HB We Out Dis – Rise/Decline of the Hypebeast Forums

With the announcement that HB’s forum will be closing, I thought it’d be appropriate to give a quick history lesson on Hypebeast’s forum. Hypebeast itself was founded back in 2005 by Kevin Ma. It originally began as a Blogspot page, the precursor to Google’s Blogger. The earliest version of HB was very much a product of the early 2000s. Looking very bare boned. Though later on in the year the site was given more of a personality.

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It appears the Hypebeast forums were open some time in April. The site had a very simple mid 2000’s feel. The forum had a few sections. Nike was the top section of the forum, probably due to the SB line. As the SB line was producing various sought after shoes around this time. HB itself was originally founded on sneaker culture.  Note that the earliest version of the forum was run on phpBB. Membership was more than 200 at this time.

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By 2006 Hypebeast was looking more like a website. Likewise the Forum had greatly expanded.

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The forum also went through more changes. By 2006 the forum was being run with vBulletin, it remained this way for most of the forum’s history. Membership was more than 2,000.

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2006 was a particulary important year because Nick Tershay (Diamond Supply Co) and Bobby Kim (The Hundreds) began posting on the forum. Both men contributed to the HB community and posted regulary. They are also important in that they did various event and parties on Fairfax. They built dedicated fan bases on the forum, which lasted for years.

Post: do u guys think bape is dead?

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Post: What makes a clothing line great.

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2007 saw the rise of official clothing threads, fit battle threads and people repping Karmaloop. The fit battle threads were basically a sort of proving ground and learning experience. Essentially people, usually 2 or more, would post fit pics. Members would voice whose fit was better, though often times people were critical of the fits. This would lead to heated arguments and at times lead to trolling. Though for the most part fit threads were very popular, because the comments were hilarious or had lots of truth in them or were educational in helping people define their own clothing style. It was also around this time that people began to rep Karmaloop. Karmaloop was often known for having great deals on their clothing. At a time there was a program wherein people could rep Karmaloop, this typically meant people would have a karmaloop code in their signature. The more that people used their code, the more free gear they earned. This is probably a reason why the forum was so popular, before social media became an aspect of society. The top clothing threads were LRG, Triumvir, Supreme, Orisue, Diamond Supply Co, The Hundreds and Mishka. There were more than 100 brands with their own threads and membership was more than 20,000 strong.

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2008 was a turning point as the recession was taking effect. Causing a change in the streetwear landscape. Hypebeast opened their online store around this time, to great success. The forum was renamed Hypecrew and given it’s own unique website. HB tried to push the Hypecrew idea, however it didn’t stick. As a result the Hypecrew concept lasted less than a year. It was then, very briefly, moved to my.hypebeast.com. As a result, when the forum was moved back to Hypebeast.com/forum, some threads were not transferred over. Raised by Wolves started their brand via the HB forum, though successive threads were created by fans. Black Scale also created it’s own forum, though it was not transferred over from the previous website. Michael Yabut (Mega) frequented the forums in the early years of his brand. WDYWT threads became extremely popular around this time, as many people liked to flex their fits to other people on the forums. The top known threads were Estate LA, Flying Coffin, In4mation, Supreme, Benny Gold, Uniqlo, and US vs Them. Overall there were about 200 new brand threads in 2008. There were more than 30,000 members around this time.

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In 2009 HB began to grow their social media presence. The top threads were Black Scale, Diamond Supply Co, Triumvir, Huf, Supreme, The Hundreds, 5th Column among other brands. There were almost 200 new brand threads. Membership grew to more than 40,000. There would typically be 100s of people online at any given time, though at times active users would be in the 1,000s.

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In 2010 HB expanded again. Creating Hype Tv, HB would basically do video interviews with prominent people in the streetwear community, stores, and rappers. Hypetrak was a music news offshoot of HB. It started back in 2008, though HB was giving it a bigger push at this time. HB’s forum received another major overhaul in appearance. The most popular brand threads on the forum were Mister SF, Diamond Supply Co, 5th Column, Triumvir, Visvim, Black Scale, Supreme, and The Hundreds. There was nearly 200 new brand threads. Membership was nearly 50,000 strong.

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In 2011 Hypebeast was given a major change in appearance. The top brand threads on the forum were Diamond Supply Co, Black Scale, Mister SF, Supreme, Triumvir, and 5th Column. There were about 200 new brand threads. Membership reached more than 70,000.  From this point on there are no more public stats on the HB forum.

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2012 marked another major shift in Streetwear. There was an explosion of new brands debuting, all pushing to be the next major brand. HB itself was expanding it’s news endeavors, as they published more and more non streetwear related content. The forums remained highly active, especially the Supreme forum, as many newcomers to streetwear clung to this brand. Though a new era of streetwear was begining, in part because of Triumvir’s legacy. Effulgence and Ronin debuted on the HB forum around this time. The top brand threads were without a doubt Supreme, Diamond supply Co, and Black Scale. There were 400 new brand threads at this time.

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By 2013 Hypebeast was effectively a major multimedia entity. It had sizable followings on various social media sites by this point in their history. It was also during this time the decline of the Hypebeast forum was becoming somewhat evident. New wave Streetwear brands Hidden Characters and The Heated Environment ( aka T.H.E) debuted on the HB Forums. The top brand threads were Supreme, Black Scale, and Diamond Supply Co. There were more than 300 new brand threads at this time.

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In 2014 the HB forum had went through another change. Some of the indie brands were becoming more popular than the more senior brands on the forum, such as Black Scale. Much of the bigger brands had long since abandoned the HB forums, for various reasons. The biggest probably being that social media has become a more integral component to their success. Some of the popular smaller brands were T.H.E, Hidden Characters, Ronin and Effulgence. The top brand threads were Supreme, Diamond Supply Co, and Hidden Characters. There were about 280 new brand threads at this time.hb 2014

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2015 marked the 10 year anniversary for Hypebeast and the HB forums. HB did various collabs which were very sought after and hard to obtain. The increasing decline of the forums became more evident as many sections of the forum were sparsely active. Though the Off Topic, WDYWT, and Brand sections remained fairly active, due in part to the new wave of Streetwear brands. PhntmSrc debuted this year. The top brand threads were Supreme, Diamond Supply Co, and Hidden Characters. There were roughly 160  new brand thread.

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In 2016 the HB Forum went through it’s last major revision. The home page of the forum had been discarded. Instead people would view the most popular threads at that exact moment. Though it was obvious by this point that the most popular threads were the Off Topic, WDYWT, and Brand sections. The top brand threads were Supreme, Hidden Characters, and Effulgence. There were barely 100 new brand threads in 2016.

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It was recently announced that the HB Forums would be frozen on August 31, 2017. Meaning people will no longer be able to post on the forums. The top brand thread will likely be Hidden Characters, followed by Supreme. A very significant turn around, as Supreme is the last senior brand that has been on the forum since 2006. There are less than 60 new brand threads.

I know what you’re thinking, “So was that it? Was Hypebeast just a place populated by assholes and overpriced clothing brands?” No random person it was not. There’s a lot to be said about HB, especially it’s forums. But I can’t really get into all that. A lot of it was about clothing, but most of all it was a community. The forum was a place people could go to in order to talk with other people that had similar interests. Most people on the forum did/do love clothing. However there were also debates and discussions on other things, that typically happened in the Off Topic section. Whether it was about having sex, or advice on depression, people would be consistently active on there, at times seeking a reprieve from the seriousness of life, while other people sought to create their own brand or simply talk about their day. There were indeed assholes on the forum, people were punked, flamed, and sometimes had melt downs. Though at the end of the day the trolls left, and you realized that there people whom you could call your friend. In some cases irl meetups happened.

The HB forum helped various brands become successful. As HB used to be the premiere place to find the dopest brands and the freshest kicks. Many major brands built dedicated communities on the HB Forums. However the forum was the victim of social media. In a world where everyone is connected through their phones, by which all their social media accounts are linked. The HB Forums simply became an ancillary aspect of people lives. Most social media platforms allow you to form your group, which are basically less structured forums Hypebeast evolved with the times, expanding into other forms of news and media. However the forum was basically unable to evolve. As HB changed many people began to leave as it no longer reflected who their were. Most people who leave the forum are into more mature styles of clothing, however much of the Streetwear industry caters to a younger audience. Though theres newer brands that are definitely more mature in their style, many of them are on social media already.

