Who the Heck is Tony Alamo?

Welcome to Shop Talk at The Times!

Because everything that comes through our shop has a story, we thought we'd start sharing some of the more fascinating ones here— Hope you enjoy! 

Madison wearing “Gone with the Wind” Tony Alamo jacket available at The Times Vintage!

Madison wearing “Gone with the Wind” Tony Alamo jacket available at The Times Vintage!

This summer I was lucky enough to acquire an original 1987 hand-painted, swarovski encrusted, acid-washed denim "Tony Alamo" jacket. On the backside of this blinging jacket is an airbrushed image of Clark Gable & Vivien Leigh gazing into each other's eyes amidst fiery flames.

The work is so beautiful & intricate that you can't help but wonder, who is this Tony Alamo artist?

Turns out, Tony Alamo wasn't the type of artist you’d imagine, but instead a major con-artist/cult leader of the 1960’s & 70’s. He and his wife Susan formed the Alamo Christian Foundation in 1969 which was scrutinized for it’s extreme evangelical practices. His early congregation was made up mostly of hippies and runaways, who coined the term “Jesus Freaks.”

Alamo, who dressed in fancy clothes and drove expensive cars, started designing & manufacturing jackets in the ’70s with the help of his many church members. They worked for free with the belief they were raising funds for the ministry, some later described the working conditions as that of a sweatshop. Even small children were subjected to long hours of free labor—their hands being the perfect size to attach thousands of tiny rhinestones to the jackets.

Like most cult leaders, Alamo used fear tactics and brainwashing to keep his followers from fleeing. Eventually, Authorities began to investigate his practices, but even with with the FBI hot on his trail, Alamo claimed, "The clothing is so groovy, everyone wants it no matter what they think I am, no matter what, the superstars are going to want my jackets."

Tony Alamo’s industry started to unravel after the death of wife Susan in 1982. According to many of the followers, Alamo became “unhinged and out of control.” In 1991 he was convicted of tax evasion owing $7.9 million in back taxes and eventually was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse and trafficking of minors. Alamo died in prison, May 2017.

Creepily enough, the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries website is still live. More info about Tony Alamo & the strange history of Fashion’s most flamboyant jackets can be found here.  

If you are interested in owning the one-of-a-kind jacket pictured above don’t hesitate to contact us!

Scroll for photos of Tony Alamo & Co.