The Harrowing True Story Behind Young Thug’s Reflective Poncho

The 3M masterpiece Thug wore on the Rodeo Tour was a struggle to make.

Over the past few years, FADER cover star Young Thug has become famous and infamous for his sartorial risk-taking. He's twirled in leopard dresses, stunted in denim tunics, and, most recently, rocked a skin-tight Hooters tank with aplomb. When Travi$ Scott and Thug's Rodeo Tour breezed into NYC last month, he unveiled a new show-stopping look, emerging onstage cloaked in a reflective 3M poncho, topless underneath. Seeking the origin story behind the look, we spoke with Elijah Trinidad, art director at 300 Entertainment, Thug's label. Trinidad, one half of the design duo behind Thug's poncho, shared the story behind this one-of-a-kind garment that almost didn't exist.

ELIJAH TRINIDAD: Initially, we wanted to make a vampire-style trench coat for Thug. We'd purchased this black Givenchy coat, and wanted to embroider the words "Thugger Thugger" dripping in blood on the back. We asked Othelo [Gervacio] from AllDayEveryDay, who does amazing illustrations and watercolor paintings, to make an original design. He created a Grateful Dead spinoff: a skeleton sitting on top of a skull smoking a joint, with the smoke floating up to spell out "YSL," for Young Stoner Life, Thug's brand. We got the mock-ups from Othelo, and realized that it was too sinister: Thug would actually look like a vampire, especially given his height and stature.

The Rodeo Tour had already started, and the NYC date was approaching, when [300 founder] Lyor [Cohen] was like, "Where's the jacket?" We were like, "FUCK, so Lyor really wants this thing?" We literally locked ourselves indoors with no distractions. Going along with the Rodeo theme, we dug up the original Marlboro Man photography and all this Texas denim imagery; we looked at Clint Eastwood's wardrobe in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Eventually, the idea hit my partner, Arnold Yun. He was like, "What he if wears a poncho?" The thing is, it really doesn't matter what artists wear on stage—they can wear space suits if they want. We thought that a poncho would go with the rodeo theme and that Thugger would fuck with it.

"Lyor [Cohen] was like, 'Where's the jacket?' We were like, 'FUCK, so Lyor really wants this thing?'

I took Eastwood's original poncho design and flipped it to incorporate the 300 logo and the Young Stoner logo on the side. We needed to incorporate something a bit more Thugger, so we threw in the skull that Othelo created. We had the design mocked up, but we didn't know how we would execute it. Are we going to knit the whole poncho or customize it? Two days of sourcing and production phone calls later, and we had nothing. But we knew we had to kill this, because Lyor was waiting on it. Finally, we found a poncho that we could potentially customize, and got it overnighted. Then we were freaking out about how we're going to get it printed. We couldn't screen-print the whole design, because it was too big; embroidery would be crazy expensive and take way too long.

Eventually, Arnold came up with the idea of using reflective 3M printing. 3M is usually only available in white and silver, but Arnold knew it had to be red. We found this printer in Times Square whose tagline is "same-day printing." We spent all day there, overseeing every step. The screen printer made us sign off every step of the way, because he knew how high the stakes were. We didn't know if it was going to work. We worried that the poncho—which was made of 100% Alpaca—was too hairy and that the 3M wasn't going to stick. Literally every piece of 3M was hand-placed and laid out on the poncho. We did a direct-to-garment transfer for the skull design. Every step of the production was like thin ice.

We tested the 3M on the inside and it looked good. Then we tested it on the outside, and the plastic almost melted onto it. We were like, "FUCK! This is the only one we have; we can't do anything else to it." But it ended up working, because it looked antiqued and vintage, roughened. Finally, we got it done. We asked Lyor to give us one night with it, because we were never going to see it again. Arnold and I basically had a mini photoshoot in the poncho. We all took pictures wearing it.

The next day was the NYC show and we weren't sure how to give it to Thugger. Do we have to fold it? Do we need a special box? Parchment paper and twine? We decided to hang it since it looked best like that, and Lyor wrote a personal note to Thugger on the hang tag. But Arnold and I were like, what would take this gift to another level? Arnold asked if I had weed. So I rolled a joint and packaged it together with the note from Lyor. Lyor presented it and immediately Thug started taking pictures of it. We knew it was tight.

That night we went to the NYC show. During most of the set, he came out wearing a bunch of his own shit, like white T-shirts. We were wondering, is he going to wear it? It came down to the last 30 minutes of the show, and he was getting into the hypetracks of his set. Then he came out to a slow song, rocking the poncho. I was speechless at first, but I knew I had to go and grab Arnold. I pulled him to the front and just pointed to the stage. We freaked out—seeing an artist that we fuck with embrace our design and save it for a special song was huge for us. When I saw the flashes going off on that 3M print, I knew the photos were going to be ill. That moment was ours, and it was his, and that poncho was one-of-one.

It's funny because Arnold and I had proposed a design for Travis' tour merch too, but they weren't fucking with it. Then, during the show, Travi$ came out for "Mamacita" and he put on Thug's poncho. I had to grab Arnold to see it again because he knew how much Travi$ wasn't fucking with us. Twitter went crazy that night; they even hashtagged #youngthugsponcho.

"We met up with Thugger in Phoenix after the final tour date, and he still had the poncho with him. He'd been sweating in it, everybody had been wearing it. It looked 100 years old."

The next day, Lyor said, "Amazing work. Thugger wants four more." We were like, "FUCK!" We never ended up making four; Thug just kept the one, and wore it for the rest of the tour, waiting each night for the end of the show to pull it out, which made it more special.

Last week, we met up with Thugger in Phoenix after the final tour date, and he still had the poncho with him. That shit was fucked up; he'd been sweating in it, everybody had been wearing it. It looked 100 years old. He still loves it, though.

Thug is a trendsetter. Recently, my girlfriend went to the Chris Brown and Trey Songz show and Chris was wearing a poncho. Even Future got the poncho idea from us! When he saw Thug out there, he must've said to himself, "Yo, I'm going down to SXSW in Texas, I need to rock a poncho too!" But there are no red 3M ponchos anywhere; its one-of-one in the universe, which speaks to who Thug is. Thug is a creative genius. He is the Prince of our time.

Lead image: Elijah Trinidad/300

The Harrowing True Story Behind Young Thug’s Reflective Poncho