It’s sad to see the HB Forums go the way of VHS tapes. It’s something everyone used to use, but it’s simply no longer an integral aspect to a brand’s success. My only regret is that I wish I had contributed more to the community. I hate to see it go, anyways thank you all for the memories.

#hbweoutdis

Hidden Characters – The Forefathers

Hidden Characters is a new wave Streetwear brand run by a shadowy group of people from America’s midwest. However some members of this organization are based around the world, such as Tepei and Hong Kong. The brand has been around for more than 3 years and immediately found a following among young adults, primarily 90s kids and people looking for a more forward thinking Streetwear brand. Most of this is due to the fact that many long time fans of Streetwear have become largely apathetic towards the current state of Streetwear. As many of the brands they used to love have grown too big and fallen away from what they originally were, becoming very generic, so that they could appeal to a broader spectrum of people. Hidden Characters has continued to maintain it’s status as an artistic yet sought after brand, as its concepts appeal to many young adult, while also being representative of what Streetwear used to mean.

At the start of 2016 HC had been riding a wave of 2 years filled with well received releases. The first half of 2016 saw another another shift in HC’s focus. 2015 was characterized with HC’s desire to create more cut n sew pieces. As a result the brand dropped a fair amount of non graphical apparel that were loved by customers. However this also meant that there were fewer graphic tees. Many initial fans came to respect the brand from their 2014 drops, which were mostly focused on creating dope designs. 2016 has seen a slight return to that form, ergo more emphasis had been put on the graphics. As well as giving their graphics a more traditional fine arts execution. Fans were hyped on the 2015 tees, though some of the tees felt a bit too perfectionist. HC has a demonstrated that it has a variety of fine art skills, but much of Hidden Characters’ style has been rooted in its affinity for asymmetrical designs and its subtle rejection of perfectionism. Regardless the 2015 tees were still loved by fans.

HC’s 2016 pre season releases included a solid gold pendent and the BDU 1.5 pants. Hidden Characters have been tinkering around with jewelry since 2015. Their first pendents were made of enamel and gold plated. It was not overly ambitious. However their second major attempt definitely was. The pendent was based on Hidden Characters Ifrit logo. Made of 14k solid gold, complete with a chain. The chains also came with another incentive, one person would be given all the items from Spring 2016. Later a preorder was also made for the BDU 1.5. These newer BDUs were made of a nylon/cotton material , making these more expensive than their previous pants, though with a different fit, better quality materials, and unique costomer customizations. Both products were well received by fans. As promised one fan who bought an Ifrit chain was given the full product line of S/S 16.

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It’s about the music, man

Spring 16 was probably one of HC’s high points. The brand was given a a few features by Hypebeast. Exposing HC to a wider audience. This further culminated to the drop selling out quicker than the last few releases. S/S 16 was broken up into 2 parts.

S/S 16 drop 1 had a nice balance of Cut n sew and graphic pieces. The Cut n sew consisted of the Split crewneck, Bleach hoodie, and the Webbing jacket. The graphic tees consisted of Ghost Army, Teachers, and Fuck Ian Conner tees.

Teachers is a tribute to Blue Note records. It is a historic jazz record label founded in 1939. Though many people probably won’t recognize the label for its artists or albums. They might recognize some of the sounds Blue Note produced. Jazz has been in existence for more than 100 years. Though the common man probably won’t directly listen to Jazz, they have likely listened to it indirectly through hip hop. Jazz is inherently tied into black culture. As with other genres of music that originated from the African American zeitgeist, it was almost always initially perceived in a negative context. Until the genre or elements of it were appropriated by white musicians. Jazz was no exception to this process. Jazz was not initially popular in America, largely due to people labeling it the “Devil’s music,” and its origins as black music. However it was popular in speakeasies during the 20s and 30s. The height of Jazz’s mainstream sensibilities were arguably the 40s and 50s. Though it would be a lie to say the genre died outright. Elements of Jazz were absorbed into other forms of music. Blue Note records is particularly important because they recorded music for some of the most notable Jazz musicians at the time. Such as Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis, among many others. Eventually the label went defunct and was later revived. Many hip hop artists have actually sampled music from Blue Note artists. Such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Yasiin Bey, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Eminem, the list goes on…Though it’s intriguing seeing HC give props to an often overlooked label that has indirectly contributed a lot of inspiration to many genres of music. The front graphic of Teachers is cover art from Wayne Shorter’s album Speak No Evil. The back of Teachers has a line of text at the top which is the title of the Horace Silver album Song for my Father. Blue Note 1017 is HC giving a nod to Blue Note’s 1500 series of albums. Below is a track listing of Blue Note songs, all of which have been sampled by hip hop artists. The graphic below appropriates art from Art Blakey’s album Indestructible! Below is a quote from prominent black poet Langston Hughes. The graphic to the left is from Lou Donaldson’s album Quartet/Quintet/Sextet. The next line of text is HC paying tribute to Reid Miles’ aesthetic. As he designed many of Blue Note’s album art, including all the albums referenced on this tee. The text below that is a flip on Horace Parlan’s album “Happy Frame of Mind.” Below that is the Blue Note logo, though in a dual colorway instead of  one. Theres actually not a lot of original interpretations by Hidden Characters on this tee, however thats likely the point. Rather than trying to create something easier for people to understand, HC chose to bring many elements from Blue Note together. In essence accentuating what Blue Note was all about. While also subtly representing hip hop’s re-appropriating of Jazz. Though as a whole Teachers was likely meant to convey that artifacts from black culture never die, but are simply adopted by more modern black zeitgeists. This tee works well on so many levels, conceptually it is on the same level as Ghost Army, and even surpasses it in some respects.

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Possibly the most well designed and hyped piece from this release was the Ghost Army tee. GA is a prime example of HC’s graphic skills. The graphic was moody, it was well designed, there were smaller designs that accentuated the main print, and it had some embroidery along with nice tags. Firstly the name itself is a reference to the actual US Army group nicknamed the “Ghost Army.” They were a special unit of the Army who were active during WWII, they were tasked with deceiving the Axis powers. Their official designation was 23rd Headquarters Special Troop. The Ghost Army were not made up of soldiers, but instead with artists. They had more than 1,000 members. They often created large and elaborate diversions. The Ghost Army accomplished their tasks by using inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions, and phony artillery. Some of their biggest deceptions occurred during the Allied landing of Normandy and Operation Plunder.   There is text found throughout the front and back of the tee, much of it is crossed out, save for the text on the corner in the front. Some of the text are just indicative of Hidden Characters, such as SRANK, HIDDEN CHARACTERS, and COMPOSITION HIDDEN C. Whereas certain key words are references to the Ghost Army such as SONIC & VISUAL STAGE ENSEMBLE, SABOTAGE SUBVERSION, and 23rd HEADQUARTERS. The text of DUALITY OF MAN is essentially the overarching theme for both s/s pts 1 &2. The back graphic is obviously a reference to war and humanity. While mankind is capable of doing great things, we also have the capacity to do great evil, war often being our outlets for committing crimes against humanity as a whole. The left sleeve has a lightning bolt, which is partially utilized from the emblem patches of the Ghost Army. The bolt came in three random colors, white (common), green (rare), and red (rarest). These colors are based off the Ghost Army’s emblem. Overall this tee had lots of time and effort put into its design and execution. The tee dropped in White, black, gray, olive, and sand.

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WWII Ghost Army patch.

The Fuck Ian Conner tee seems to be Hidden Characters finally trying to creating some sort of logo for themselves. For the past 3 years the brand has been toying around with fonts, but seemingly never chose a particular style of text to match its overall aesthetic. The front graphic is very clean and well executed. The back has a large melting “srank” text which is possibly channeling the same art style as Salvador Dali. Dropped in blk, wht, baby blue, olive, yellow (friends&family only).

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Standard tags for S/S 16 pts 1 and 2.

As for the Cut n Sew there were a few dope looking products. First off is the grey Bleach hoodie. This was originally released in 2015 as a DC auction item in black. The Bleach hoodie is a reference to Nirvana’s first studio album called “Bleach.” The hoodie is likely grey because the album itself is an inverted black & white photo, as such the grey tones are very visible. The Webbing jacket was a nylon coach jacket that dropped in black and sand cws. It sports a sewn on Ifrit H patch, while the back has a vertical rectangle with an x in middle. Finally theres the Champion split crewneck. It was a heavily 90s inspired  garment, the split look of the crewneck was personally cut n sewn together by the HC crew. They also added an embroidered “HC” on the right sleeve, the front sports an embroidered “Hidden,” and the left sleeve has a 3M “Competition.”

