On yesterday’s episode of The Patriot Act, comedian Hasan Minhaj’s 20-minute takedown of the streetwear giant Supreme starts out easy enough: A critique of the mind-boggling lengths people will go—the lines they’ll stand in for hours and the prices they’ll pay—to snag a piece of Supreme-stamped swag, even if it’s not clothing but a branded crowbar or brick for over $200.
Minhaj thoroughly mocks these sneakerheads or “hypebeasts” (if they’re particularly intolerable in their pursuit of trendy fashion) before turning to his real targets: The brand’s founder James Jebbia, and its biggest investor, the private equity firm the Carlyle Group. (Jebbia and Supreme itself did not respond to a request for comment. The Carlyle Group declined to comment.)
The Carlyle Group, which snagged a 50% share in Supreme for $500 million in 2017, has invested in over 200 companies, from McDonald’s to AMC to Dunkin Donuts, as well as oil drilling and coal mining companies. But it’s the corporation’s stake in the international military-industrial complex that Minhaj focused on.
In his intentionally nerdy, outrage-humor style, Minhaj—a former correspondent on The Daily Show—carefully charts one of these relationships: The group’s 23% stake in the US-based electronics firm Wesco, which has a contract with the British defense company BAE systems: “Together, Wesco and BAE support a fighter jet called the Typhoon,” Minhaj explains to the audience, “which is used by the Saudis to bomb Yemen.”
“This is a company that profits off of war and obesity,” he says. “Why are they trying to sell Supreme fanny packs to dudes with man buns?”
Those man-bun-wearers aren’t even buying a particularly original design, Minhaj points out, telling the often-repeated story of the Supreme logo, which is arguably a rip-off of works by the artist Barbara Kruger. “Supreme is the king of appropriation, they wouldn’t exist without it,” Minhaj notes.
He goes on to quote Kruger herself, who said of the brand in 2013, in response to a lawsuit in which Supreme admitted that her work “influenced” the Supreme logo: “What a ridiculous clusterfuck of totally uncool jokers.”