Remembering Madness Connection

3119 Georgia Avenue -- where Madness Connection opened in 1984.

3119 Georgia Avenue — where Madness Connection opened in 1984.

While walking past L.A. Nails at 3119 Georgia Avenue, it’s hard to imagine that it was once the location of Madness Connection — a pioneering clothing store established in 1984. The store created the blueprint for a multimillion dollar network of D.C. fashion storefronts across the city that sold go-go mixtapes and concert tickets. It later moved across the street to 3120 Georgia. It was among the first to sell monogrammed hats and T-shirts emblazoned with a coveted logo. Tyrone Johnson, one of the founders, noted that the Madness line took off when the go-go band EU (Experience Unlimited) wore Madness hats in their 1989 “Da Butt” video.

For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, the typical go-go uniform consisted of expensive T-shirts and sweat suits with embroidered logos made by neighborhood-based and black-owned companies. The Washington urban fashion industry became established as an offshoot of go-go in the early 1980s, starting with the Madness Connection on Georgia Avenue.

The store was the place to buy whatever was in style, from colorful headbands in 1991 or lanyard key ring holders in 1996 to popular T-shirts with the Madness logo.

Madness was known to start city-wide trends. In 1987, the store successfully marketed the “Summer Madness” T-shirts that became ubiquitous in black neighborhoods. The following summer belonged to Madness’s white baseball caps with multicolored pastel letters. Area go-go bands helped popularize the caps and T-shirts by wearing them onstage.

The successful business came to an end in 1996 after owner Eddie Van pleading guilty in a case in which he was accused of selling crack to a Drug Enforcement Administration informer. As part of the plea bargain, Van also agreed to turn over to the federal government the building at Georgia Avenue and Kenyon Street that housed the Madness Connection.

The Madness Connection ca. 1995, from the Washington Post. Photograph by Dudley M. Brooks.

The Madness Connection ca. 1995, from the Washington Post. Photograph by Dudley M. Brooks.

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2 Comments on “Remembering Madness Connection”

  1. Bob Says:

    I would like to knw if u can tell me where I can get one of those blue baseball captain hats. Thx u


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