It was almost inevitable that Tex Moton would become an artist.
“That’s just how it goes when art’s in your genes,” he said.
Born in Pleasant Grove to artist parents, Moton became one of the early pioneers of the city’s graffiti scene in the 1990s before going on to work on projects with brands like LIDS, Playboy and the Dallas Mavericks.
What was more unlikely was that the Dallas native would take on one of the world’s most powerful brands in the U.S. Supreme Court — and live to tell the tale.
Moton is the founder and designer of YUMS, an Arlington-based streetwear brand first launched in 2007. YUMS — an acronym for You Understand My Style — recently relaunched its signature combinations of hats and shoes after an eight-year recovery from a legal battle with Nike that went all the way to the highest court in the land, leaving the brand nearly broke.
From graffiti to sneakers
As a teenager growing up in Pleasant Grove in the early 1990s, Moton found himself drawn to graffiti art and the community of other young artists working in Dallas. The pre-internet age meant that Moton and his fellow artists didn’t have many references or resources, leading to the development of a style that was unlike the tags that adorned New York City subway cars or walls in Los Angeles — it was a style Moton describes as uniquely Dallas.
“We were just smart kids,” Moton said. “We found our way through it and eventually got pretty good.”
Soon, the art was good enough to transform the kids’ weekend entertainment into a series of more serious projects, leading to the formation of Infinity Crew, one of Dallas’s first graffiti crews. Combining clean lines and bright colors, art by Tex and the rest of Infinity Crew became well-known both in the Dallas street art community and beyond.
In his work with Infinity Crew, Moton continually reimagined what graffiti could be. Why not do the same for shoes?
A self-described foodie, Moton remembers Dallas institutions like Gonzales Tex-Mex in Pleasant Grove and Elaine’s Jamaican Kitchen in South Dallas bringing a smile to his face with their delicious food. Moton wanted to connect the initial excitement of receiving a new pair of sneakers to the thrill of opening a favorite snack or seeing a delicious meal arrive at the table.
Instead of focusing on traditional colorways, Moton’s line would be centered around different flavors, combining fashion and food to create a new way for fans to relate to sneakers.
In 2007, Moton launched YUMS with its Sweet Series collection, which quickly became a hit in the streetwear world. Each YUMS flavor has the brand’s signature clear sole, which displays graffiti-inspired art designed by Tex that celebrates the flavor’s inspiration.
How does a flavor get from the pantry shelf to the sole of a YUMS sneaker? Moton deconstructs all the elements of a snack — including flavor, texture and color — and puts them back together again, thinking about how the elements of the food translate to the elements of a shoe.
“It really embodies that item that we’re expressing in that moment, from rainbow sherbet to a classic cupcake to a mixed berry tart — all of that is really represented in the shoe itself,” Moton said.
Moton reaches to pick up the brand’s unreleased chicken and waffles flavor, displaying a red and white pattern on the sole of the shoe, reminiscent of classic checkered tablecloths at chicken shacks. On the top of the shoe, yellow represents a crisp, buttery waffle, and tan suede calls to mind the texture of crunchy fried chicken. (Moton’s Dallas go-to for chicken and waffles? Jonathon’s in Oak Cliff.)
Moton saw the marriage of fashion and food as a natural one. “I just have always found pleasure, happiness and comfort in certain foods, and I think a lot of people really relate to and can connect with food,” he said.
The newest collection of YUMS sneakers on display at Already Design Co.’s Arlington offices. The popular mid-2000s streetwear brand is relaunching after recovering from a legal battle with Nike.
(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
Despite the early success of YUMS, things haven’t always been sweet for the brand.
In July 2009, Nike sued Already LLC, YUMS’s parent company, alleging that the silhouette of YUMS shoes violated the trademark for Nike’s popular Air Force 1 sneaker. Later that year, Already filed a counterclaim against Nike, arguing that Nike’s trademark negatively affected YUMS’ ability to sell its shoes and attract investors. The counterclaim sought to invalidate Nike’s trademark for the shoe and move the trademark for the Air Force 1 into the public domain.
