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

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Hidden Characters – Forgot About the 90s?

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.

Mick Foley

IFRIT

The Inner Demons

Battle Dress Uniform pants

*SS14, second drop

*Sold Out

*Hidden Chracters Twitter and Tumblr.

* Google Hidden Characters Hypebeast to find their forum and stay updated.