Hidden Characters – After Judgment Day

Somewhere out in America there’s a place called Purgatory. Though where its located is unknown, it is the headquarters of a very unorthodox brand. A subversive brand who’s fan base continues to expand. Their themes range from the macabre to Anime. Though they’re barely two years old they have been making waves. Their designs are far from being clean cut, yet its apparel are nonetheless methodical in execution and only people with an appreciation of graphic design could understand the method to their madness. While most brands are concerned about trying to keep up with trends, the people behind this brand are only concerned with their own vision. Every season they seem to be moving against the grain of what many bigger Streetwear brands release. It doesn’t matter if they make enemies with the sheep of Streetwear. In 2014 they ended up being one of the top three brands on the HB forums. 2015 continues to be an important year for Hidden Characters.

Judgement Day

Following one successful release after another in 2014 you would think the people behind a growing brand would rev up production and ride the wave into a typical cycle of growth. Such as upping stock, and selling more products. Yet Hidden Characters decided to slow down production instead. Nearly more than half a year into 2015, the brand released almost no products. Of course you run the risk of alienating costumers, and even from a financial standpoint the brand missed out on making money. Instead HC seemed to focus on improving the quality of their prints and their cut n sew technique.

Not too long after the New Year, two HC members headed to Hong Kong on a personal trip. Along the way they met up with an artisan leather maker named Mr. Shen. One HC member grew up next door to him. What occurred was a journey into artisan design and Hong Kong’s vast textile industry. When the dust settled Hidden Characters had created their Blood In Blood Out jacket. Featuring insane specs, the jackets took quite awhile to be made. Everyone’s jacket came personalized with their initals, a mix tape, and a comb/knife. Due to the long wait time HC gave a free tee to the people that ordered from the first run of BIBO, it also made a reference to their HB fans. To date the tee has not been made available for purchase. For the full story go here.

Blood In Blood Out jacket.

HC’s signature asymmetrical quilted sleeve.

BIBO freebies.

Mix tape by Khez.

 

For Spring 2015 the brand was planning a discreet drop. There were two elements to this. A secret quick strike that was to be uploaded onto Silkroad. HC’s Silkroad was instituted back in 2014, its a call back to the online black market, which itself is a callback to the og Silk Road of Asia. HC was giving out a link to their loyal fans for a secret concert/auction. Days before the release the quickstrike was revealed, putting fans on alert. As a result Hidden Characters was forced to produce more of their Judgment Day tees. The downside to this is that there are no custom tags. Despite this the tees sold out.

HC’s Judgment Day tees came in white and pink. The front features an embroidered H patch, while the back is a multi layered print. The patch is actually a reworking of L’s screen avatar from the Anime Death Note. Death Note delves into Japan’s Shinigami mythology. The Protagonist, Light Yagami, finds a book which can kill anyone whose name is written in it. While his intentions are initially good, he is a narcissist and is eventually corrupted by the power. His main adversary is L, who also happens to be the world’s greatest detective. The back print is a tribute to WWE’s Judgment Day matches and Kane. Judgement Day matches were special WWF matches, but were discontinued a few years back. Kane is a veteran wrestle from WWE’s 90’s era, Undertaker was typically either his wrestling partner or foe. The print is a combination of regular inks and semi gloss inks. Most of the bright reds are semi gloss ink, so they feel very smooth. Below the main print HC seems to have posted it’s membership list.

Judgement Day tee.

The interesting aspect about this release were the auction tees. One of HC’s proxy profiles had made a reference to a special event and those interested in the event were given a link.  You had to register in order to be part of the auction, and it was not widely announced. The link was for a live streaming concert, all run by HC members. The tees were mash ups of various Hidden designs. A new design was also implemented, which has yet to be given a wider release.

Online concert/auction from spring 15.

The auction/concert is important because in an increasingly interconnected world, the biggest Streetwear brands have become largely apathetic to the fans. On the flip side many people don’t care about loyalty to brands. So in many ways the internet has essentially destroyed the old relationship between fans and brands. Many of HC’s fans are located across the US and overseas, so its hard to just have one city based event. It used to be that brands would sponsor concerts in LA or NY in order to build a relationship with fans. So HC hosted their concert online, thus circumventing the problem of travel. Honestly what other brand has even thought about doing this?

Two of the auction tees. There were various versions and cws.

To Hideo: Good Bye

Hidden Character’s first seasonal release was in July. A little more than halfway into 2015. While the wait was pretty long, the fans never left. This release was interesting because it was on the eve of Hideo Kojima’s, supposedly, final Metal Gear Solid game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. There were other themes too, such as WWE, Bone Thugs, and Pokemon. This release was noteworthy because of how HC made their tees and also because they made a gold plated Playboi Pikachu necklace. It was different from their last releases in that, they seem to be exploring other facets of American culture. Such as with gangsta rap, black metal, and video games. They went pretty subtle on their designs. Moreover it feels like they wanted to put an emphasis on improving their print quality. This is most obvious with their Solidosnake and  Bottomline tees.

WWE originally began its existence as Capitol Wrestling Corporation back in the 1950s. However CWC eventually went defunct and was replaced with World Wrestling Federation, WWF, in 1979. It would remain in this state until 2002. By the 1980s WWF became one of the biggest companies in Wrestling, it’s only true rival being WCW. By the 90s a new generation of wrestlers was leading WWF into a modern era of wrestling. One that focused on wrestler’s penchant for mayhem and their degenerate lifestyles. The biggest of these wrestlers was arguably Stone Cold Steve Austin. The man was a vicious fighter, he wasn’t graceful in his technique, but rather he just really wanted to beat his opponents to a pulp. Often times he did. Beyond this he was a heavy drinker, so it wasn’t unusual to see him with a six pack of beers. He also had a memorable hatred for HHH and D-Generation X. Another reference is Norwegian Black Metal band Darkthrone. Norwegian Black Metal essentially became a fully realized genre partially due to them, and other bands like Mayhem. What characterized these groups were their sound, dedication to satanism, their use of corpse paint, as well as a deep seated hatred for Christianity in Norway. That last one actually led people from this group to burn down churches in Norway.

