For Durhamites, spotting newcomers has never been too difficult.

“You get Yankees coming into town and they say ‘Dur-ham,’” says Runaway founder and creative director Gabriel “Gabe” Eng-Getz.

Cue — face palm.

If you want to fit in here, “you need to say it like you’re from here, which is Dur’m. D-u-r-m.”

Gabe is a Durham native. A born and bred Durhamite. He’s seen his hometown grow over the years and wanted to explore the identity of his city through art.

Gabe studied illustration at Syracuse University. He went down to New York City where he drew inspiration from the fashion scene there. That’s when he “started to see the value and artistic power of the fashion industry.”

After graduating from Syracuse, Gabe moved back to Durham. He started the Runaway Brand as an avenue to express himself and explore his home city through art.

“I saw so much value in the people here. They were hungry for something new.”

The city had changed a lot. Gabe grew up in the ‘90s, while Durham was wrought with negative stereotypes, violence and poverty. Still, Gabe along with other fellow-Durhamites remained incredibly proud of their city.

“You almost had to have a lot of city pride to overcome the bad stereotypes about the city. You had to own those stereotypes.”

Gabe began to dive into what those stereotypes were and what his experiences meant through art.

That’s when the idea hit: “DURM.”

The idea came from his exploration of city — self — identity. He thought of the way Durhamites had always pronounced their hometown, Dur’m, and coined a new word to embody that.

“When I first put it on a hat… that’s when it started. The response was tremendous, just for a 4-letter word.”

Gabe explained that DURM became a bonding experience for the people of Durham. It started bringing people together in ways that surprised him. Tourists might come to town and not understand what DURM means, “but if you know, you know.”

Now, this simple word has spread throughout the city and become “this hyper-local city pride thing.”

Over the years since the DURM designs took off in Durham, pride in the city has extended beyond just North Carolina.

Traveling Durhamites have brought Runaway Brand designs to other cities around the world. Including the city where Gabe first found fashion inspiration — the streets of New York City.

“Anywhere you go, if you see ‘DURM’ it’s like an insider thing, it’s like you know you guys are cool and have something in common.”

This common bond is not new to sports fans who might shout out to a stranger wearing their favorite team’s jersey.

DURM is not a sports team, though the Durham Bulls did start DURM Night at their stadium and adopted “Durm” on player’s jerseys. DURM is not a hashtag, though “now you see it hashtagged everywhere.” It’s not a fad. It’s not a slogan.

 


It’s the symbolization of life and community in Durham.

And it isn’t going away anytime soon. Because if you’re from here, you’re gonna say it like you’re from here. Which is DURM.

Produced with Anne Marie Hagerty
Durham Bulls Photograph by Walter Medina
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About Chelsey Griffith

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