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Right sleeve. Embroidered.

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Left sleeve, 3M.

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Following the release of SS drop 1. Many og and prospective fans where left disappointed. As many were unable to cop the ghost army tee. HC decided to help out their og fans by creating another version of the ghost Army tee, dubbed HB Edition. The tee was made availiabe via pre order. The biggest difference between the HB and GR version is that the HB Ed has a sewn on tag in the front of the tee. HB Ed also has printed tags instead of neck tag, and instead of having embroidered lightning bolts, it has printed HB lightning bolts. Released in the same cws as the GR version.

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Note the HB text on the left sleeve.

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Though SS drop 1 had plenty of hype, drop 2 had even more anticipation. primarily because of their lookbook. In past lookbooks HC tended to create a sort of narrative. Their SS lookbook did the same. However instead of taking photos of live model, the lookbook used clay models. Needless to say the clay figures looked very bizarre. This added another element to their lookbook’s narrative, capturing an ugliness/style that could only be expressed through clay rather then conventional photography. The lookbook caught the attention of HB and was promptly posted. HC was lauded by many newcomers, especially CLSC, a fairly respected streetwear brand.

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Lookbook.

S/S drop 2 consisted of two tees, hat, sweater, and jacket. The cactus Jack design made a return in 3 new cws. Burgundy was the most hyped and sold out instantly. The black cw was fairly sought after, and the inverted white cw sold out within a day. The inverted white cw is the most unique as HC inverted the printing process from the 2014 tee.

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The Militia tee was another design heavily inspired by the militarism. The front has a sort of cross design with the words HC and SR respectively. This small graphic is possibly invoking a feeling of WWI, possibly WWII war insignias. Below is the word HIDDEN, followed by “Trot & Guerrilla Task Force.” These last few words are important as they refer to the back graphic. Trot is possibly a shout out to that particular style of Korean music, furthermore it is probably personified by the fox on the back. Guerrilla is of course a term that describes a type of unconventional warfare strategies. Wherein a rag tag group of people attack their enemies with unconventional tactics and hide in plain sight, it is symbolized by the gorilla on the back. The back graphic is fairly big. A fox and gorilla are flying, likely, a WWII plane. The gorilla seems to be looking for their enemies, whereas the fox is identifying them. Behind the fox is a machine gun. This design is definitely playing off of the Animation style of Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943)  and it’s feature length sequel Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945) . They were both WWII Japanese propaganda Anime films. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is one of the earliest, if not the first Anime movie. The story follows Japanese folk hero Momotaro and animals as they join the Japanese military. The animals specifically join the Navy and eventually gain prominent positions. Later Momotaro leads the animals/soldiers in an invasion of the island of Celebes. The British forces are taken by surprise, the story ultimately ends with the British surrendering the island. While Momotaro and the animals plan another attack. This film is often overlooked by many fans of Anime, for various reasons, though it is undoubtedly an important aspect of Japanese Animation History.

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Momotaro plans a surprise attack.

Though the tees were well received the cut n sew was very hyped. Inner Demons returned as a jacket and the Split Crewneck dropped in a new black cw. There was also the H cap and  a pin.

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The most hype piece for this drop was without a doubt HC’s first hat. It’s no secret that HC strives to make to the best apparel that they can. However There have been a few instances wherein they designed, but did not directly manufacture their own products. The most notable being their first BIBO jackets and their gold H necklaces. Their BIBO jackets were produced by artisans, and their H necklaces were made by experienced jewelers. Not wanting to make hats with standard textile blanks, HC tapped Ebbets Field Flannels to produce some very high quality caps. They only dropped in burgundy, though it appears some black samples exist. Made of melton wool, they are very soft, have a leather strap, and have a sewn on wool Ifrit H. The hats did not have a satin underbrim, they were shipped in a custom box, and they came with a special pin that was not available for purchase.

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Special pin. “Hidden Frame of Mind”!

The hooded Inner Demons jackets was made of nylon and dropped in 3 cws: black, navy, and forest green. This jacket uses HC’s 2014 Inner Demons design. Its basically taken from an ep of Attack on Titan. The graphic is demonstrating how to kill a titan. The front has a sewn on tag. There are small vents near the pits, buttons are brass, and the graphic is 3M vinyl. Green is arguably the best cw, as its probably another lowkey reference to AOT. Eren Yeager, the main character joins the Survey Corps, a branch of the military. One of their notable characteristics is that they are often seen wearing a forest-green cloak with their symbol sewn on to them.

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Finally HC dropped a pin that was based on their snake oil design, and they made a new type of cologne.

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Its interesting to note that the most common theme for s/s pts 1 and 2 is militarism. Though more so that HC doesn’t necessarily base everything on Ameriaca. The light and subtle Japanese inspirations in Militia tee are a nice contrast to the darker Americana inspired Ghost Army tee. Back back the Cactus Jack tee was also pretty cool. Although its obvious that the Ghost Army and Fuck Ian Conner tees were the most loved out of both drops. HC’s cap was also an instacop for everyone. Though its not clear if or when it will come back, as it was not reissued last year. Beyond this there was plenty of cut n sew that many people were digging. Its a testament to HC’s growing skills outside of their graphic design skills. As such many fans, OG and new have patiently been waiting in the shadows for the next drop. As usual stay hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Character’s twitter

*Hidden Character’s instagram

*Hidden Character’s website

* Official Hidden Character’s forum

*Largest fan run forum

Anime Trash Swag – Vibrantly Dark

Anime and fashion are two vastly different cultures which have little to nothing in common. Thats what most people on either side of those communities would likely say. However this isn’t necessarily the case. Fashion is a constantly changing beast, which often appropriates ideas from subcultures in order to periodically reinvent itself for the modern era. Anime is Animation which originated from Japan, it has been around for 100 years or so. As the world of fashion has evolved, so too has the status quo. For a very long time, almost all of fashion’s prominent names have either been European or originated from the Western world. However over the  years Asia has created their own influential spectrum of fashion, which has shaken the world of fashion, shattering the idea that Europe would forever dominate the industry. Though Anime had largely been something that only the people of Japan could watch, it slowly emigrated to America and much of the world. Over the last thirty years it has grown and matured into a large  culture which is Western in its own unique way. Anime is as American as apple pie, albeit in it;s own unique way. As such another community has been growing fairly quickly, one thats a mix of both fashion and Anime. Anime Trash Swag is one of many budding brands in the Anime Fashion scene, though they’re something else.

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For one Anime and fashion already exists in a very basic form. This typically takes shape with online print shops, as artists can usually submit their art to such web sites. The artist is compensated via a small percentage of sales from items which utilized their artwork. Print shops are akin to whole sale distribution. They favor the consumer by having low prices, but at the cost of having a true sense of style. Furthermore its somewhat impractical for most artists to make significant money from these places, as their art is essentially competing with other peoples art.

Anime Trash Swag is a brand headed by two cosplayers, who also happen to be artists in their own right. There are an increasing amount of smaller brands popping up which heavily tap Anime as their main aesthetic or inspiration. After awhile you will find brands whose styles seem to overlap one another. This is probably because many people tend to interpret Anime in a singular way. Often time people may think that Anime is always light, happy, and weird. All of which is true, to a degree. As a whole Animation was never exclusively for children, because of this Anime does have a nuanced darker side. ATS is unique in that the brand exists in two extremes.

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End of Eva tee.

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On one hand ATS can be described as having an affinity for glam and brightly colored clothing/accessories, which many women would probably dig. On the other hand the brand also makes dope graphic tees, most of which reflect ATS’s love of darker more serious Anime. In some cases ATS  is able to combine both of these styles in order to create something which is a nice balance of two extremes working in harmony.

The light side of ATS takes the form of their Kirby hats, Candy Squid tops, and Bubble Tea shirts. The Candy Squid tee and top have an all over print which is a tribute to the Nintendo game Splatoon. It’s a shooter which heavily plays with color and ink, rather than using bullets. As such the game has a feeling of pure fun, while at times vaguely channeling 007 Goldeneye’s paintball mode. The print features many colored inklings in their squid forms. Towards the bottom of the tee/top the Squid Sisters can be seen, they are drawn slightly bigger. The print is executed very well, the inklings have lots of details, the graphic is very loud, which perfectly echos the feeling of the game. Then there ATS’s Bubble Tea shirts. The brand essentially showed their love of the very Asian drink known as bubble tea or simply boba. Boba has been around for a few decades. Finding bubble tea in America used to be somewhat difficult as only some Asian restaurants would carry the Taiwanese drink or a variant of it. Interestingly enough its become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, as such its presence in the US has increased dramatically.  The colors of the graphic are very bright, a bit ironic, evoke a summer feel, and the playfulness of the graphic is somewhat reminiscent of Japanese ads. Bubble Tea dropped in 4 different colorways, this is possibly a reference to the fact that there many variations of bubble tea.One last interesting element is that ATS added translucent overlays and stars, which help give the tees more depth. Lastly ATS’s Kirby hats are a straight forward and fun interpretation of Nintendo’s lil pink hero. Kirby is the protagonist of his own expansive gaming series, he’s often tasked with saving the world from the forces of evil. The hat has an all over cloud print, and some very clean embroidery of Kirby.

