The 90s, its a nearly forgotten era. Being a tumultuous time for both media and streetwear. Many great artists and movements existed during this time that tried to challenge people’s collective way of thinking. Of course Nirvana and 2Pac will instantly come to mind. Much of the 90s philosophy ended through the death of various people who were spearheading the revolution that was grunge as well as gangsta rap. However the 90s was more than just a revolution in music, there was also countless new shows and cartoons that caught the eye of millions of people. There was also Anime, and even video games during this period which helped give the 90s its own unique zeitgeist. For video games there was the advent of 3D gaming environments, utilized by the likes of the Final Fantasy series and Metal Gear Solid franchise. As for Anime there were many well written shows that existed during this time, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, as well as Pokemon. Streetwear in the 90s was also different as, it was occurring at a benign level. Being widely ignored by both fashion and major media outlets.
2001 was more or less the end of many ideals that were persistent in the 90s. The 2000s was a very 80s nostalgic era. Many popular fashion and streetwear brands alike heavily referenced 80s pop culture, stealing it, commenting on it, even incorporating concepts and transforming them into contemporary logos or themes. However over the last few years as the bigger more senior streetwear brands have begun to show their age, some newer streetwear brands have begun to look towards the 90s for inspiration. For their second drop of 2014, Hidden Characters took on a bigger risk, looking back at a vastly ignored zeitgeist and took inspiration from its obscure elements.
WWF’s Mick Foley, Final Fantasy, and Attack on Titan all clock in as inspirations this time around. For those who didn’t grow up in the 90s, or just don’t remember, WWE was originally known as WWF for many years. The main focus of WWF (World Wrestling Federation) was mainly to promote more adult oriented wrestlers, giving the masses someone to love or hate. Whereas today’s WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is mainly focused on creating a spectacle that the whole family can love. Mick Foley is the specific subject that Hidden Characters chose to tap into. What characterized him was that he seemed to have multiple personality disorder. Foley seemed to always use fuck or its variations in his vocabulary, he drank lots of booze, acted liked a deranged stalker at times, as well as being a womanizer, among other things. Mankind was the psycho of Mick Foley’s personality, being a brute, often mumbling nonsense, as well as shoving his dirty sock down people’s throats, truly he was deranged. Foley was a staple throughout the 90s, what with all his drinking and all the tail he managed to scrounge up. In a nutshell hes the lovable creep from the corner of your street.
Final Fantasy may have been around in Japan since the late 80s, but it didn’t come to America til the 90s. What can be said about the series, more like what can’t be said about it? Every game was a new one even though our favorite characters never came back, you always had a new favorite character that kept you coming back to the series. The Final Fantasy franchise had a unique theme for every game, certain characters would find their way back into each installment, albeit with different designs and purposes. What probably made Final Fantasy so enjoyable in the 90s was being able to do summons. Basically You could unlock certain monsters, which were called elementals or Aeons. You could bring them to the battlefield and they’d kill your enemies, because you know, they were basically your slaves. Arguably the most popular summon was Ifrit, a goat looking humanoid fire Aeon. Hes a staple in the Final Fantasy series, usually being unlockable, though in the newer games it isn’t possible to unlock him. Which is a shame, because Ifrit is usually the villain nowadays.
Lastly, but certainly not least Hidden Characters again chose Anime as a motif. This time around they didn’t actually use an Anime from the 90s, instead they took cues from Attack on Titan, which is a newer Anime. Some might debate the merits of using a newer Anime as inspiration, as Attack on Titan products are sold at Hot Topic. However there really is a lot to elaborate on when talking about Attack on Titan. As a whole Anime is being mass produced, like food or clothing, and being sheparded to America. Though this may seem great, many of these newer shows lack depth, or creativity. Although once in while something breaks through the mundane and gets people excited again as well as thinking in new ways. Attack on Titan is something that invokes the spirit of 90s Anime, as it goes beyond the concept of friendship, a very overused theme. The series questions the existence of mankind, and what possible purpose do individuals serve in the grand scheme of life. Trigun questioned people’s resolve to live, as well as their nature. Evangelion in particular questioned people’s desire to be individuals, and what the ramifications of freewill could be. In ways Attack on Titan mirrors the drive of older Anime.
Hidden Characters’ second drop of 2014 consisted of three tees, as well as their first venture into pants. The brand has already shown to have a strong following, so rather then starting their second release off with a typical lookbook, they opted for a different route. Out of the kindness of Hidden Characters’ dark hearts, a select number of buyers from the first release of 2014 were given all three tees from the second drop as well as a plethora of freebies. Such as silkscreens and stickers. Apparently Hidden Characters wants its fans to know that selling your soul to them, comes with many great perks. Following this fans were shown a lookbook which gave off a sense of battle, pain, and of course blood. Much of this can be attributed as being a nod to the Mick Foley tee which was arguably the tee that had the most amount of silkscreen put into it. Though their IFRIT tee probably took more time to design, as it featured a fair amount of original artwork from the brand. While The Inner Demons tee was a great tee that showcased an overall theme for Hidden Characters. As for the Battle Dress Uniform pants, each pair of pants were apparently given an extra print featuring the buyers name on the tags of the pants.
