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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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