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Candy Squids tee.

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Candy Squid top.

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Squid Sisters.

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Bubble Tea shirts. The vinyl overlays are sewn on, the star beads mimic boba.

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Kirby’s Dream snapback. Available in either blue or pink.

One of the more interesting things about ATS is that it is unapologetic for its love of hentai. ATS has a fair amount of products for hentai fans, especially if they want to be somewhat lowkey for their affinity of erotic Anime or Manga it’s sub genres. Earlier this year the brand collabed with Fakku. It used to be a another hentai site, where people would go to read fan subbed pornographic manga for free. Fakku is now the largest hentai publisher in America. While that might not seem overtly special, its ultimately what Fakku’s motivations were that make it special. There are many sites where people can go to find erotic manga for free. However this means that creators of said content won’t be paid for their work. One of Fakku’s reasons for going legit was to ensure that hentai artists/writers would be compensated for their content. In short Fakku is a company seeking to help artists in an unstable industry. ATS’s collab is a perfect melding of light and dark elements. Their tee dubbed Momoka Melt features a nice rendering of Fakku’s mascot with their logo in the background. MM dropped in 2 versions, in one she’s happily covered cum, in the other theres some colorful “goop,” instead of cum.  The tee can be seen as a sort of tribute to hentai, while most stories tend to be dark in nature ATS chooses to celebrate the genre. Momoka can be symbolic in that shes the epitome of sexuality, however she is not objectified, but rather is clearly enjoying herself. In parallel fans of Anime/Manga can also be fans of hentai, even if the subject is often amoral. Fans don’t take the stories seriously, because they are not reflective of real life. In short ATS is just trying to have fun with a niche genre of Manga.

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Momoka Melt tee. No goop.

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With goop.

Finally theres the dark side of Anime Trash Swag. Some important ATS designs to look at are Sad Gurl Asuka, Pun Pun , and Lilith. The Pun Pun Striped tee is a shirt with alternating black and white stripes, lastly its available with either a small birdy or horns print. This entire tee is a subtle reference to the manga Goodnight Punpun. The series is akin to a saga which primarily focuses on the titular character, Punpun, exploring his life as a child, teenager, and young adult. Hes trapped in a cycle of failure, mostly through circumstance, but occasionally by his own choices. These continual bouts of misfortune slowly chip away at his psyche and hope for a better life. However each experience brings new insights, and as a result Punpun continually grows as a character, leaving him to ponder if he will find real happiness. The Pun Pun tee is an allusion to Punpun’s own shirt, he wears it during his final arc. The Birdy is actually Punpun, in the series he is stylized as a bird, which is him in his normal state, though as he aged his designed changed a bit. Whenever Punpun was not himself he would look like a different animal/creature. The horns print is also another version of Punpun. This version appeared prominently during Punpun’s final arc, he was in a very bleak state of mind and suicidal. He looked very human, his head was elongated with grotesque eyes and small horns. At one point Punpun essentially forces his girlfriend to stab his eye, which left him with an eye patch. The Lilith tee is a nice hand drawn  graphic. It’s a reference to Lilith from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Lilith is an Angel, alien or possibly cosmic being, which possess great power that can cause the end of humanity. However Lilith was found/captured and from it’s body, humanity created weapons, Evangelions, in order to stop the other Angels from causing another planet wide catastrophe, specifically Third Impact.The graphic echos Lilith’s mask, as the Angel wore one on its face, which had 7 eyes and an inverted triangle design. This tee perfectly captured Lilith’s role in Evangelion. There are groups that sought to use Lilith’s power for maniacal purposes, all of which would lead to the end of humanity. The eyes and triangle may be representative of insanity, as anyone looking to use Lilith’s power must be crazy. The skull could mean the death of humanity, in the original series the use of Lilith’s power essentially killed humanity. Finally there’s Sad Gurl Asuka, which is arguably ATS’s best designed graphic,though the brand is only a year old and they have other cool designs. In Neon Genesis Asuka is the pilot of EVA 02, she was considered the best pilot and was very egotistical. However as the series progressed its clear that she is not mentally stable, as time passes she goes through bouts of depression and a mental break from reality. Asuka is a truly memorable character in Evangelion who experiences lots of hardships and ends up becoming sympathetic. These are a few of the reasons why so many fans love her. Asuka is strong, but shes only human. The front graphic works on so many levels. We know this is Asuka, however it’s Asuka at her lowest. All you need to do is look into her eyes and realize she’s consumed with despair. Likely during her final battle in End of Evangelion when she’s close to death. The back graphic references this, as the Japanese Kanji reads “I don’t want to die.” combined with a fine balance of vibrant colors and a perfect execution of Asuka, the SGA tee is a perfect example of ATS’s design prowess. It’s definitely a mustcop for anyone who wants a quality piece of art/clothing or any Neon Genesis Evangelion fan.

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Pun Pun Striped tee. Birdy version.

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Horns version.

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Birdy print. Horns print.

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Lilith tee.

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Sad Gurl Asuka tee.

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There are a lot of reasons why Anime Trash Swag is a cool Anime brand. These are just a few of the reasons why ATS is a great brand in general. It seems as though the brand takes it’s primary inspiration from Neon Genesis Evangelion. However they use references from many different sub cultures, such as gaming, goth, punk, Anime, Asian cuisine, etc. ATS has a perfect balance of dark and fun designs. Which helps keep the brand interesting. Most brands usually have an established concept, but they tend to get stuck in it. Ultimately creating something mundane. ATS continually experiments with their art and design. At times they are very over the top, but it’s simply them being true to themselves. There aren’t enough brands that can do both loud or subtle designs and make them work well. One last thing to note is that ATS’s artwork is primarily created by one of the co-founders. In contrast to corporate companies, which typically just hire people to make designs for them. Anime Trash Swag is definitely an Anime Fashion brand that deserves a look a or two. ATS is only a year old, but they’ve already built a decent following, but it’s still growing. They occasionally attend Anime conventions, such as Anime expo, SacAnime, etc. They drop products sporadically, so if you’re looking to buy stuff from them you definitely need to keep up with their social media.

If you wanna know about the relationship concerning Anime, Streetwear, and Fashion. Read this, then this.

*Anime Trash Swag website

*Anime Trash Swag Instagram

*Anime Trash Swag Twitter

*Anime Trash Swag Tumblr

2008: Converse 1917 All Star Reproduction

For anyone familiar with Converse’s history, it should be no surprise that the Chuck Taylor All Star has been the brand’s most iconic shoe throughout the company’s long history. However the shoe was originally not called the Chuck Taylor All Star, but was sold simply as the All Star. As the silhouette has been around for almost 100 years, the All Star underwent many changes. From these changes the most modern  iteration of All Star was birthed sometime in the early 2000s. However it’s interesting to note that Converse has actually revisited their initial 1917 All Star design quite a few times. There has been a total of five All Star reproductions/tributes that were created.

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The earliest reproductions were seemingly introduced in the 70’s, during the Eltra Corp era. This version is arguably closest in design to the 1917 Converse All Star. The other retros are not necessarily true reproductions, but instead seek to honor the Chuck Taylor All Star’s genesis. While Converse was still being made in America, the brand rarely tapped into it’s legacy. The Chuck Taylor All Star remained consistent and was reinvented numerous times, but Converse as a company never took great interest in revisiting it’s past with retros or reproduction, which seems a bit odd today. When Nike bought Converse, the company began to delve deep into their heritage. As a result fans have been treated to many retros and reproductions of older Converse shoe silhouettes. The most successful ones have been the 1970’s Chuck Taylor retros, the Bosey boots, and the Weapon. While some of modern Converse’s current reproductions are not the most accurate, they arguably did make the best Converse All Star reproduction.

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Converse Century logo.

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Black Fives label.

