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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Front.

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Left sleeve.

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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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Back, 3M vinyl.

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