The Curse of Von Dutch: A Brand to Die For, a docuseries about the fashion trend that manifested itself in the form of trucker hats in the early 2000s, is on Hulu Nov. 18.
The Von Dutch fad was somewhat inexplicable, the baseball caps popping up on the heads of cool kids, celebs and wannabes almost overnight.
The series details how Von Dutch came to be in the late '90s. Three men are mentioned as creators, Ed Boswell, Bobby Vaughn and Mike Cassel, and none of them has good stuff to say about the others.
“If you’re gonna talk about the garmento snakes that burned me, I better lay down,” said Boswell as he’s about to be interviewed, assuming a supine pose.
Von Dutch himself was a street artist with the given name of Kenny Howard, who died years before the eponymous fashion brand came to be. Another fashion line, Bronze Age, appealed to Venice Beach surfers and skaters and gave birth to Von Dutch. Cassel was behind Bronze Age, and some say the business was a front for drug money.
After Cassel did prison time, he was at a fashion trade show, where Boswell was selling patches bearing the Von Dutch name. They spoke of launching a Von Dutch brand beyond patches, hoping to capture the artist’s punk spirit, and appeal to louche individuals, and a fashion line was born.
Vaughn, for his part, was a superfan of Bronze Age who went to work for the company, and then was part of the Von Dutch startup. He met the model Eli Jane at a trade show, and hired her to wear some Von Dutch t-shirts, while urging her to lay off the crystal meth. An accomplished gymnast as a girl, Jane turned heads at the trade show by conducting a series of flips across the showroom floor. In a Von Dutch t-shirt.
Vaughn and Eli ended up in a relationship, producing a baby.
Vaughn later uses a connection to Pamela Anderson’s brother to get some Von Dutch gear in the hands of Pamela and Tommy Lee. Lee slipped on a Von Dutch t-shirt when MTV came to shoot Cribs at his estate, known as Tommyland, and the brand took off.
“Everything was starting to happen,” said Cassel.
Backstabbing ensues. Yet another dubious male enters the scene at the end of the first episode, titled Who Created Von Dutch?, when the Danish taekwondo ace Tonny Sorrenson buys a stake in the company.
Andrew Renzi directs The Curse of Von Dutch. It’s safe to say that few people on Earth have given much thought to Von Dutch across the past decade, but The Curse of Von Dutch is a bit of scruffy fun. It is entertaining to watch a grassroots company take flight, and the scalawags behind the brand give the docuseries some unique zest.
All three episodes are available on premiere day. ■
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.