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

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

Anime and Streetwear, what about the Otakus & Cosplayers?

Continuing from this previous examination of Anime’s relationship with Streetwear we’ll talk about the other perspective. Specifically the Cosplayer and Otaku (Anime) communities, it’s important to understand that both communities are not the same, even though at times they can be very closely related. Some very basic concepts of Cosplay, depending how far back you wanna go, can said to have some resemblance to Halloween. It bares a stronger link in early 20th century America with Sci Fi fans, who would make their own costumes, as America’s future seemed full of technological possibilities. As for Otakus, its origins are of course from Japan. However its original meaning, postmodern Japan, has greatly changed. In Japan Otaku can definitely be used in a derogatory way, although it may not be used definitely that way. Now how and where do these two distinct communities fall on the fashion spectrum, and what do they have to do with Streetwear is somewhat speculative. They are non the less important in understanding what Anime and Streetwear are, and what they can be.

Asteroid Blues tee by Hidden Characters. Second Version.

Streetwear’s origins can be found in skating, other athletics, hip hop, among other things. Skating is particularly important as Jeremy Klein, an influential skater, had adopted Anime and Japanese culture as one of his early motifs. While hes known for many things in the skating world, he eventually help create Hook-Ups, a skating company thats distinctively influenced by Anime, in the early 90s. It can be suggested that Jeremy Klein started America’s relationship with Anime and clothing. During this time Anime was still a virtually unknown subculture. More than a decade later, Triumvir decided to introduce Anime to Streetwear in America. The results were very mixed. Not too long after Triumvir ended their Street Fighter collabs other Streetwear brands began to take Triumvir’s work a step further, ultimately creating something different. Ronin, a NY streetwear brand, may well have been the first. Though now there are many others, however they don’t bare a resemblance to Hook-Ups or Triumvir. Many of these newer brands are headed by Asian Americans, and so they have a different perspective on the art form that is inherently Japanese.

Otakus

Theres a lot of people who can and do identify as being an Otaku. For awhile the term was relegated to small venues/places within America, it was a way to understand who was a fan of Japanese Animation. As the word was used in non dubbed Anime. Eventually this changed. As Anime covertly invaded America’s underbelly of disenfranchised youth and adults, something was ultimately cultivated. Overtime this manifested as a way for people to describe themselves, in a positive context. You can think of someone who plays sports as an athlete, they might use that word to describe themselves. This is essentially what Otaku now means to cultures outside Japan. If you’re an Otaku, you’re basically saying you’re a big Anime fan, or you may be using the word to associate your love of it and maybe even Japan. However in Japan, the word is not universally used this way. Originally it was used to describe something, not necessarily someone. It apparently referred to someone’s house, so just otaku not Otaku. After a while it transformed as a way to shame people. Referring to people as Otaku meant that they were obsessed with something, to a severity that it affected their overall wellbeing. You can possibly akin it’s meaning to addiction, which is never a positive thing. With Anime’s growing influence in Japan, as well as its economic benefits, the word Otaku isn’t 100% bad, but you have to understand that its not universally linked to Anime. Its apparently tied to negative obsessions. As foreigners tend to import words from other countries, Japan’s word otaku was also imported, through a misunderstanding, people now have a positive word to describe themselves.

What Otaku brings up on Google.jp

However its important to understand the idea of what Otaku means is somewhat murky. Like who came up with the meaning behind the word? Who’s in charge of its meaning? This lack of definitive meaning, outside Japan, gives the concept of Otaku a somewhat fluid meaning. Some individuals may use it to say they’re hardcore Anime fans. In another context some people may just use it to invoke an association to Anime, think instagram or twitter. However you can’t use one word to describe the Anime community. As with many pastimes, hobbies, lifestyles etc some people may be more into it than others.

Kanye West’s music video for Stronger is overall a great music video. Its also very much a tribute to the 1988 Anime movie Akira. At one point Kanye West even entertained the idea of working on the remake. So its very obvious that hes into Anime, yet hes never actually describe himself as an Otaku. Of course hes one example, of celebrities who love Anime, but aren’t “Otakus.” The late Robin Williams was also a fan of Anime, so is actor Christian Bale (Batman), who worked on an Anime movie. I’ve personally never meet a fan of Anime who described themselves as Otaku. There are people out there who would fit the bill, however they may be a fan of Japanese culture in general. Interestingly enough a designer, possibly an Otaku, for the 2012 Victoria Secret fashion show ripped off Rei Ayanami’s plugsuit design.

Is Batman an Otaku?

