TONY ALAMO FASHION
Tony Alamo of Nashville’s iconic hand painted and jeweled jackets have been seen on celebrities ranging from Dolly Parton to Michael Jackson. From the facade, the jackets are cool, and you would assume the designer behind them would be as well. However, there’s a deep and dark past of Tony Alamo that has almost nothing to do with fashion.
Tony and Susan Alamo were the founders of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministeries, a church organization in the United States. What began as an innocent church organization whose goal was to spread the word of God quickly amassed into a cult whose goal was to amass as much profit and as many followers as possible.
The Alamos began their organization targeting people who lived on the streets of Los Angeles, offering free meals and housing to those willing to give up everything and become a follower of the church. When authorities began to question the Alamo’s practices and legitimacy, they up and moved their foundation to Arkansas, where they began targeting young mothers. By targeting young mothers, the Alamos gained a population of young, impressionable people to commit to their cult.
The cult following grew exponentially, and so did the Alamo’s profits. So, they began to establish churches and other types of establishments in various cities across the United States. In Nashville, Tennessee, the Alamos opened up their flagship Country and Western Store, which is where Tony Alamo Fashions was born.
Tony Alamo was a flashy man, and thus were the custom wares that his Country and Western Store sold. One clothing item in particular that gained quick popularity through celebrity clientele were the iconic denim jackets. Each jacket was hand cut, sewn, painted, and crystalled by Alamo cult members. However, the members who made these jackets worked 12+ hour days, unpaid, and in unsavory conditions. Children were used to hand crystal the jackets, as they had the only hands nimble enough.
While Tony Alamo’s jackets were becoming all the rage, some rumblings were being heard about the Tony Alamo Christian Ministeries not being as pure and holy as the image they portrayed. There were claims of Tony Alamo harassing (physically, emotionally, and sexually) his members, committing major tax evasion, and marrying multiple girls, some as young as nine years old. Although these claims were true, people still continued to buy his jackets.
When Tony Alamo was finally committed of several crimes in 1994, many of the remaining Tony Alamo Fashion jackets were auctioned off. In the past 10 years or so, there has been a resurgence in the jackets, which are now seen as rare pieces of clothing. The jackets have been worn by Nicki Minaj, A$AP Rocky, and Miley Cyrus. Some of the more collectible designs can go for $1,500 on eBay.
Although, yes, the jackets are of amazing quality and intricately designed and made, those who have and wear must remember the unfortunate circumstances in which they were made. Nordic Poetry has a Hawaii Tony Alamo jacket for sale. Proceeds will go to the Helen Bamber Foundation to commemorate those who were unfairly put to work to create the jackets, as well as those who were trapped and suffering in the cult.