Custom tags return.

HC’s Bottomline tee was released in two cws, charcoal and powder blue. The front features some nice embroidery, unlike their Judgement Day tees these are not iron on patches. 3:16 is a reference to Austin 3:16, one of Stone Cold’s signature phrases. The back mimics Darkthrone’s font, it’s very jagged and printed in white semi gloss ink. There are many finer details which could have been done through silk screening vs digital printing, just look closely at the print. HC’s take on the logo is different from the original in that, overall their font looks broader, and there are a lot more jags. The back graphic is striking because many of the jags are drawn horizontally, almost like they’re moving, so it feels aggressive. What really put this piece together was the white semi gloss ink, which isn’t too loud, and the embroidery. The references are niches, yet the materials used to make the tee gives it a more lux vibe.

Bottomline tee.

Front embroidery.

Back graphic.

The Metal Gear Solid series started back in 1987, with the release of Metal Gear. The series has been around for almost 30 years now. While there was a sequel, the next major development in the franchise was in 1998 with Metal Gear Solid. Here fans were given a much better understanding of the main character Solid Snake. Hes essentially driven the series since the beginning. Though Solid saves the world numerous times, he often never finds happiness and spends most of his life dealing with one global conflict after another. MGS3 introduced his biological father, Jack aka Big Boss, as a main character. Boss is somewhat like Solid, though initially he is a “hero” he eventually realizes that he has been manipulated by the US government and leaves the country. Soon after he decides to create his own army free from governments or ideologies. MGSV: The Phantom Pain sees Boss going on a quest for revenge and bringing the series full circle. Hideo Kojima has been the mastermind of this entire series. He had often said his next MGS game would be his last. Sadly as of 2015 Konami finally decided to end Hideo’s tenure with the MGS series.

Solidosnake is probably the most unique item in this release. There are actually 3 versions of this tee, a white tee with a black print and vice versa, though both had green accents. The 3rd version was only available to 10% of the people who bought Solidosnake. It’s essentially the same as the black tee, however there are red accents instead of green, there is also another graphic that says “1st edition.” Something to taken away from Solidosnake is the amount of effort it took to make it. By contrast the print from Bottomline probably took only 2 passes of ink to make the graphic, as its one solid color. However Solidosnake has midtones and shadows, which required various amounts of ink in certain areas. For those that bought the tee, feel around the back graphic and you’ll feel that some areas have more ink than others. This adds an extra dimension to the tees. As the blk tees use white ink, it looks like Solid is sneaking around during the day. Whereas the wht tee uses blk ink, so it looks like Solid is running around at night. The amount of layers on the print will probably be more obvious on the wht version. The small green/red accents saying “Call Hideo 2” are of course small tributes to Hideo Kojima. The front features 3M vinyl decals, the “!” is another callback to the series’ earlier days. It would pop up whenever an enemy spotted you. Even the entire print may be a reference as the shape somewhat resembles a box, which are staple items in MGS. The 1st Editions tees may be a reference to Pokemon cards. 1st edition cards are rarer, for varying reasons. The main one being that they are made in small batches.

Farewell Hideo. Green accents printed in semi gloss ink.

3M vinyl decal. It is not printed.

Print from 1st Edition version.

Other items from this drop was the Bone Thugs tribute tee Crossroads and the very sought after Rare Candy. Crossroads was pretty straightforward, it was all silkscreened and the print design was nice. The Rare Candy necklace had a hard enamel base, and was 18k  gold plated. Its obviously a tribute a Pokemon, even the name Rare Candy is hint to the Pokemon series. It’s modeled after their PP logo. It came with a chain and its own special packaging. Overall Hidden Character’s Summer 15 drop had a wide variety of themes and they hit most of their marks. The two hypest pieces were Rare Candy and Solidosnake. Bottomline was an interesting combination of different aesthetics. Crossroads was essentially for Bone Thugs fans, HC did a good job at echoing the group’s style of the era. Though of course this is essentially a warm up leading up to the brand’s autumn/winter releases.

Crossroads tee.

Rare Candy necklace.

Kitten Characters Hack

Almost every brand has its enemies. Hidden Characters has a few, one of which is apparently a strange organization dubbed Kitten Characters. Though it’s not clear who they are or what their beef is which HC. KC hacked all of HC’s accounts and proceed to re-release some of their items. Specifically the BIBO jacket and Rare Candy necklace.

Kitten Characters.

Needless to say the restocks sold out. The damaged had been done and KC got away. HC was able to regain control of their accounts. What this hack tells fans is that, yes restock are possible, but only if Hidden Character is hacked by Kitten Characters.

Hacked on 09/15/2015.

Possible Kitten Characters member.

While Hidden Characters has remained very quiet throughout 2015, they definitely have motivates for doing this. Spring 2015 was very low key, almost non existent. However HC is obviously trying to find a way to build a more meaningful relationship with their fans. What continues to sustain the brand are people’s appreciation of the brand’s unique outlook on niche cultures as well as their graphic design prowess that is inclined towards the 90s kids. Moreover their cut n sew ambitions have continued to grow. Though its unclear what type of message HC is seeking to leave on Streetwear’s  cut n sew sector. Regardless the fans are patiently staying hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Characters twitter

*Hidden Characters instagram

*Hidden Characters Tumblr

* Use Google to find Hidden Character’s forum

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