As to why this is significant in America, simply put something that was considered on the fringes of society are basically part of it now. Hot Topic is a prime example of this, as they carry many stuff an Anime fan would want to buy. In general theres way more stuff, licensed and unauthorized, that an Anime fan can now buy. Whereas a few years ago people would have to go to import shops. Anime culture itself has expanded overseas, into Europe and even South America, where its fan base is steadily growing. Theres also more expos devoted to Anime, while AX is probably the biggest, in between there are many other expos that pop up.  AX is arguably a cow cash, with many big and independent vendors. A place where many quintessential “starving” artists go to peddle their artwork, or Anime fans/Otakus try to sell stuff in order to survive or make some kind of living.

Cosplayers

The term Cosplay isn’t actually that old, it was coined back in 1983 by a Japanese man named Nov Takahashi. Hes credited with helping give an identity to the then unnamed Cosplay community in Japan, which has ultimately doubled back to America, eliminating what came before it. So does that mean that Cosplay was inherently a Japanese phenomenon? Not exactly, in a way it can be said to be a culmination of Japanese, American and European concepts. To the people that find it odd, cosplay’s roots go far. Depending on where you want to draw the link, in its basic form Cosplay is essentially people dressing up in garments, that wouldn’t be considered normal clothing. Working on this you can say it has some relations to either Sanhaim or even guising in medieval Europe. If you wanna get modern about it, you simply have to look at Halloween. If you wanna get more modern about it, look towards Sci Fi expos in America. Samhain was a Celtic tradition that would mark the end of spring and the beginning of winter, which was associated with death. It was a time where people would honor the dead, and wish to see ghosts of their relatives, yet in the same vein people would dress up, so that ghosts wouldn’t try to possess them. Guising occurred during Hallowmas (All Saint’s Day), people would dress up and go door to door begging for food or money. As compensation they would either sing, dance, or pray for someone’s deceased loved ones. While early 20th century Halloween in America is usually associated with kids dressing up, make no mistake adults were also into it, albeit to be scary instead of cute.

Early 20th century Halloween in America.

If you really wanna gauge when contemporary concepts of Cosplay came into play, you have to look at the Sci Fi community. They’re arguably more or less the precursors to Cosplayers, as they used the term Costuming. Think of early fantasy novels, magazines, or films. Such as Wizard of OZ, HP Lovecraft’s works, or Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Their worlds were often set in modern day contexts, playing around with the idea that there could be worlds vastly more intriguing than our own. Eventually science began to modernize, and fantasy novelists played with the idea of overtly advanced societies. The 1939 Futurama Pavilion showed how designers were becoming enthusiastic of a futuristic America. This same year the first Worldcon was held, this is where you essentially have the birth of Costuming. People would dress up as some fantasy based creation. By the 1960s America had developed a great interest in space and so came the birth of Star Trek and later Star Wars, along with their devoted fans. This all occurred before the advent of Cosplay in Japan. What sustained Costuming, was people’s desire to be part of an idealized fantasy world, one that could be vastly more exciting than everyday life. By the early 90s there were already Cosplayers at Anime Expo. Anime was instilled into the 90s kids, and so a silent coup was forming. As these kids became adults, Costuming was replaced with Cosplay.

Cosplay today.

What can characterize a Cosplayer is that they’re wearing a costume of a character from a popular show or animated series. While in the beginning Cosplay may have been exclusive to the Anime community, thats not the case today. You can go to other places outside of Anime events or expos, like Comikaze and find “Cosplayers” dressed up as their favorite comic book or video game characters. In some cases people may not even be familiar with the characters they’re Cosplaying as. So the term Cosplayer is somewhat ambiguous.  Most people are just happy to find other people dressed as the same character, so it doesn’t matter whose costume is better. Ergo the classic Cosplay group photo.

However there is another aspect of Cosplayers, one which is basically considered a lifestyle. For these people, Cosplay takes a more serious role in their lives. These type of people may frequently buy/make costumes as well as wigs. Many hours are painstakingly put into the construction of accurate or over the top renditions of any Animated character. Some form relationships with photographers, they frequent conventions year round instead of once a year. Cosplaying another gender isn’t looked down upon. Some times its a sustainable way to live, maybe even profitable. This is due to social media, as the higher the following a Cosplayer has, more endorsements they can get. In some cases they may make money, though not always.

Get a 9-5

One of the integral aspects of adulthood is getting a steady job. This is unavoidable. Though theres different ways you can ultimately support yourself, without having to get a conventional career. Ultimately this is where all three communities can find a common ground.

