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‘This Has Been In My DNA’: Clothing Line Celebrating HBCUs Is Creation of Howard Student Who’s Following In His Father and Grandfather’s Footsteps

Tahir Murray witnessed the buzz of fashion as a child. He sat in the back of his grandfather’s sneaker shop on Air Jordan release day and watched as people lined up for a new pair of J’s.

“That was one of the first times where I saw the hype of Nike culture,” he recalled. “I would see on security cameras just like crowds of people coming in to buy shoes, and to buy the School of Hard Knocks merch that my dad was selling too. It was so dope. I loved spending Saturdays at the store.”

Those days are a piece of nostalgia for Murray, who grew up immersed in the atmosphere of Black enterprise. His family owned the iconic Von’s Sneaker store in Queens, New York.

The iconic shop served as the birthplace of a School of Hard Knocks brand, which Murray’s father launched in the 1980s.

For Tahir, the store was a playground. He spent most days there after school and remembers riding his scooter through the urban boutique while customers shopped. His grandfather, Ortner “Von” Murray, often cooked West Indian food for workers and shoppers. People dropped their children off while they ran errands.

Some days, music would blare through the storefront. Other days, they watched movies and music videos on a big TV. One enduring memory from those days was his grandfather’s big smile.

“It was like his home, and that’s something that I always appreciated about the store,” he told Atlanta Black Star. “People who grew up in Queens and know about the store during that time just know how much Von’s Sneaker store meant so much to the community.”

Von’s Sneaker store circa 1998. (Photo: Queenscapes.NYC)

Murray, 21, is now a senior marketing major in his last semester at Howard University in Washington, and he’s continuing the family tradition. He started his own clothing line called LegacyHistoryPride in midsummer 2019, which is an homage to his story and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

LegacyHistoryPride is a line of HBCU-inspired apparel. And just over a year in the making, Murray has already gotten endorsements from several celebrities and garnered the attention of Nike.

“It means a lot, seeing it in so many different spaces and having people share it,” Murray said. “The brand is my story, my family’s stories and the HBCU story. It’s so many different layers of it. We’ve been doing the work for so long. And like I always tell people, this has been in my DNA. Like I’ve been part of this since the day I could walk.”

Tahir Murray. (Photo: Instagram/Tahir Murray)

The family story is three generations of ownership centered on fashion. Ortner “Von” Murray immigrated to New York City from Trinidad and Tobago in 1966. Determined to achieve the American Dream, Ortner and his brother opened a shoe repair shop in Queens.

Tahir’s father Gerard teamed with Ortner in the 1980s, and they transformed the family business into the Von’s Sneaker store. Gerard incorporated his School of Hard Knocks line, which became a popular signature touch

The family moved to Atlanta when Tahir was 12, and his father continued the legacy, starting the Tradition Ever Since clothing brand in 2012.

It was in Atlanta where Tahir got his introduction to HBCU culture. He spent time on campuses with his father, attending fashion shows, homecomings, trade shows and expos. The outings served as networking events for Gerard. For Tahir, they were a glimpse into his father’s hustle. He was fascinated watching his father wheel and deal, make introductions and seamlessly engage with people as he promoted his clothing brand.

Tahir got involved too and unwittingly began networking. Some of the connections he made during his teenage years continue to prove fruitful today.

“As a Black-owned business, you just get creative,” Tahir said. “You make your own opportunities because you’ve just got to get in the room. And I just saw that at a young age, my dad’s ability to network and politic with just about anybody and everybody. That always amazed me.”

LegacyHistoryPride is a full-tilt clothing line that features T-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, “RiRi” hooded dresses, face masks, socks and stickers. Tahir has partnered with nearly 30 HBCUs with whom he’s licensed to sell apparel with their respective logos. He also has a line dedicated to Black fraternities and sororities, which offers sweaters, dresses, shirts and other apparel embroidered with odes to some of the Greek-letter organizations that stomp on HBCU campuses.

The line grew out of the collegiate apparel line that Gerard started in Georgia. Tahir constantly repped his dad’s brand on the Howard campus and saw the attention it attracted from other students who wanted to know where he got his hats and other gear. Shortly after Gerard retired in 2019, Tahir took up the mantle.

“Our campuses are some of the most vibrant, exciting campuses. Every day is a fashion scene. But it’s hard to find product that matches that energy,” Tahir said. “So he always made sure I paid attention to the detail of the product and the storytelling piece of it to truly represent the schools.”

LegacyHistoryPride, sold online only, has been showcased in GQ and at the BET Awards. Some heavy hitters have also rocked Tahir’s designs. Superstar Chris Paul sought Tahir out and wore several of his outfits during the 2020 NBA playoffs as a way to raise awareness for HBCUs. Paul put several clothing brands on national TV screens by wearing them while cameras caught him walking into the arena.

“We decided to use the tunnel as the opportunity to not only support Black designers, small businesses and underrepresented designers, but to also highlight and amplify the voices of historically Black colleges and universities,” Paul’s stylist Courtney Dion Mays told The Undefeated. “We really wanted to use fashion as a platform to speak as the concept, and to give life and breath to the conversation that has not really been had.”

Chris Paul wears LegacyHistoryPride apparel during the 2020 NBA playoffs. (Photo: Instagram/Tahir Murray)

Other celebrities who’ve donned LHP designs are Chance the Rapper, sports stars Cam Newton and Chad “OchoCinco” Johnson, “Breakfast Club” host DJ Envy and the 85 South Boys.

“I think what he is doing is miles ahead of where I was at that age,” Gerard Murray told The Undefeated. “I think he has a good road ahead of him. I always told him he is making a brand, this not a T-shirt line, but a brand. I am really impressed by how he is navigating the waters.”

The highlight of Tahir’s young career came in November when he was one of 12 HBCU artists featured in a Nike campaign for the Air Max shoe line. A team of Nike employees who are HBCU alums spearheaded the campaign, which spotlighted HBCU culture and its significance to the Black community.

For Tahir, it was a special moment because it connected him with his late grandfather. Von’s was the first Black-owned business with a Nike account in the 1990s, he said.

The partnership came about through some of the lessons Tahir learned from his father growing up. He said he met a couple of Nike marketing team members about four years ago when they hosted an event on Howard’s campus, and he kept in touch with them. When Nike kicked off the HBCU campaign, those same marketing employees came calling.

“It was a full-circle moment for me,” Tahir said. “It just meant so much. So that was like a huge milestone for me.”

The Murray family. Tahir (center), his grandfather Ortner (left) and his father Gerard (right). (Photo: Instagram/Tahir Murray)

In February LegacyHistoryPride launched a $10,000 All It Takes is One Scholarship for HBCU undergrads. And portions of all the proceeds go toward supporting HBCUs.

Tahir said he’ll continue to try expanding to other HBCUs and spread his brand’s story even further.

“Ownership in the black community is so important, but it’s something that we’re lacking,” he said. “We’ve got to have ownership to be able to control who we are, control our stories and to remain in creative control of the culture. I think that’s so important.”

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