For many, coffee is so much more than a morning pick-me-up. It is a lifestyle, a fundamental part of one's identity that regularly informs decisions beyond simply “which brew will I make today?” These coffee lifers are often easy to spot; they are the ones decked out in shirts, hats, pins, totes, sweatshirts, tumblers, bags, socks, mugs, you name it featuring their favorite coffee brands.

And indeed, many coffee companies have caught on, operating as a unique hybrid of lifestyle brand and coffee roaster. Gone are the days of merch being just a logo slapped on a cheap cotton tee. Savvy brands are changing up their looks as often as their single origins, working with design firms to keep their aesthetic fresh and their apparel sought after.

We here at Sprudge have been covering coffee news and culture for 12 years now, and with our newest feature series, we're focusing heavily on the latter. With Coffee Merch, we're exploring all the newest and hottest apparel and swag from around the coffee world. From limited releases to exciting new collabs, we're going to be exploring all the coolest coffee stuff that doesn't make you coffee.

For our first entry, we're taking a look at the striking hoodie from the Anti-Gentrification Coffee Club, the cafe concept by Memphis, Tennessee's Cxffeeblack. With bold imagery paying homage to Civil Rights activists from Malcolm X to the Black Panthers as well as Cxffeeblack's “Love Black people like you love black coffee” emblazoned on the sleeve, the AGCC hoodie is a statement piece, and we can't think of a better way to kick off our brand new series. To learn more about the design, we spoke digitally with the Cxffeeblack team.

Do you have any new merch you want featured in the Coffee Merch series? Let us know!

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First and foremost, can you tell us a little bit about the Anti-Gentrification Coffee Club?

If coffee, a historically Black and Brown innovation, can be used to displace people of color on and off the continent, then we feel like it can also be used to empower them. The AGCC is an exploration of that possibility. The AGCC is a coffee shop concept that seeks to use the Black history of coffee as a community organizing agent to resist gentrification.

What was the inspiration for this hoodie?

The inspiration for this hoodie came from the Black Panther Party and a lot of the iconography of the Civil Rights movement. I think especially considering the power of the movie that just came out, Judas and the Black Messiah, it's even more important for us to not only honor the legacy of the Black Panther Party and the Civil Rights leaders who came before us, but also to integrate the strategies and practices to address problems the Black community faces today. It only made sense for us to use those strategies in the iconography to inspire resistance against colonialism and gentrification.

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Agcc Hoodie 02

Can you tell us a little bit about the design? Did you work with anyone to create it?

Yeah we definitely work with Rjv Collectives, my brother who is an amazing creative that we met at a concert a couple years ago. He does the artwork for some of my favorite indie rappers Andy Mineo and nobigdyl.  RJ really took the vision of seeing what it would look like to recontextualize a lot of the iconography from the Black Panther Party. RJ really gets what it means to create art that makes sense within a hip hop space but also translates to a larger audience.

What are some other brands—coffee or otherwise—that inspire you?

Staple Design out in New York is probably our biggest inspiration. They do an amazing job of simply stating the aesthetic of streetwear culture. Jeff Staple’s content on the Power of Words and the importance of streetwear in the context of hip hop was one of our biggest inspirations for how we communicate our ideas. He talks a lot about how you can communicate ideas through art, aesthetic, and fashion. Another one of our big inspirations is Street Etiquette in New York as well as Supreme, LRG, and FUBU. Our second inspiration overall is the design aesthetic from early 2000s hip hop. So we like to try to create art that contextualizes a mix of all of those inspirations.

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Can you give us a few details about the hoodie?

The hoodie is printed on super soft Bella+Canvas fabric. It has white details on the strings. We really enjoy this garment! We went through two other options before we decided on the Bella+Canvas. It just feels really great on the skin. Honestly, when I put it on, it’s hard for me to put other hoodies on afterwards because of the comfort of the fabric. We wanted to go for something really high quality as well because we wanted to provide a garment that would communicate the ideas. It has three different design pieces that are inspired by some of the iconography from the Civil Rights movement, the Back Panther Party, and Malcolm X. We handprint each hoodie one-by-one so each one is a unique piece and we do it all within the context of our neighborhood, printing them at the Anti-Gentrification Coffee Club where we keep all of our equipment and inventory.

What’s your favorite coffee garment in your closet right now?

I tend to think of clothes more as uniforms so when I find things that I like I tend to wear them until they don’t work anymore. Currently what I’m wearing is the AGCC hoodie, some New Balance 997 H’s, and some Collusion sweats and a Carhartt windbreaker. And we also have these navy blue Love Black beanies that’s one of my favorites—but I rock it like it’s black. And that’s the uniform.

What's next for AGCC/Cxffeeblack?

The next step for us is going to be building out the physical space as well as working on membership cards so that people have access to special content, books, articles, and coffees. That's the big goal for us. Next were going to be releasing a new coffee collaboration with a group of Afro-Colombian farmers we met through Cosecha Traders and partnering with their community, working on some profit sharing opportunities and doing some musical collaborations with some of the artists that are in their community is our next big goal. We would want to then bring the information about them back to our neighborhood.

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Where can the hoodie be purchased and for how much?

Right now the hoodie can be purchased either in person at the Heights neighborhood or online for $60. All the proceeds go to fund our work at the AGCC and work in our neighborhood. The idea is that our apparel creates the profit needed to both pay specialty prices to support Black farmers that are fighting poverty at origin but also make prices for that coffee that are affordable for Black people in our neighborhood who are fighting poverty through our coffee club. In order to justify the difference in that price, we have to carry products that create those margins.

Thank you!

Do you have any new merch you want featured in the Coffee Merch series? Let us know!

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

All photos courtesy of Cxffeeblack, used with permission