It’s important to understand that the Chuck Taylor All Star was originally called the All Star. It wasn’t until the 1930s that Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the shoe’s name. While both shoe’s histories will forever be linked, certain elements of the AS were eventually phased out on the CTAS. Back in 2008 Converse was officially 100 years old. To celebrate, the company made many retros/reproductions which sought to create a retrospective of Converse’s century of existence. This endeavor was appropriately called Converse Century, which was basically a sub line. Some of the rarest pieces from this line were the Weapon 86, Pro Leather 76, Chuck Taylor All Star 1938, and All Star (2008).

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The 2008 Converse All Star is a premium shoe inside and out. It was also a tribute to African American basketball teams, called Black Fives, of the early 20th century. The sneaker has leather panels, which are made of full grain leather. There are other leather components which are made of distressed leather. These pieces are indicative of the AS and CTAS’s early years of existence. The distressed pieces were originally used to help reinforce the AS/CTAS. These leather components were phased out some time in the late 1930s to early 40s. This was likely due to advancements in sneaker construction methods as well as possibly due to Converse trying to make their footwear comply with WWII rationing standards. There is also a leather patch which pre dates the iconic Star patch on the CTAS. The patch used displays Converse’s Big C logo, this was one of Converse’s oldest logo’s and was used as one of selling points til roughly the 30s. The 2008 AS also sports 10 eyelets which is accurate to the original version. It uses a reproduction of the OG Converse AS heel label. The toe cap is also fairly true to the era of the AS. The final component which the Converse 2008 AS gets right is the sole. The sole used on the AS was actually different than the modern CTAS. The sole design on the AS changed a few times, as Converse was still refining the design of the sole.

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Converse OG B5 Hi. Strongly based on the Converse 1917 All Star.

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Distressed Big C logo.

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Leather backstay sewn into heel.

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Leather backstay exterior.

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Basketball cage diagram on insoles.

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Ribbed toe cap.

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All Star/Non Skid label.

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1917 All Star sole.

While Converse (Nike Inc) did a very good job paying tribute to the heritage of the classic Chuck Taylor All Star, they also made a fair amount of missteps with this sneaker. For one the entire upper is composed of alternating leather panels. The original version of the All Star only had a duck canvas upper, with various leather pieces that helped give the AS longevity and stability. While there were leather versions of the AS, they did not look like this. It’s possible that the stripes are meant to echo an older era of fashion, specifically during the early 20th century when stripes were very fashionable. Furthermore the upper possesses an embossed cage design. This is a reference to how basketball used to be played in the early 20th century. Players would play in an enclosed cage. At times opposing fans would burn the players, other times they would be burned by heated sections of the cages which were too close to stoves that heated the courts during the winter. The insoles have a printed diagram of an early 20th century basketball court. Another inaccuracy is the use of a modern CTAS bumper. The older AS’s used bumpers which looked more like bumpers on a Vans Authentic. Another hiccup is that the height of the the 2008 AS is shorter than that of the OG AS.  The 2008 AS is the same height as a modern CTAS. The AS is probably 1 to 2 inches taller than modern CTAS. Another small flaw is that the rubber used on the  2008 AS midsole and toe cap is brown, the rubber used on the AS was black. Black rubber was the standard color for Converse sneakers, until the 1950s by which point white became the standard. Finally theres the fact that Converse choose to distress the sole, which shortens the 2008 AS’s lifespan. Beyond this there are smaller inaccuracies which further the differences between the 2008 AS and the OG AS.24l5v12

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Converse All Star circa 1917.

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I do feel that the 2008 All Star gets the overall look and feel of the original 1917 All Star correctly. However it is far from being perfect. The main issue is that the 2008 AS was a concept sneaker. Converse Inc took many elements of the AS, however they were not seeking to truly pay tribute to the All Star, but instead were looking to honor the Chuck Taylor All Star. The Converse 1938 Chuck Taylor All Star is  a very well done reproduction of the original CTAS of that time. Although there are inaccuracies, it does many things correctly. Hopefully for Converse will make a more accurate All Star for the Chuck Taylor’s 100th anniversary.

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*All s/o

*Rare, but probably won’t be worth more than $100

Hidden Characters – Midnight Blues

Hidden Characters’ 2015 season was an oddity in that production output seemed fairly small. This was primarily due to HC dedicating a lot of 2015 to improving their cut n sew skills. In October HC was selling sample BIBO all wool jackets for $80, to drum up hype for the next release. Their Autumn/Winter 2015 season saw the the brand host a second auction, however unlike Spring this auction was not invite only. The tees had a nice balance between HC’s characteristic hand drawn style and clean vector graphics. Although it’s their cut n sew and other hand made items that easily made this dual drop unique. Furthermore A/W 2015 felt a bit melancholy.

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One of the main issues with brands seeking success, is trying to bring their fanbase together. Before social media had become an essential aspect to a brand’s growth, most brands were restricted to where they operated. Fairfax is prime example of this. Many of the biggest brands today were largely successful because they had shops on Fairfax, so they were able to throw events and mingle with their fans. Today its difficult for newer brands to connect with fans and host a meaningful event, usually their fanbase is scattered across America and possibly overseas. Meaning that hosting a pop up shop or throwing a concert is difficult.

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However Hidden Characters has dealt with regional limitations through live streaming. Being that one of their members, specifically Khez, is heavily involved with the music scene this actually makes a lot of sense. The first auction was hosted in early 2015, while the second auction, which was called Dead Center, was streamed in December 2015. Unlike the first auction the second was openly advertised by the brand, so it wasn’t very secretive. Instead it was more akin to an event, A/W pt1 was also dropped that same day. The auction consisted of some reprinted tees that were given a bleach treatment, as well as a custom hoodie with various patches sewn on. Though obviously many people were feeling the auction stuff, the significance of the auction/concert was that it was an event for fans. I believe there were about 1000  people watching the stream. Of course many people were unable to grab the 1 of 1 pieces, instead most kicked back listened to khez’s beats, watched some cooking going on, looked at a cute model, and chatted the night away, while eagerly waiting for the online shop to go live. Its difficult to describe it all. Its one those you had to be there moments. The success of Dead Center lied in its high turnout and its ability to create a feeling of comradery amongst people who love HC, but are often divided due to distance and other priorities of life.

The actual A/W  release consisted of 2 tees, and a beanie. Which were Dead Center, Anotha One (Second Anniversary), and the MissingNo. beanies.

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Its obvious that more work was put into HC’s Dead Center tee. Dead Center shares some characteristics with HC’s Judgement Day tee. However its easy to over look the finer details. For one the tee is obviously referencing the live stream, same as with Judgement Day. The “2 minute limit” is a callback to one of the auction rules. So if you weren’t there when Dead Center streamed, well you probably won’t get these references. If anything just wait for the next one. The finer details were given the 3M treatment, but not the main graphic. The Main graphic is a reference to Gray Fox (Cyborg Ninja; Frank Jager), an important character in the Metal Gear Solid series. His story is complicated. He appeared in Metal Gear 1 and again in Metal Gear Solid. Although he died in MGS, he been mentioned often in the sequels. The Cyborg Ninja was an antagonist to Solid Snake. Despite initially being bad, he had a moral code and would later help Solid Snake complete his mission. The name Dead Center may also be an allusion to Gray Fox’s lightning fast precision with his sword, as he was easily able to stop bullets by either blocking then or cutting them down. Although one of the more interesting aspects of this tee comes from HC printing it in its hand drawn form instead of trying to make it look cleaner as a vector graphic. Throughout 2015 HC did not release a lot of graphics that had a hand drawn feeling, this is in contrast to 2014 when a fair amount of their designs were given more traditional art renderings. This is likely due to HC putting a greater emphasis on their cut n sew pieces. In general the hand dawn approach is better reflective of what the Cyborg Ninja is supposed to be. Anotha One is pretty straight forward, Hidden Characters was founded in October which is why it dropped during that time, the tee’s graphic text is very clean and simple. So its something that HC fans can wear any day.

