Kustom Kulture

Kustom Kulture History

Kustom Kulture today, is a general term used to describe everything surrounding the lifestyle (artwork, vehicles, fashion, etc.) of those who built and continue to build and drive custom cars and motorcycles in the United States from the 1960’s to today. It is said to have originally been born out of the SoCal beach culture of the 1950s, which included influences such as surfing, cars. motorcycles, music, etc.

Kustom Kulture is usually identified with the greasers of the 1950s, the drag racers of the 1960s, and the lowriders of the 1970s. Other subcultures that have had an influence on Kustom Kulture are the Skinheads, mods and rockers of the 1960s, the punk rockers of the 1970s, the metal and rockabilly music, along with the scooterboys of the 1980s, and psychobilly of the 1990s. Each separate culture has added their own customizations to the cars, their own fashions, influenced the music, and added their own ideas of what is cool, of what is acceptable, and what is not. Everything from wild pinstriped paint jobs, to choptop Mercurys, to custom Harley-Davidson and Triumph Motorcycles, to metal-flake and black primer paint jobs, along with music, cartoons, and monster movies have had an impact on what defines anyone and anything who is part of this automobile subculture.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Kustom Kulture had taken on a rebirth of American subcultures from the 50s and 60s with DIY activities. Each style is distinct, and has its roots in American automobile history. Many styles that would not have tolerated each other in the past now come together in large car shows.

The rebirth of Kustom Kulture has seen the use of the term “Kustom Graphics” to describe the style of artwork associated with the subculture when applied to posters, flyers, T-shirts and logos.

Key Figures:

Kenny Howard (Von Dutch)
Ed “Big Daddy” Roth
Robert Williams
C.R. Stecyck
Paul Frank
Chip Foose
Pete Chapouris
Norm Grabowski
Barris Brothers
George Barris
Dean Jeffries
Kenneth Anger
Joe Bailon
Coop (artist)
Dick Dean
Rick Dobbertin
Ken Fenical (Posie)
Jim “Jake” Jacobs
Dick Megugorac (Magoo)
Dean Moon
Darryl Starbird
Larry Watson
Indian Larry
Sailor Jerry

Culture and Key Terms:

Drag racing
Greaser (subculture)
Lowbrow art
Midnight movies
Mod (subculture)
Mods and rockers
Pin-up girls
Pop art
Punk subculture
Outlaw motorcycle clubs
Punk Rockers
Surf culture