“It’s hard,” Moton said of the lawsuit. “Nike is a giant in that industry.”
Moton had been a fan of Nike’s classic styles when he was growing up, but he said the lawsuit was a devastating blow for him, as well as for Already and YUMS. “It sucks to get attacked and told to burn all your shoes by someone you admire so much,” he said.
Fortunately, Nike backed down. While the suit was pending, Nike sent a March 2010 letter to Already that promised a covenant not to sue, meaning that Nike would not attempt to bring any further trademark claims against YUMS for any of its products. Nike moved to dismiss both its original claim and Already’s counterclaim, but Already appealed the dismissal of its claims to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and continued to press for the dismissal of Nike’s trademark.
Both the district court and the appeals court held that the counterclaim was invalid because no “substantial controversy” remained, given that Nike had promised that it would not bring any further claims against Already and YUMS under the covenant not to sue.
In January 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the rulings of the lower courts, unanimously finding in favor of Nike and determining the case was moot. In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that it would be unlikely that YUMS could produce designs that would infringe upon Nike’s trademark and were not already protected under the covenant.
“If such a shoe exists, the parties have not pointed to it, there is no evidence that Already has dreamt of it, and we cannot conceive of it,” Roberts wrote. “It sits, as far as we can tell, on a shelf between Dorothy’s ruby slippers and Perseus’s winged sandals.”
Although the ruling was in favor of Nike, Moton and the YUMS team don’t view the outcome as a loss.
“We’re just happy to be able to make our shoes again without being threatened by Nike,” Moton said.
YUMS isn’t the first streetwear brand to get caught in Nike’s crosshairs. In March of this year, Nike sued Brooklyn-based MSCHF over its “Satan Shoes,” modified Nike Air Max 97s that featured a drop of human blood and a pentagram charm and were promoted by rapper Lil Nas X. As part of a settlement agreement with Nike, MSCHF agreed to offer refunds and accept returns of the 666 pairs of limited-edition shoes, which sold out online less than a minute after their launch.
Tex Moton (right), founder and designer of the YUMS streetwear brand, and Juelz look over a collection of sneakers and hats in their new Arlington offices.
(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
While the extensive legal battle meant that YUMS needed time to recover financially, Moton never stopped creating. In the years between the court’s ruling and the relaunch of YUMS, Moton continued his work as chief creative officer of Arlington-based Already Design Co., which designs apparel, accessories and digital media for high-profile clients including LIDS, Playboy, Gas Monkey Garage and Discovery Channel. Moton also continued to stay involved in the Dallas graffiti scene and worked on projects with local institutions like Dallas Love Field and the Dallas Mavericks.
Moton designed the Mavs’ 2019-20 City Edition jersey, celebrating Deep Ellum and the artistic culture that originally nurtured his talent. While graffiti may not be typically connected with Dallas, Moton says it’s a special recognition for those who have been a part of the city’s street art culture.
“It’s so rich for people who are here and grow up seeing it and being a part of it,” he said.
As the YUMS relaunch continues, Moton is looking forward to a delicious — and hopefully lucrative — holiday season, with new flavors inspired by the familiar comfort foods of Thanksgiving and Christmas. He credits the survival of YUMS to the perseverance and commitment of his team members. Although he views himself as the underdog, Moton’s lifetime of innovation has prepared him well to persevere through tough times.
“It’s great to still be standing after taking some blows,” he said. “If you stay in something long enough, and if you believe in it wholeheartedly, and just keep pushing forward, you’ll see the other side of things.”
Where to find YUMS
YUMS products can be purchased from the brand’s website at yumslife.com. Shoes from YUMS Collection 1 are $125 and hats are $30.
Tex Moton uses a Sharpie to create a new design.
(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)
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