In the years following Shawn Stussy’s creation of Stussy, the brand transformed from a small operation into a multi million dollar business. Thats not to say its origins have been 100% conventional. Moving onto the 2000s, there was an influx of newer streetwear brands, many of which maintained a level of financial success. While the numbers weren’t extraordinary it was sustainable. Eventually in 2008 the recession hit and more or less leveled the playing field. Many of the bigger brands called it quits. While many of the smaller brands used this to their advantage. This was the genesis of the big streetwear brands of today. Such as The Hundreds, Undftd, 10 Deep, Huf, etc. Many of these brands found success because they built relationships with their customers. They threw parties, or sponsored concerts, held skate sessions, and most importantly they maintained a presence on social media.

Funimation CEO.

Concerning Anime, there is money to be made. The bulk of this money is probably made in Japan where Anime possibly has its largest following. Looking at things from a business perspective it’s not too hard to understand. Every year theres a lot of new Anime and Manga series’ being created. If the series is a hit they create tons of products that can be sold or they can simply license out their IP (intellectual property). This is typically how most of these companies make money. Funimation holds the American distribution rights to most of the big Anime shows from Japan. While Funimation does the dubbing for these shows, its more than that. They do probably sell dvds, but its not as profitable as licensing. Funimation can simply license out any show to other companies for a fee. The easiest way to understand this is Hot Topic and Anime. They make and sell clothing or accessories featuring popular Anime characters. As for the why, its extremely inexpensive to make clothing on a commercial scale.

That isn’t to say the little guy can’t get in on this.

The Anime kids

 What these independent Streetwear brands, the Otakus, and Cosplayers have in common, is simply their appreciation for the art form that is Anime. Theres also the dilemma of economics. Ever since the recession hit America, career opportunities have become harder to cultivate. While certain industries have boomed and busted, America’s apparel sector has continued to grow. As Anime’s influence has continued to thrive, it has become its own market within the world of fashion. There isn’t a dominate entity which rules Anime apparel. Theres just a bunch of random companies here and there making money off the backs of many graphic designers. So profits are very centralized with these businesses.

Uniqlo is a player within Anime fashion.

Anime Kids have struck out on their own, hustling in a lot of different ways. The Anime fans who can draw, typically try to sell their art on line, or do commissioned artwork. Some Cosplayers also do this, although they may try to sell prints of their photos more so than their artwork. Conventions are especially important because theres a lot of money to be made, people gotta survive. Interestingly enough some Anime kids decided to go into apparel.

This is ultimately where all three communities are doomed, yes doomed because it’s unavoidable, to collide with one another. As such it’s important this happens sooner rather than later. For a few reasons. No doubt there will probably be people in the greater Anime community who would be against the idea of a union between streetwear and Anime. Either because they want to keep Anime “pure” or possibly because people from the Streetwear camp have mocked them in the past. However its important to understand that Anime and streetwear/fashion have already developed a relationship in Japan. So this concept isn’t a new or foreign idea. As for the streetwear brands that use Anime, it’s important to know that the owners of these brands are fans of Anime. They’re Anime kids who grew up in the 90s. They aren’t just exploiting Anime, they’re familiar with the source material their brand’s are appropriating. Some brands to look into would be Hidden Characters, The Heated Environment (THE), Effulgence, Ronin, etc.

T.H.E.’s take on Anime is very minimalist.

In 2015 here was an incident involving Anime artwork. There were allegations that Ronin had wrongfully used an artist’s work as a tee shirt design. While this is wrong, in the end Ronin did the right thing, and the artist was compensated. While the incident was initially negative, people should take some positives away from this. One of the major problems with running a clothing brand is creating something that people will buy. Graphic tees are essentially the heart of streetwear. If you wanna make some Anime inspired tees you may want to go to Deviantart and commission an artist to make the graphic, you may even want to start a long term business relationship. This way the starving artist won’t stay starving. Just remember not to rip off smaller artists, you should only consider appropriating from businesses that are already making lots of money.

Some Anime kids have had a slow start in fashion, so there are some things they should consider. Specifically supply and demand in the world of fashion. If a certain shirt sells a lot, the brand will usually restock said item. This will often lead to certain products going to the sales rack, this isn’t bad for bigger companies like Uniqlo, as they make their products very cheaply. You may not want to go this route if you’re doing everything independently. Streetwear’s strategy has almost always depended on exclusivity. Meaning that even if a particular shirt sells very well, they probably will not restock that shirt, it adds more meaning to the design, among other reasons. Such as storage, keeping a stack of tees in your house for long periods of time can be bothersome, likewise you’ll probably want to focus on your next release.

Effulgence freebie.

