BEHIND THE GRAFFITIED-OVER WINDOWS of a studio space on the fringe of inner-city Sydney, a crowd of people have gathered. Many have brought hoodies, T-shirts and pairs of jeans with them, and as they discuss the placement of the stencil they would like, a can of spray paint hisses in the background. On the end of the MTN 94 can is Roman Jody, the founder and designer of Jody Just. His studio is normally open by appointment only, but today, he’s putting on a pop-up shop, where fans and friends of the brand can come in and have their wares tagged. He swaps the aerosol can for a fabric marker and puts the finishing touches on a pair of fully customised jeans, which have been inked with the brand’s signature thorn print. “How’s that?” Jody asks his customer, who is clearly impressed. The two chat for a moment and the designer shakes his pen, ready for the next wearable canvas to roll up.
The custom stuff is relatively new for Jody Just, the Sydney-based brand that began in 2016 as a “side hustle” while Jody was studying business design at Parsons School of Design in New York. “It creates a nice collaborative environment,” says Jody of the pop-ups, which, due to popular demand, now run every fortnight. “There’s no pressure to buy anything, you can bring your own stuff and I’ll paint it for the artwork cost.” The custom pieces are Jody Just’s version of an “entry-level” item. “If kids can’t afford a jacket, for example, they can still wear a piece of the brand.”
The signature stencils, tags and screen prints range from $20 up to $500. Where $20 will buy you a tag, for $500, you can walk home wearing a pair of jeans hand- painted with skull prints, the deathcore-inspired ‘Jody Just’ logo and the brand’s current best-seller, clusters of photoluminescent stars crafted from 3M film, which are heat-pressed onto garments.
“I’m very drawn to shiny stuff,” says the designer. “I like using it to recontextualise certain uniforms. For example, I’m doing this all-black tracksuit, which is pretty much the drill uniform at this point,” he says, referring to the polarising genre of rap that has muscled its way into the Australian music landscape. “But then the sides have these 3M stars on the panels. I think it’s about showing the other side of things. I try to bring a witty element to that, because I think wit is a good sign of creativity.
“There’s this real ‘tough guy syndrome’ in Sydney, but I think when it comes to fashion and expressing yourself, it’s kind of limiting.”
Jody grew up in Chatswood, a suburb on Sydney’s lower north shore. In the early 2000s, the area was home to a handful of subcultures—groups of ‘tough guys’ with very specific uniforms—and not all of them got along. “If you were into graffiti, or skating, or hardcore music, you kind of had to learn how to adapt,” recalls Jody. “I didn’t walk around in Nike TNs until I was like 16 or something, because I didn’t want to get rolled on the train. Yeah, that’s legit how I felt.”
At various points in time, Jody identified with the skating and hardcore sets, but it was the creative aspect of graffiti that he found the most thrilling.
“Artistically, I thought it looked really cool. But I also had a pretty hectic issue with authority growing up—I struggled with being told what to do. And I thought being able to write your name on something was cool. It was the easiest form of expressing yourself artistically.”
Before long, as tends to happen, putting his stamp on public property landed Jody in hot water. The future wasn’t looking bright and as somewhat of a last ditch attempt to keep his record clean, Jody’s parents encouraged him to move overseas. He applied to attend Parsons in New York and was accepted on a partial scholarship.
“It was crazy. I remember sitting in lectures and being like, ‘Wow. That totally changed the way I see the world’. I was valedictorian,” he adds. “It was pretty random. My whole thesis was on blockchain intervention. But I realised pretty quickly I didn’t want to work in crypto.”
During school, Jody worked in nightlife, as a DJ and party photographer and he also modelled on the side. He was busy, but struggling to apply the stuff he was learning in class to real life. “I thought, if I start a brand, it can be a creative outlet and it will help me get a job later, in advertising or something,” he reasons. So he would customise cowboy hats and outfits for his stylist, DJ, model and artist friends.
But even when Jody moved home to Australia in 2019, feeling completely burned out from the pace of life in NYC, he resisted making fashion his ‘thing’. “I just still thought of it as a side hustle,” he shrugs. He got a job in an ad agency and hated it. So he quit, and gave himself six months to make something happen with Jody Just.
Then, at the eleventh hour, Post Malone wore a fully customised Jody Just hat to the 2019 American Music Awards, where he was nominated for seven awards, taking out Favourite Album—rap/hip-hop.
“I was like, ‘Ohhhhh shit. Okay. Cool’,” recalls Jody. “I had no idea he was going to wear it. His stylist had requested it a few months earlier and he’d worn some outfits I’d made for him on tour earlier that year . . . then he wore it.”
Post Malone isn’t Jody Just’s only high-profile fan. Vanessa Hudgens and Swae Lee are among the brand’s international customers, while on home soil, everyone from the DMA’s to post-punk band Johnny Hunter are repping the tag. During the Australian leg of his End of the World tour in 2022, The Kid Laroi wore a number of Jody Just pieces onstage. Just last month, American boxing world champion Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis attended a press conference wearing a custom Jody Just cap, which was part of a collection of one-offs the designer made for Australian streetwear behemoth Culture Kings’ Las Vegas VIP store. Painted across the front of the cap was the slogan I <3 SEX. Similar to the situation with Post Malone, Jody had no idea Davis was in possession of the cap, let alone that he would wear it in such a public forum.
“It’s pretty dope,” he says with a smile. “I’m not going to pretend I don’t care. As if you wouldn’t get excited about that. And it opens you up to these cool new audiences.”
Right now, that’s exactly what’s happening. Three-and-a-half years after deciding to quit his day job and run Jody Just full-time, word of the brand’s clever meshing of subcultural references—inspired by the scenes that governed the Chatswood of Jody’s formative years – is spreading. And it’s not necessarily through the traditional channels. Whether people see The Kid Laroi in a Jody Just hoodie, spot a flash of 3M stars on their nighttime ride through the Sydney CBD or stroll past the brand’s studio space a stone’s throw from the Powerhouse Museum on a Saturday, Jody Just is first and foremost a word-of-mouth brand, which is what makes it so exciting.
“It feels right for the collaboration, because Adidas is for all,” says Ty. “We like capturing the in-between moments. Like this man, for example, who is just tying up his shoelace.”
What makes it remarkable, however, is the way Jody Just shows a different side to men’s style in Australia. While on the global stage, we’re known for our easy-breezy resort wear, which perpetuates the romantic ideal of long days spent beneath the hot sun, there’s a fairly large contingent of local men who spend more time in tracksuits and sneakers than they do pairs of pastel-coloured budgie smugglers.
“Looking at it now, it’s cool to see the growth, even in just a few years. From what it was just a few years ago to now is so different,” says Jody, as he pulls out a jacket from Collection 04, pieces from which begin dropping online this month. “This leather is from Pakistan, it’s super beat-up cow leather.
“All these products, I think they’re the best things I’ve done so far. But in my head, I’m still very aware of what I really want to get to,” says Jody. “I’ve really never been able to put myself into a box in terms of what my interests are and where I feel like I fit socially and culturally with things. I’ve always been interested in different styles. The clothes definitely represent that.”