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Although people were digging the Dead Center tees, the instacop of this drop were the MissingNo. beanies. The patch on the beanie is similar to the beanie HC dropped back in spring 2014 called either Demons or Stock, I can’t remember the name. The key difference between the two is that Missing No uses the Ifrit H design, while their 2014 beanie used their fireball design. Furthermore the MissingNo. beanie has a registered trademark logo, and was available in two cws. The text on the beanies are cheat codes people could use to catch Pokemon. People were into the MissingNo. beanies, because its kind of a lowkey reference to Pokemon. Most casual fans of Pokemon probably watched the TV show and played the first game, but later abandoned the series. However the average fans, who played Pokemon Red, Blue, or Yellow will probably remember that glitches would occur in the game, under certain conditions of course. One of these these glitches is that you would encounter glitch Pokemon (Pokemon that don’t actual exist), so they would take on different forms and names. Its all very technical, simply put MissingNo. exists because there is a lack of data on the cartridges. The most common of these glitches was MissinNo. a Pokemon which took the form of personified random data. Most people into the game would usually try to catch it, myself included. Though not everyone knew how to obtain it, though there many rumors, most of which were wrong, but it brought a kind of mystic to the game akin to MK1’s Reptile.

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Overall the highlight of A/W pt 1 was the Dead Center live stream. Mostly due to the fact that people were able to enjoy it as an event hosted by Hidden Characters. It was successful in various ways. Of course people really wanted the auction stuff, but not everyone was able to cop them. As every auction item was only available in one size, making each one unique. From the regular drop, which occurred almost immediately after the auction was concluded, the MissingNo. beanies were without a doubt the instacops. Dead Center fell more in line with HC’s rugged asymmetrical style, while Anotha One was a simple easy to wear tee. One last interesting quirk is that every piece from this drop was given a different region of origin. Black Dead Center is from Chicago IL, while the white version is from Columbus OH. Another One is from Madison WI. Black MissingNo. was made in Taipei City Taiwan, while the grey version is from Milwaukee WI. If you’re thinking WTF? Well don’t, or maybe do. All these cities, I’m going out on a limb, are possibly references to where some of HC’s members are from. As many of their members/friends come from either different states in America or  overseas.

Midnight

A/W pt 2 was different in that unlike spring there was quite a few pieces to cop from, Hidden Characters went all out for this drop. Not only did they flex their graphic design prowess, but they also brought forth some top tier cut n sew pieces. Essentially creating a complete release this time around. However while this drop is very different from the last release, there may be a common theme between both releases.

There were three different tees in this drop, each with its own concept, Germz, Make Tha Trap Say Faye, and Customer Appreciation. There were two cut n sew pieces. Midnight Union jacket, and BDU 2.0. HC once again experimented and made bars of soaps called Lucy Liu and a mixtape.

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Firstly Germz is a tribute to the punk band Germs of the late 70s. The back graphic closely resembles the Germs album (GI). All of the text from the album cover is replaced with “Hidden Characters S-Rank.” Though the text is crossed out. Towards the bottom left of the main graphic, theres text which reads, “what we do is secret.” This is a title of a Germs song and album. While the tee seems like a very straightforward flip, there are a few details that make this tee particularly memorable. The bottom text is a multi-layered print, its something that can only be achieved through silkscreen and not digital printing. The text was printed with 3M ink, while the top layer seems to be black ink. However due to the properties of 3M, you can still see the text, albeit more subtly. HC used this same technique when they made their HH hoodie from A/W 2014. Furthermore HC may have crossed out the top text in order to fall in line with the text they used, which itself falls in line with their own mantra and may be  slightly self reflective of the brand itself. While Hidden Characters has garnered lots of praise from their growing fanbase, their work is largely unknown to fans of corporate/mainstream Streetwear. As a band the Germs are somewhat stereotypical, while they only made one album, their music influenced many other successful bands. However like so many other legendary bands, they were around for a few years…and then the band fell apart.

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Although many people were into the Germz design, the Faye tee was arguably the instacop. Faye can be considered a successor to HC’s Asteroid Blues tee. Theres two major links between both designs. For one both tees take references from Cowboy Bebop, the other obvious element is that HC’s gun graphic from Asteroid Blues is brought back for their Faye tee. However the gun on the Faye tee now has a registered trademark logo. HC once again uses their multi layering technique, however they use it to echo the atmosphere of Cowboy Bebop. Much of the series takes place off Earth, typically in space or on another planet. The series is heavily influenced by noir films, as such its not unusual to see the darkness of outer space, while noticing the dim lights of spaceships in the background or midground. Faye Valentine is one of the central figures in the classic Anime Cowboy Bebop. The graphic could easily be a scene from Bebop, its very reminiscent of Faye being in a casino, likely gambling in order to pay her debts. Its a perfect execution of who Faye is, she often gambles in the series, usually at casinos, using her sexuality to exploit people, while also being very arrogant and typically smoking. Faye is very selfish at times, but has bouts of empathy, she can also be very lazy, however she can usually overcome any obstacle. HC’s Customer Appreciation tee is self explanatory. it was only $20. As for the what the red underline is, well when was the last time you used spell check on Word Document?

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While the tees were cool, there were equally many people looking to cop HC’s cut n sew. The Midnight Union Jacket was hands down the fan favorite. The jacket had the same fit and quality as the BIBO jacket, likewise it has one gold snap, thats where the similarities end. As the name suggests the jacket is midnight blue, its a very dark shade of blue. The front has some nice embroidery, the back has stitched wool lettering, the interior has a quilted liner, and a special cut n sew label. The quality of the jacket is a cut above what many of the bigger brands put out, but HC priced their jacket at only $100. Although most Streetwear wool jackets go for more than $100. The BDU 2.0 was also sought after, at this point the BDU is an HC staple. HC constructed it themselves, it seems like the fit has been slimed down from their last BDUs. General speaking the idea behind the BDUs has been to give people the ability to change the fit using the straps, in order to maximize comfort or change the look.

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Beyond all the regular items from the drop HC decided to experimented some more. This time they ended up making bars of soap dubbed Lucy Liu. Like their Snake Oil cologne, HC created the scent themselves, the bars were made using goat milk mixed with oats. They also made a mixtape.

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So while there were many different things going on with A/W pt 2, there are a few common themes. The color blue being the most apparent. Midnight jacket is blue, the tags for both the Faye and Germz tee were blue, likewise the main graphic for Germz is blue. However a lowkey theme for A/W as whole could be melancholia. This takes the form of Frank Jager, Faye Valentine, and Darby Crash. While the Cyborg Ninja was a cool character in MGS, his story is very tragic. He started life as a child solider and as an adult he worked as a solider for Big Boss. Eventually he is “killed” by Solid Snake. In actuality he was captured, experimented on, a cybernetic exosuit was grafted onto his spine. Although he escaped he would occasionally experience great pain due to the experiment not being perfected, later he would die helping Solid Snake. Darby Crash was the lead singer of the Germs. Though he was very talented at writing, he was also a drug addict. Crash committed suicide by overdosing on heroine, which lead to the Germs’ breakup. As for Faye, while she is often portrayed as being a sour person, shes actually pretty lost.  For the majority of Cowboy Bebop she has no memories of her early life. When she does regain her memories Faye realizes that her family and friends are all dead. Meaning she is essentially alone in the world save for the Bebop crew. The commonality is that each subject suffered from loneliness and an identity crisis. If this was a theme, HC was very sneaky about it. But its definitely something different. Lastly, as December was coming to a close, HC made some Anniversary hoodies for their friends.

A/W was a huge success for Hidden Characters for many reasons. Another accomplishment is that the brand retained their rank as being the #3 thread on Hypebeast. It’s no small feat. Hidden Characters has a lot of momentum. As always much of this is because HC has a loyal fanbase. HC has been able to maintain the relationship with their fans, due to the brand’s ambitions and their ability to fulfill them. Hidden Characters distinguished themselves this drop through their graphic design prowess, quality cut n sew items, and their creative thinking. At this point HC can do whatever they want, as their fans have a lot of belief in the brand’s ability to execute concepts properly. Once again fans lauded Hidden Characters and are patiently waiting for the next drop. Til then, stay hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Characters twitter

*Hidden Characters instagram

*Hidden Characters Tumblr

* Use Google to find Hidden Character’s forum

Ludwig VAN – Americana & Luxury

Ludwig Van is an atypical Streetwear brand. This is primarily as a result of the brand’s focus on creating quality garments instead of  mass production. Another reason tends to be that Ludwig usually distances themselves from whatever trend is going on in mainstream/corporate Streetwear. However another reason is that the man behind the brand is very active in many fields outside of Streetwear. As a result 2014 was a somewhat slow period for Ludwig Van.Of course production was still going on and there was a release here and there, but there was no regular seasonal drop. During that time the owner was doing work for the Olympics, WWE, Adidas, as well as coaching an MMA team.

