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.

header.png

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.

2r6jqts

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.

burning ships.png

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.

wolf 2

wolf

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.

16li7mg

Coffee.

2eqf0gx

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.

1fcn79

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

2j2c1ep

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.

cvw1g4iu4aaudd_

Geometry is also an essential component.

catw7dnwqaazgyq

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.

242zexe

*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.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s