Swaggin' with Christ: Religious Street Wear in Columbia City
The apparel of Believe in One Body JC mixes religious themes and street trends, which sounds too rad to be real, but it's real. The store rests in Columbia City (4405 Rainier Ave S, 856-7275), in an ordinary brick building painted pale gray, in the space previously occupied for more than 35 years by a television repair shop run by a fellow named Claude Forward.
From inside, the windows display a workaday view: a Tully's, a Walgreens, and a parking lot. The furnishings are workaday, too, with industrial-grade short-pile carpeting, fluorescent lights, and white plaster walls—though the wall in back is draped with thickly ruched valances and features local airbrush artist L. Davinci's mural of blue skies, appendages, and swollen white clouds. "I told him I wanted a hand reaching from heaven down to earth and a hand reaching from earth up to heaven, and that's exactly what I got," says co-owner Kari Rollins, a Sunday-school teacher and fashion visionary.
She begins with premade garments, then L. airbrushes them, or Kari adds embellishments using screen prints, puffy paint, or rhinestones cooked on with her heat-press machine. The rotating stock may include jeans with pockets festooned by gold chains ($20), or a pastel tank top with side seams ripped apart, shredded into strips, and knotted evenly back together ($5). (This technique brings to mind the clothing embodiment of kissing a stranger in mirrored sunglasses during a county fair's fireworks show.)
Most looks have Christian messages, and while some are direct, such as the graphic-print silver cross embellishing a plain black hoodie ($25), others are far livelier: "Getcha Praise On" reads one selection from the $5 T-shirt rack. Another has an image of Mother Mary, flanked by barbed tribal-tattoo shapes. Another shirt's graphic resembles an academic emblem, with its symmetry and regal swirling, and the banner says "PYMP Style" in Old-English font (it stands for "People You Must Pray").
There's more: faux Ugg boots detailed with sparkles and "Christ 4 Life" banners in graffiti cursive ($15), a searing neon-tone kid's tee with a cartoonishly gigantic rosary necklace airbrush design ($5), a "Swaggin' with Christ" embroidered nylon tote bag the color of cherry ice cream ($10), and glittery platform stilettos ($60) strung onto a rope suspended from the ceiling. The store's showcase work is both haunting and glitzy: old-school Nike tennis shoes hand-painted with L.'s matching portraits of the suffering Christ, with his crown of thorns, his dazed expression, and his rhinestone-embedded eyes ($55).
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