Detroit vs. Everybody vs. Everybody

Detroit vs. Everybody. The brand that makes a statement. A brand that codifies the emotion that Detroiters have felt for decades and expresses it in three simple words. It empowers the city, bucks the haters, and allows the late comers just one more avenue to join the bandwagon. Both simple in its expression and complex in the philosophy it describes, “Detroit vs. Everybody” has a more complex brand story than the overnight success than it’s made out to be. Most people cover its existence, here we’ll cover why it makes sense.

Who is Detroit vs Everybody?

For the few people that have been living under a rock, Detroit vs. Everybody is the clothing collection launched in 2012 by local designer and all-around cool guy, Tommey Walker. The brand is known predominantly by its t-shirts and hoodies, but more than that, DVE is known for it’s unapologetic allegiance to the city.

Why DVE rises to the Top

Since word of Detroit rising from the ashes began to spread there has been an almost absurd number of “Detroit Pride” t-shirts and mantras. From lesser known brands like, “Straight Outta Detroit” all the way to “Imported from Detroit” which Chrysler boasted as a badge of honor before unceremoniously transitioning to a more general “Imported from America” — presumably for the sake of inclusivity — a year later.

It seems almost serendipitous that Detroit vs. Everybody would be the one to rise to the forefront of the local, and eventually national, lexicon. How did a local designer with a simple print t-shirt do what major brands and hundreds of competitors couldn’t? Simple. I call the perfect storm.

As a local, Tommey Walker understood something that outsiders couldn’t possibly know about the city. The prevailing sentiment of us vs them. Ever since the racial tension of the 60’s and eventually the riots that a wedge has been driven into the city. And what was called ‘the white flight’ created a rift between suburbs and city that perpetuated a theme of Detroit against the world. We’ve gotten a bad rap here. From the Simpson to Colbert, and on social media across the world, Detroit has been the butt of the joke for quite some time. But Detroiter’s have a sense of pride that comes from sticking through tough times and making a way despite the odds. You could say, pride forged through fire.

The next component of this brand is Tommey’s deep roots and connections with some of the most influential artists in the city. Especially a rising superstar named Big Sean, who had also begun his ascent into the national spotlight with a giant leg up from Kanye West. After a few successful mixtapes and albums around the same time and generous amount of hometown pride, Big Sean was the perfect vessel to carry the DVE message mainstream. While these local artists, commercial and otherwise, were making a major imprint in the local community, Detroit vs. Everybody was the mantra, motto, and uniform of a growing movement.

And finally, Detroit’s new place as a media darling. Spurred by renewed interest from hipsters, yuppies, and major investment local niche Detroit sentiments were catapulted into the limelight. Everyone from transplants to visitors came alive with the new spirit of renewal. In an interesting turn of events, even the newer residents assumed the “us vs them” identity. This new class of Detroiter was determined to “make an impact” in a “dying city”. Challenges be damned! It was ‘them vs everybody’ all over again.

I want to bring every single person who said to me, “Detroit? Why are you going there? So you can get shot?” and I want to show them the Detroit I got to see because there are a million reasons to see everything you showed me.
Cassie Mattheis, Lutheran National Youth Gathering Attendee

All of a sudden Detroiters and celebrities with “Detroit Heritage” seemed to embrace the idea that Detroit could be a hotbed for growth and hip urbanization. With the rest of the nation joining the Mantra to dispel the naysayers, more people than ever before were publicly proclaiming “Detroit vs. Everybody”.

Images courtesy of detroitvseverybody.com

At this point, DVE has become the undisputed champion of Detroit Pride.

Vs Everybody

Divisiveness. The undercurrent that permeates a brand that outwardly promotes togetherness. Is it healthy for a brand as popular as this one to be viewed as divisive? Well, let’s dive into that.

“I didn’t make the attitude ‘Detroit v. Everybody’ I just diagnosed it. I was fed up with the negative stereotypes of my city. And I love this city,”
Tommey Walker, Crains Detroit

In Tommey’s own words, this wasn’t an attitude he created, it was one he diagnosed. So strong was the sentiment, that the brand took on a life of its own. It overtook many of the superficially ‘positive’ or ‘regionalist’ brands. Understanding your market is a powerful driver in business growth and brand connectivity. He could’ve created any number of statements, but this was the brand that was the most authentic to the climate.

And with great success comes the sincerest form of flattery. From knockoffs to clear derivatives, Detroit Vs Everybody has been copied time and time again. At times, by the creator itself to make a statement. Everybody Vs Racism. Everybody Vs Sexism. And higher profile partnerships such as Shade Vs Everybody. But more often than not, they are cheap knockoffs trying to capitalize on DVE’s popularity.

“I’ve seen so many terrible knockoffs! It’s frustrating,” Walker told us when we interviewed him earlier this year. “We have some some legal situations going on with all of that.”
Tommey Walker, Metro Times

In a testament to the strength and authenticity of this brand, whenever an imitation reaches a certainly level of popularity the DVE community policies and reports them to the brand. Very recently, this has resulted in a Meijer brand, Detroit vs. Everyone, being pulled from shelves. There even seems to be an international incident brewing with Toronto Vs Everybody.

Authenticity creates this level of guardianship. This is a family brand. We Detroiters protect DVE because they are family and they understand us. It’s the type of cult following that major brands spend millions to fail at.

With all of the interest and energy around this brand, it’s hard to think of a time when it will no longer be relevant. But of course, it’s for the best if the climate of ‘us vs the world’ eventually dissipates. As Detroit continues its resurgence, eventually we’re going to reach peak, “Detroit inclusiveness”, barring gentrification and the sort. That’s an entirely different blog post altogether. Either we’ll become a place where Detroit won’t need to be vs everybody, or we’ll need a Detroit vs. Detroit t-shirt.

In any case, DVE will have to position its self to not be pigeonholed into a just a small time in our history. They will have to continue their expansion into national and global relevance and continue to capitalize on their cache of ‘cool’. The addition of Tommey’s name to the brand is also an interesting touch. It allows subsequent brands to be tied to the creator and not be boxed in by the powerhouse that is DVE. That strategy will require time, patience, and finesse. Personally, I’m interested in seeing how it pans out. Can the Tommey Walker name become as powerful as the “vs” brand?

With celebrity endorsements, brand partnerships (Wayne State, Shady, etc) and brand diversification abound, I see a bright future for Detroit Vs Everybody. But if you don’t agree, that’s ok. This blog vs everybody.

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Eric Thomas is a Branding Specialist and Senior Partner at Saga MKTG based in Detroit MI. He’s also an entrepreneur who never believes “the way it has been done” is the “way it must be done”.

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