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However Ludwig Van’s 2015-16 releases were definitely worth the long wait. The 2015 drop was heavily influenced by Americana. Some of the characteristics of Americana are things indicative of the 1950s in America. This includes, but isn’t limited to: motorcycles, bikers, your typical American athlete wearing sportswear or letterman jackets, classic Hollywood actors, etc. I suppose people look towards Americana because things seemed much simpler back then. America had won WWII, there was an economic boom, and the future seemed to be limitless. Many well known Japanese brands have actually appropriated Americana, of course there are many brands in America that employee this style as well.

2015: Athletes & Hollywood

Although that begs the question, what does Americana even mean? If you’ve ever watched one of those documentaries about the 70’s I’m sure at a certain point they’ll discuss how Americans developed nostalgia for the 50s. Its ironic that even in the 21st century people are longing for an era they never knew. I feel as though many people have a Romantic vision of the 1950s. Despite this era having many social issues and injustices. Seeing that the founder of Ludwig is closer to that era, I believe his execution has more truth to it, as Ludwig tends to explore the various zeitgeists which make up the era that the brand is channeling into their clothing.

Ludwig’s 2015 drop had everything, which consisted of some tees, a crew, coach jackets, snapbacks, jeans and a rocker patch. One of the must cops was the Audrey tee which is an obvious tribute to Audrey Hepburn. The graphic is a two tone print (green and blue), the pic is further modified with Audrey having a bright red ball gag. Now for starters it seems that the tee is referencing Audrey’s sexuality, as its well known that she had quite a few lovers in her day. Though its actually very tastefully in what its trying to say, there are many tell-all books about how old Hollywood was filled with rampant sexual affairs, drugs, flings, and orgies. However Audrey also had a humanitarian side which summed up the latter half of her years before she died. I supposed thats why this print has two prominent colors, Audrey was a very complex woman.

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Following this theres the varsity jackets. In particular this was done a bit differently than others, I’ve seen over the past few years. For one the jackets have a small back print, however its a clear print, instead of being a traditional ink print. beyond this Ludwig used vintage ribbing material, likewise the liner is made using Vietnam era rip-stop nylon. The jackets are finished off using a new style of label and Lampo zippers from Italy. It looks like something athletes can wear, but also seems a bit more sophisticated, probably due to the fit.

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This drop also included the Selvedge IV snapbacks. Honestly when most brands make snapbacks they tend to use very cheap and uncomfortable twill textile or flimsy denim. Both caps were made using Cone Mill denim, only top denim brands in the US buy from them. The ounce is pretty heavy so theres a bit of stiffness. The caps are lined with vintage 1980’s Pendelton flannel. Both caps are topped off with an indigo calfskin emblem.Overall they feel like quality snapbacks, and very comfortable as Ludwig didn’t opt to use cheap material.

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While we’re on the subject of denim, Ludwig finally made more denim jeans. I believe their last pair was released in 2009? Ironic considering the brand is always tinkering around with denim. Regardless its dope that they finally made some more. As to why these jeans are special, they’re a collab done with Rivi Goods, an artisan denim maker. They are constructed using 1980’s orangeline slevedge denim, think Levis, before production went overseas. If that wasn’t enough they are reinforced with og US military spec nylon webbing in certain areas. They also include a back label and calfskin patch. Americana at its finest.

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Ludwig label.

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Arguably the instacop from this release were the crews, coach jackets and rocker patch. The Born to Roll patch is on both the crewnecks and coach jackets. They are very high quality and the look is very striking not to mention it gives off a strong feeling of 1950s America. One important thing to note about them is that they are made using chain stitching, meaning they were made by hand. Almost all modern embroidery is done by machines, so think about that. Born to Roll seems to be a call be back to the early bike clubs in America, however Ludwig encouraged fans to interpret the phrase anyway they see fit. The patch is fairly large and so it would look great on jackets and crewnecks. Born to Roll crew was given a heavy stone rinse to give each sweater a unique look. The patches on the crew come with a special label. Furthermore the crews have some subtle silkscreens, which are all indicative of Ludwig’s overall theme. The coaches are also pretty dope. They dropped in two c/ws and were constructed of nylon, with a mesh liner, plus Ludwig’s logo printed on the front. Overall the Born to Roll stuff seems to be heavily inspired by athleticism, probably because the owner practices MMA. There are also quite a few MMA fighters who rep the brand, so it may be a small shout out to them.

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2016: Beethoven & Luxury

At the beginning of 2016 Ludwig released their Spring collection. This is different from the last release as Ludwig seemed to be going back to their roots. Now while the brand has done many projects that have dabbled in reappropriating vintage materials, for a time Ludwig Van was putting emphasis on their graphics. However they began to move away from being graphically driven, though the brand was still making graphic tees, cut n sew became more significant to the brand’s overall image. One of the main goals for this release was creating graphics which better reflect the brand’s overall concepts. Of course things probably won’t stay this way, which is why this release is particularly intriguing, as Ludwig Van tends to experiments and try new things with every release. The graphic aspect of Ludwig tends to reflect the current mentality of the man behind the brand or channel his artistic nature. Ludwig dropped their second collab with Rivi Goods which also took years to make, lastly the brand appropriated some well known Luxury logos to make something thats purely fun.

First off is the Regal. Now why I said this is interesting is because the Regal is the first true Ludwig graphic that has been released in a while. Thats not to say that the other tees aren’t indicative of Ludwig’s style. Its just that the regal isn’t a simple flip or takes cues from existing pieces of art. Instead It takes the core elements of the brand and juxtaposes everything together flawlessly to create something new. Such as Beethoven, Classical design, sleek motifs, a unique sense of symmetry, and  a feeling of originality. This graphic represents everything that Ludwig Van is about, without being very predictable.

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Symphony No. 5 has the simplest design of the three tees released. The print seems to be water based and feels very smooth. Its designed as a football jersey. The back graphic is big and definitely looks like it could be a jersey. The design is of course done as a Chanel flip, however it differs greatly in what others have done to the iconic No. 5 logo. Rather than mimicking the font Ludwig enlarged the 5 while keeping “No.” fairly small. The change is significant in that 5 becomes indicative of a sports jersey, however its a bit deeper than that. The whole idea of the sports jersey is that the wearer is loudly endorsing a player. However Symphony No. 5 is twofold in that a balance of Chanel and Beethoven are being channeled. Although right off the bat the musical reference is more apparent. Furthermore the tee feels a bit looser compared to the other tees, in order to better capture the sports look/feel. Regardless its a subtly complex tee that can be worn everyday.

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This last one in particular again shows off Ludwig’s graphic design prowess. No. 5 is another tee that taps into Chanel’s signature perfume, however its much different from Symphony No.5’s execution. Unlike  Symphony No. 5, No.5 is much more colorful and plays extensively with text and is riddled with references. Aside from Chanel and Beethoven overall the print is an homage to Andy Warhol, who himself made prints based on No. 5 perfume for Chanel. Below the main text is “Deutsche Grammophon,” which is a nod to an iconic classical music label founded in 1898, the name itself translates to German Gramophone. Beyond the graphic visuals the text itself retains a lot of Chanel’s signature layout, but there are also Classical elements such as “Deutsche Grammophon” and “Ludwig Van.”

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Every tee comes packed in its own reusable bag.

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Signature Violet & Emerald stitching.

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Ludwig Van label, front.

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Ludwig Van Label, backside.

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Finally, the most standout piece from Spring 16 has to be Ludwig’s second collab with Rivi Goods. Dubbed Case Shell Pants they are constructed of 1980s US Army case shells. So to clarify case shell are basically bags or boxes you store ammo inside, which may also function as a carrying case. Considering how much material was needed to make these pants, 100 were made, the case shells were likely used to carry around artillery or perhaps heavy caliber rifles. The 80s were the height of the Cold War, both America and the USSR were ready to go to war and possibly nuke everything into oblivion. The case shells were obviously used as some pants have prints or stitches on them, which has resulted in various shades of olive drab, so no two pairs are like. The primary material of the pants seems to be canvas, while also having nylon webbing as belt loops, as well as sporting nylon reinforcements in certain areas like the first Rivi Collab. The pants were given an enzyme wash in order to make the pants soft and comfortable. Rounding out the design there is a Rivi Goods tag, and another label from Ludwig Van. While this project seemingly took forever to be released, I think it was 4 years in the making, its definitely something that Ludwig wanted to make sure was executed properly. If you’re into vintage fabrics or Americana this is an instacop.

