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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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 – Midnight Blues

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

*All s/o

*Hidden Characters twitter

*Hidden Characters instagram

*Hidden Characters Tumblr

* Use Google to find Hidden Character’s forum

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

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.