Von Dutch is more than a brand. Kenneth Howard AKA Von Dutch was a man, a legend and a piece of popular American culture known as the "GODFATHER OF MODERN DAY PINSTRIPING" & "ORIGINATOR OF KUSTOM KULTURE”
Born in 1929 and the son of a well-known sign painter and gold-leaf man at a shop in South Los Angeles, Von Dutch had a leg up in fulfilling his destiny as the Godfather of Modern Day Pinstriping.
At the age of 15, Von Dutch took a job as a mechanic at George Beerup’s Motorcycle Shop, at a time when pinstriping on cars and motorcycles was a dead art. While working at Beerup’s Shop, he would sometimes take a motorcycle home and pinstripe just for the sake of art. He would bring them back to the shop and the shop owner was amazed at what Von Dutch could create and while that may have ended his short lived tenure as a mechanic as the shop, he was now in painting and striping. Over the next decade Von Dutch honed his art form and built his reputation as the Godfather of Modern Day Pinstriping.
The money code that Von Dutch lived by was simply stated in a quote from a 1965 article and reads “I make a point of staying right at the edge of poverty. I don't have a pair of pants without a hole in them, and the only pair of boots I have are on my feet. I don't mess around with unnecessary stuff, so I don't need much money. I believe it's meant to be that way. There's a 'struggle' you have to go through, and if you make a lot of money it doesn't make the 'struggle' go away. It just makes it more complicated. If you keep poor, the struggle is simple“. That is not to say that he didn't make money, he did. But with his work in such high demand, he did not want to detract from the integrity of his craft with conveyor belt production. Rather every piece he worked on, he wanted to be precise and an individual work of art with the integrity of his individual touch.
The famous “flyin’ eyeball" logo....what does this all mean? According to Von Dutch, the flying eyeball originated with the Macedonian and Egyptian cultures about 5000 years ago. It was a symbol meaning "the eye in the sky knows all and sees all." Dutch got a hold of this symbol and modified it into the flyin' eyeball we know of today. His belief of reincarnation is tied into the logo that all past lives are watching what you do in the present. There have been numerous "incarnations" of this design over the years and it still remains an icon of the '50s and '60s street rod crowd. Mystery solved.
Another iconic piece of Von Dutch history is, of course, the Von Dutch Bus. Before Von Dutch owned this bus, it began as a Long Beach, California “City Bus” that was given to Dutch by a lady around 1960 as payment for some work. Of course, Von Dutch did not waste anytime setting up living quarters at the rear end of the bus and the front end was converted into a machine shop. From the stories told the floor of the bus was covered in cigarette butts, beer cans and whatever was worked on over the last month or so, as Von Dutch was not known for his housekeeping skills. Today the Von Dutch bus is owned by Steve Kafka, who took the time to restore it, and save a piece of Americana.
The stories of Von Dutch are a seemingly endless tale. That story will be broken up and the story will unfold in our blog. If you are looking to read this American tale at home about Von Dutch, there is only one book and that book is called “THE ART OF VON DUTCH”. What is covered inside of this book will simply blow your mind.
-Team Von Dutch