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One last thing. Ludwig also dropped another patch. Called Libertas, its a fairly decent size, 5×5 inches. I believed they were used on some jackets a few years back. Like Born to Roll Libertas is made of a heavy wool with lots of hand stitching. The quality looks very on point, and it would probably look good as a should patch for your leather jacket…or denim jacket, or tee, etc. The price price practically makes the patch a steal.

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Prints

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So overall both Releases were done very well. 2015 feels like its mostly about Americana. While 2016 digs heavily into Classical composer Beethoven while also paying tribute to Chanel. All the tees were made of fine Jersey, and washed in order to give them a softer feel and vintage look. Its important to understand that they are not made using regular blanks, instead they seem to have been custom made by Ludwig Van, this is obvious when you see the back of the tees. Furthermore I it seems that the tees were dyed after their graphics were printed on them. As you can see that the neck tags have an image of Alex de Large, which have been dyed on every tee to match their shirt’s corresponding color, save for the off white shirts. All items were made in Los Angeles. Theres something here for everybody who wants to stand out in Streetwear. Regardless Ludwig Van has delivered another great release, hopefully we’ll see more drops soon.

*Ludwig’s VAN Instagram.

*Ludwig’s website.

*Ludwig’s store.

*Ludwig’s Twitter.

*Ludwig’s Facebook.

 

T.H.E – The Identity Crisis of Streetwear

Art is hard to define. Its usually easier to go about describing who an artist is vs what their work is supposed to be. Art has had an important role in various movements throughout history ranging from political to social. Today its somewhat difficult to tell whether or not artists are still important today. Many of the tasks that artists could do as a service have been made largely obsolete through technologies of the 19th century and more so in our modern digital era. To illustrate this, you can look at photography. Originally if you wanted a portrait of yourself made, you had to got to an artist who would either paint or draw an image of you. The process might have occurred over an extended period of time, such as a month or years. Once the technology behind photography was somewhat perfected, the photographers began to slowly replace the portrait painters. Art’s relevance today usually comes in the form of being a gimmick or pop culture appropriation, while emotionality is spurned by the average person.

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The Heated Environment,aka T.H.E, is unique in that the brand is artistically driven, graphically being influenced by minimalism, but maintaining a level of emotional depth that isn’t unwieldy. Founded back in 2013 T.H.E is part of the newer wave of Streetwear brands. It’s already  gained a respectable following due in part to its unique style and a well executed collab. T.H.E’s importance is due to its desire to bring meaning meaning back to the graphic tee. This is basically the crux with major Streetwear brands. As the biggest brands have expanded, most of the products they sell have lost their meaning, in favor of mass production and distribution. As a result many people into Streetwear have become largely conditioned in that they easily buy into the hype that these brands generate for themselves. Most of the older brands rely on their history/heritage as well as social media as a means to this end. However if people were to look at all the major brands, they would realize that none of them stand or represent for much of anything anymore. There is no singular concept that they stick to, rather their drops tend to be either very broad and commercially based. Meaning they have no true identity, ergo an identity crisis, or simply just’ve become corporate Streetwear brands.

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Rurouni Kenshin has been referenced quite a bit.

The relationship between art and Streetwear has become largely unnecessary. Harking back to the days of Stussy and his flipping of graphics, they were spontaneous and commentaries on fashion. Stussy’s appropriation of iconic designs were very uncommon during the 80s, even going into the later 90s and early 2000s. Looking back a few years, people can argue that graphic tees used to be more meaningful. Freshjive and Obey instantly come to mind. Both brands were headed by artists. Freshjive was very politically driven, many of its notable designs were social commentaries. As a result their tees usually pissed off people. Early Obey designs were also political, however they tended to be very nuanced.

Though The Heated Environment is only about three years old its already dropped some pretty impressive graphics. A fair amount of the brand’s designs reference Anime, however geometry and repetition of images as well as sequences further give a foundation to T.H.E’s style. To date all of the brand’s graphics come off as being minimalist, there is little definition. However the brand’s aesthetic is more than that, its further defined by how images are juxtaposed in order to convey a certain idea. In that sense T.H.E should not be considered a minimalist brand. Most of brand’s graphics should probably be identified as line art.

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Burning Ships.

One of T.H.E’s ongoing themes have been their wolf vs sheep graphics. Wolf in Sheep Skin seems to suggest that even the people you trust can be capable of deceiving you. While Kill the Sheep leans toward the idea that the world is essentially run by mindless sheep, while wolves are the people on the fringes of society that stand out.

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Its important to understand that art isn’t an essential component to Streetwear. The biggest Streetwear brands may be inspired by artwork or artists, but their products can’t be called art. Obey is a prime example of this. In its younger days Obey was an artistic vehicle in that Shepard Fairey used to spread his messages, because of this people associated the idea of Art with the brand. Nowadays Obey is selling a lifestyle or concept to people, but not its art. Yet it continues to thrive. This can be said for many other high profile brands. As many people aren’t too keen about products that will challenge them to think. When Art is utilized, its usually done as a crash grab or to hype up a company’s profile. To contrast this you can think about the demise of Freshjive. For years the brand had provoked people and fans alike with their often politically incorrect attitude about social issues in America. During the Golden Age of Streetwear the brand was basically known for this. As the Golden Age ended, Streetwear was moving away from its niche themes in favor of more generic designs and lifestyle concepts. This move made the industry much more profitable and arguably stabilized their economic problems, however art and depth had essentially been swept under the rug and was no longer an essential component. Freshjive ultimately changed their style in order to latch onto the new economic boom that was helping establish the modern era of  big Streetwear brands (ex: The Hundreds, 10 Deep). Regardless Freshjive went defunct.

Generally speaking while T.H.E has designed most of their tees with a theme, they’re not heavy with ambiguity or concepts that would go over people’s heads. Their Coffee and Sleep tees are good examples of this. Coffee is a high contrast design which is a reminder of how the hot drink is important with helping people start their day. The sun can be seen rising in the background shining onto a cup of hot joe, furthering the importance of coffee. Sleep is the opposite as a sun fall is occurring and emphasis is on the person trying to go to sleep, the clock above the window reinforces this theme.

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Coffee.

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Sleep.

While The Heated Environment obviously strives for depth, it doesn’t always take itself seriously. The brand has occasionally dropped an Anime design here and there. I suppose T.H.E’s Anime references are largely an outlet for the brand to be a bit fun, while also paying tribute to their favorite shows. Interestingly the brand has tapped into various low key Anime series rather than focusing solely on the most popular shows that Western audiences would be familiar with. Such as Welcome to N.H.K., Initial D, Ergo Proxy, and Bokusatsu Tenshi.

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Cards by T.H.E, a Welcome to the N.H.K. tribute.

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Its kind of difficult to say what purely defines T.H.E, one moment its serious, while the next its not. Geometry is also a heavy influence, though this is usually only seen in the brand’s promos/gifs. Looking at them for a moment they also have an underlying meaning, which help to further give meaning to The Heated Environment. Most of the gifs are either rendered as wireframes or simple high contrast designs. Simply put T.H.E seeks to show the basic essence of their art with added emotion. Again this isn’t necessarily the same as minimalism.

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Geometry is also an essential component.

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Possible Metal Gear Solid reference.

I feel like the best way to understand T.H.E is to look at their collabs with Xavier Wulf’s brand Hollow Squad. Xavier Wulf is an independent rapper with a pretty big following. Both Wulf and the man behind T.H.E share a love for Japanese culture, Anime in particular. Their first collab was a very simple Bleach flip. Their second collab however is more definitive of what T.H.E is all about. The graphic is executed as line art, its a fairly big design, and it taps into Initial D. Everything is juxtaposed very well.Old man Bunta Fujiwara is in the mid-ground smoking, while Mt. Akina is in the background and its raining. A road wraps around the man in the foreground while text below reads: “dont die here.” It all feels very melancholy and can be taken as a commentary on life. The background may be symbolic as adolescence and early adulthood can be wrought with pain and uncertainty. The man may be symbolic of people or older adults who have become jaded and stuck in life. Whereas the road and text are possibly a subtly metaphor being that young adults can overcome these difficulties and forge ahead into the unknown. This arguably encompasses everything that The Heated Environment represents. T.H.E sticks out in our current era of Streetwear, it’s concepts and unique graphic executions make it a bit quirky, but T.H.E is a truly  memorable brand. They have sporadic drops so you should definitely follow them on Instagram if you dig their work.

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*The Heated Environment, abbreviated as T.H.E there is no third period

*T.H.E’s Instagram.

*T.H.E’s Twitter.

*Official website.