blue shirt from Supreme or something.

What do you think of the campouts these days?
Recently I was at Supreme in L.A. on Fairfax and the queue didn't start right in front of the shop, but down the road a bit, people were queuing for almost a kilometre. This was really the queue at Supreme because the police no longer allow queues directly in front of the shop. I'm not criticising that, I think these people are young and it's great that they're doing that.

There's been a trend lately of more mature people dressing up for Instagram with Supreme and other hype stuff. What do you think of this phenomenon?
It's absolutely not my thing, but I wouldn't criticise it. You can't really know the motives behind it. Maybe they are really excited and proud of what they have. They're often people who don't have a Porsche to cruise down the motorway in, but they identify with this thing. I accept it.

We met on the train and you mentioned that you like public transport for this reason, because you can meet people there.
Yes, you can meet interesting people everywhere. I find the conversations exciting. This way I got so much information about the world. I was always up to date just by talking to people. "Thomas go there," they said, "Thomas, here's something new!" All the people in that scene, even though I was never part of it, were pointing me to new things to look at.

So even without Instagram, you want to do your thing and keep travelling?
The first thing I'm going to do is hit the slopes next week to ski, then I'm off to New York and L.A. Then we'll have to see. Maybe I'll travel to Oman soon, people say it's beautiful there.

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