Fashion | Brand Focus: Bowlcut Garms
In this month’s Brand Focus, we catch up with Joe F about Bowlcut — the clothing brand born in London, and seen on everyone from Kurupt Krew’s Chabuddy G to Maya Jama
During a South London Christmas back in 2015, Joe F was speaking with friends in a Whatsapp group. Abbreviating words in the chat, including those from Jamaican patois, “the word bumbaclart became BBC”. “My ex-partner was a designer by trade and I asked her to flip THE famous red and white logo so it said Bumbaclart,” he says, speaking about the beginnings of Bowlcut. “A couple of mates wanted it on tees, and after researching printers, I found that I needed to get a minimum of 10 made to make it worthwhile.”
A jungle, breaks and garage DJ “back in the day”, Joe handed some t-shirts to scene figures: General Levy, Sam Binga and Steve from Kurupt FM/People Just Do Nothing. “It all went mental when those guys repped it at club shows,” Joe says. “What started as a little in-house joke between me and some mates was becoming a seriously in-demand tee.”
Joe ended up selling the t-shirts out — multiple times — and it was time to kick-start the brand. “Me and my ex both had dodgy haircuts as kids, and thought Bowlcut Garms was a proper stupid name for a company, but we ran with it anyway,” he laughs. Bowlcut today remains firmly “anti-cool”, Joe says, and six and a half years later, he champions the brand solo.
From its Whatsapp beginnings, Joe has thrown his everything into Bowlcut. The t-shirts and products are emblazoned with nods to UK culture, politics and clubs, with a tongue-in-cheek feel akin to Tottenham brand Sports Banger. “I feel like I haven’t worked since setting up the company legitimately in 2016,” he says. “I feel incredibly blessed to do this full time.” The brand has also developed in line with Joe’s vision and drive, and is now stocked by fashion giants like Selfridges and Asos. Joe and Bowlcut have also worked with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on an anti-knife crime campaign for London, and joined Jamz Supernova for an interview live on Radio 1Xtra.
After recently leaving South London for the UK’s south coast, and becoming a father, Joe was worried he would lose his “creative edge” not being amongst the grit and buzz of London. After feeling he’d lost his spark, the creative process returned once he’d adjusted to “nappy duties and sleep deprivation”. “I don’t even have a set process per se,” he explains, “but I do write a lot of inspiration down that comes from cult movies, sitcoms and grime and drill tunes. I keep a firm eye on the news and current affairs — anyone who knows me knows I’m not a fan of Boris and the tories… they don’t care about creatives — but I keep in touch with people who dig the brand on Telegram to hear what people have to say.”
With those ideas taken from the city, music and the screen, Joe has found himself working with those in the spotlight that share his vision. He collaborated with Mason London on a UK Yoots tee, which made observations on the London cliches you see in clubs. He’s also teamed up with Asim Chaudhary — aka Chabuddy G — on a tee. He has products in the works with DJ Champion, Scott Garcia, Dread MC and Mo The Comedian, and made a UK Music Guide tee and hoodie that's been spotted on the likes of comedian Romesh Ranganathan, Donae’o, Prez T and TV presenter and ex-footballer Ian Wright.
After recently switching his service to print-on-demand, to reduce waste headed for landfill, Bowlcut has switched to vegan-friendly printing methods and biodegradable packaging. It’s all part of the Bowlcut’s expansion, which Joe is intent on pushing further. He’s also planning on launching a new brand this winter alongside two friends — although the plans are secret for now — and will continue to release music through Bowlcut Beats, the clothing line’s adjacent drum & bass label.