Each product was given a meticulous amount of thought and execution put into it. The Mick Foley tee has prints all around the shirt. The front showing a classic Cactus Jack moment, as he strikes down his opponent with his barbed wire 2×4, 1991 is the year he debuted at WWF. The right sleeve print is another memorable moment, presumably from one of Foley’s many Hell in a Cell matches, all bloodied and battered. Yet he persists with his twisted smile. The left sleeve is a nod to Foley’s autobiographical book, Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. The back has the biggest print, with the most detail. Another Hell in the Cell match is shown, with Mankind dominating the ring. The various dates written are the most memorable matches of Mick Foley’s career. At the very bottom is a classic WWF inspired Hidden Characters logo, which looks very sleek and well rendered. What can be said about this shirt? Everything is so right. While Mickey Foley may not be associated with streetwear, he is an example of what streetwear’s principle convictions are. The IFRIT has some beautifully drawn art by Hidden Characters, which is located on the back. Teased months before the drop, fans were given a peak on HC’s tumblr. So much detail is put into IFRIT’s clothing. Its trademark goat horns are displayed, while the position of its body suggests that its being summoned into battle, likely from some fire-y brimstone-y place. A nice nod to the FF series. Right below IFRIT, the text Hidden is written. While coming off as being the usual old english inspired gangsta text, it also has an added stylization which may be of Asian origin. Below the Hidden text, theres an added smaller Arabic text, which possibly says IFRIT. The back graphics are amazing, although the front graphic also pays a great tribute to Final Fantasy. Utilizing the logo from Final Fantasy VI as a base, for obvious reasons, while establishing their own name in lieu of the og FF moniker. What makes this small logo so nice is the fact that Hidden Characters made each logo a slightly different color, making the IFRIT tee an especially unique piece to own. Regardless of why you like it, the IFRIT tee is for anyone who loves Final Fantasy, the 90s, or in general great design work. The last tee to examine is The Inner Demons tee. Unlike the last two, this shirt isn’t really giving a shout out to anything specifically. It does flip a graphic from Attack on Titan. This could be for purely aesthetical purposes. Furthermore this tee may serve as a soapbox for what Hidden Characters wants to embody. A pocket is sewn on front, with their own label protruding from the side. A fairly simple red label that reads “Hidden.” On the right sleeve with an odd display of numbers, 1-9 are printed. In particular the 1 is engulfed in a circle. If you want to delve deeper, one could say that the numbers have significance, perhaps in biblical terms or numerology. 1 meaning individual, while 9 may signify completion. Or it may just be a nice pop driven print. The left sleeve is a bit more interesting as Hidden Characters’ mountain is displayed, presumably their base of operations. While below that Purgatory is written backwards, another possible hint of where they operate from. Finally on the back theres a diagram, repurposed from Attack on Titan. The illustration shows that killing a Titan requires their nape to be cut out. While the graphic is fairly simple, what it represents is somewhat chilling. Below, “The Inner Demons” can be read. This added text changes what the graphic means. The graphic may represent the evils of mankind, while the severed neck may symbolize that evil exists within humanity. Its all ambiguous, but nonetheless its a really clean tee to wear that reps Hidden Characters, while fostering some base ideals. Mainly death and Anime, while still encouraging fans to think beyond the scope of superficiality, concerning their own graphics. On a last note theres also Hidden Characters’ BDU pants, which are different from most pants you’ll find on the streetwear market. One difference being that they only came in two sizes, having an elastic waistband, ranging from waists 27″-34″ as well as having a sewn on ‘Hidden” patch. Doing the embroidery themselves, it came out rather nice, another little element that HC added were the buyer’s names to the tags, thereby giving the wearer a more unique product.
Trailing from their last drop of 2014 Hidden Characters has continued to showcase their penchant for making quality graphics and executing bold ideas that keep bringing people back who want more HC clothing. If you were lucky enough to cop from this drop, count yourself lucky. Their next apparel release, which will probably be dropping soon, won’t be any easier to buy. Whats ironic is that many people were likely skeptical of a brand that chose to tap the likes of WWF, Final Fantasy, and perhaps Attack on Titan. WWF, because its not a streetwear thing. Final Fantasy, because its for nerds. Attack on Titan, because its a Hot Topic brand. The potential criticisms may be endless. Despite this, Hidden Characters still sold out their stock on this second drop. Proving that they can indeed change the status quo in streetwear, and will eventually be future leaders in the industry. Stay tuned for the next drop, no one knows when its coming. Be patient, be swift, and stay hidden.
The Inner Demons
Battle Dress Uniform pants
*SS14, second drop
* Google Hidden Characters Hypebeast to find their forum and stay updated.