Lake in the Hills-based Wornstar Clothing awaiting rock stars’ return to stages

Longtime rock and roll-themed artist, photographer adjusted model of local business during pandemic, and is living ‘a dream come true,’ colleague says

Stephen Jensen, who founded Lake in the Hills-based Wornstar Clothing in 2009 with his wife, Sylvia, is looking forward to hearing the music and seeing the shows rock and roll musicians have been formulating during the pandemic with most live entertainment on hold.

As a photographer and custom clothing, graphic and guitar designer for some huge names among rock stars over the course of his career, Jensen knows the virus has terribly impacted the economy depended on by the many workers that make performance venues function.

In the spring this year, that included his business.

“We were hit pretty hard right at the beginning when the governor shut down the state. That first two weeks were really pretty bleak,” Jensen said.

As a company with about half of its business focused on making custom clothing for rock stars, including members of Megadeth, Five Finger Death Punch and Black Stone Cherry, to name a few, once musicians were no longer appearing on stages, they temporarily had less of a need for Wornstar’s services.

While some artists have requested custom clothing to rock in during at-home video shows over the internet, Jensen said Wornstar adjusted by focusing more on the commercial streetwear the company produces.

“We sell mainly online, it bounced back pretty well,” Jensen said. “We design manufactured wear for regular people, streetwear. We just pivoted a bit more toward that and that business. It slowly started to come back over the summer, and this year has turned out to be a pretty good year. A record year, but not as big of a record as it could have been.”

In addition to the clothing work, Jensen also recently completed the graphic design for a Led Zeppelin-themed pinball machine for Elk Grove Village-based Stern Pinball.

Wornstar, which Jensen’s wife, a self-taught seamstress, contributes to tremendously, also has designed walk-up jackets for the wrestling star Edge.

“He’s a multi-talented and multi-faceted guy. It will be 11 years ago, that he and Sylvia, his wife, a super-talented artist as well, will have started Wornstar,” said Jody Dankberg, senior director of licensing and business development for Stern Pinball, and a longtime close friend of Stephen Jensen’s.

In fact, Dankberg said the two share a special bond, as both had been working with the former Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, who was shot and killed on stage in December 2004 while performing in his latest band Damageplan, at the time of his death. The crime occurred on the 24th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon.

Jensen had designed guitars for Abbott before his death and continued to release designs that would have been used by the artist following the tragedy, and Dankberg said he was making amplifiers for Abbott.

“There are a group of us who have a bond like that who got to work with one of our heroes in a special time,” Dankberg said.

Jensen can be modest about the fame of the stars he has worked with, Dankberg said, but Jensen did not hesitate a bit in speaking with great pride about his daughter Olivia’s award-winning animated short film that had a festival run end earlier this year.

“Sometimes, you have to say it’s a dream come true. Although Stephen and I aren’t billionaires, we’ve gotten to work with all our guitar heroes. We’re just kids who played guitar growing up watching these guys in videos,” Dankberg said. “To be able to work with Led Zeppelin, Dimebag, Metallica, Iron Maiden, KISS, you want to pinch yourself.”

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.