Grillz as we know it had it’s rise to fame early in the 1970s but the concept of using dentures or false teeth started with the Etruscan civilization around 800 BC when rich Etruscan women would wear bridges made from false teeth and gold.
Fast forward to Brooklyn, New York in the 1970s where Surinamese immigrant Eddie Plein took the concept of gold capped teeth and transformed that into the now infamous grillz we know today.
Eddie Plein is the mastermind behind the concept of modern day grillz, perfecting his technique of creating removable gold grillz after chipping his tooth while visiting his native country Suriname and being offered a permanent gold cap by a dentist. Eddie didn’t care to have a permanent gold tooth, although it was common in his country of Suriname. This is where the idea to create removable gold caps came to mind.
Upon his return to New York Eddie enrolled in dental school to learn how to fit crowns for teeth. With this knowledge and the assistance of the family jewelry business, Eddie started making grillz in the basement of his family home.
Eddie’s first major client was a rapper named Just - Ice who donned a stunning gold grill on promotion posters of his album Kool and Deadly in 1987. The posters were plastered around New York and sent clients swarming to Eddie for a grill of their own.
Shortly after, Eddie established “Famous Eddies” in the Colosseum in Jamaica, Queens. It wasn’t long before people began replicating Eddie’s grillz concept and started undercutting him on price which inevitably led to the downfall of his business in New York.
In 1992 Eddie moved his business to Atlanta where he experienced even more success than he did in New York designing grillz for rappers such as Outkast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris and Lil Jon.
In 1996 Vietnamese immigrant Johnny Dang moved to Texas where he took the grill industry by storm with the help of rapper Paul Wall.
Dang worked in his family’s jewelry repair shop up until 2002 when Dang met Texas rapper Paul Wall. The two went into business together to begin selling grillz to the biggest names in the rap industry.
During the 2000s Dang made grillz for Gucci Mane, Kanye West, and Beyonce.
Although grillz were sweeping the hipp-hop industry, four school districts in Texas banned it’s students from wearing grillz to school.
Everyone from rappers to athletes were donning grillz, but grillz reached its zenith by the end of the 2000s. Until 2012 when rapper A$AP Rocky met Parisian dental technician and grillz designer Dolly Cohen bringing grillz into the high fashion industry.
With the rise in technology the possibilities for grill designs is limitless, and with the advent of social media grillz are becoming more popular internationally.
Unfortunately, with the growing popularity of grillz and Plein’s unwillingness to compromise on the integrity and quality of his work Plein started losing business to his competitors and had to close his store in 2006. To this day Plein is no longer making grillz, but his brother Lando has taken over the grill making business and uses the same quality and care that Eddie did when he began.
Eddie Plein created something that to this day is regaining popularity and notoriety in the hipp-hop and high fashion industries.
A timeless style icon that showcases one’s creativity, individuality, and status in a beautifully crafted piece of mouth jewelry.