Although newer brands might initially be at a disadvantage, one thing that can work for them is having people sponsor or cosign their brand. This is where the Cosplayers come into play. Instagram is a place where you’ll find a plethora of models, depending on their amount of followers they might be asked to cosign a brand. This can range from free products to being paid. Usually they’ll just take pics of whatever random shirt or pair of kicks they’ve been given and tag the brands. So theres nothing too fancy about this, however models are a dime a dozen, they almost always accumulate their followers through sex appeal, so much of what they do is purely business. Cosplayers are vastly different, there are some who do modeling and may identify as one. However others do not. Dedicated Cosplayers usually become their own tailors. They have an understanding of fabrics, they can measure, more importantly they know how to cut material and sew it together. This is important in Streetwear as many people that start out, eventually want to branch out into cut n sew, it can be slow process though. Cosplayers cosplay for different reasons. Some are motivated for their love of costume design, and so may cosplay characters they aren’t familiar with, while other do it in order to make a living. These type of Cosplayers may not actually make their own costumes, instead they may just go to a tailor, which is essential in this community. For those that do make their own outfits, they are typically the ones with a deep passion for the characters they watched as a kid. They also tend to go out and take very creative photos, usually with a photographer they love working with. Of course this usually doesn’t add up to an income. Some Cosplayers get sponsored, though no actual money may be made. In the world of Streetwear, newer brands may want to have Cosplayers cosign their brands. Mainly because in a sea of atypical models, Cosplayers stand out more. Seeing that theres already a good amount of Anime fans in the Streetwear community, these types of relationships may work well. Cosplayers stand to grow their fan bases, as well as possibly make some money.

Left: Mostflogged, right: Tattobot

Speaking of Cosplayers two important ones are Tattobot and MostFlogged. Not too long ago these women created an Anime themed fashion brand called Anime Trash Swag. Glamourous, colorful, hentai, macabre, spunky, and of course Anime, sum up what ATS is all about. The brand seems to focus on the Anime community, many of their items are custom made giving everything more of a personal feel. Though their appeal may lean towards women who want to be loud and stylish, they also have some stuff for men. Beyond this they are Cosplayers, they make their own costumes/wigs and go to various cons, and have a great following, so things look good for them and ATS. You may also want to look at Stahli’s Cosplays. The range of her work is pretty dope, you may recognize some characters, while other are a bit obscure. Something to take away from this is being able to stand out. Cosplayers do this by making their costumes a bit different from a characters design or using unique materials, theres also photograph. They may edit their pics or they may have someone else do this. In streetwear when brands go into cut n sew you definitely have to learn to make your products stand out, so keep Cosplayers in mind.

Canadian Cosplayer Stahli.

Most importantly each of these communities needs to have an understanding with one another. Streetwear today is motivated by status, exclusivity, as well as a desire for quality products. They’re not all snobs though. Anime fans will of course buy Anime stuff, but clothing may not be on their wish lists. So don’t hate on their style. Cosplayers can be artistic and stylish, but are mostly looking to have fun. Some even wear Cosplay attire as their “normal” attire. Learn to respect their craft. Streetwear brands should try checking out Ax or other Anime cons to gain inspiration, or possibly sell their merch. Anime fans curious about Streetwear may want to go check out some Streetwear brands that tap into Anime, or possibly Fairfax. Cosplayers may want to start a relationship with brands who will pay them. No one knows how big Anime and Streetwear/fashion will become. Not too long ago the 80s were all the rage, but today is the day of the Anime kids.

*The first part of Anime & Streetwear.

*TattoBot’s Instagram.

*MostFlogged’s Instagram.

*Anime Trash Swag’s website.

*Stahli’s Instagram.

Hidden Characters – They Came From Below, Like Marauders

2014 is quickly coming to an end. Every major brand has already dropped their most hype releases. A certain red rectangle comes to mind, as well as some big releases by Kith, Raised By Wolves, etc. However many other brands go ignore, though one brand in particular has really proven itself to be highly sought after: Hidden Character. Though unlike many of the hype brands of today, their products have continually been sought out for their designs, and not so much for the “label” mentality, which has come to dominate streetwear over the last few years.

HC’s last two drops of 2014, going along with their desire to not follow a set style, are different from one another. Their October drop coincided with their one year anniversary, though they really did save the best for last, namely their December release.

The Day the Music Died

Music is  an almost a universal medium. Sometimes we know the words of lyrics by heart. Other times we have not idea what the artists are saying. It could be argued that music is restricted by its region. The American mentality is that foreign music has no place in America, and vice versa. For the most part this is usually true, save for a few hit foreign songs here and there, a la London Calling, Paper Planes, even Gangnam Style. Among others. The Early 2000s was a transitioning point for hip hop, gangsta rap was basically dead and rappers were looking to talk about money and success. Many of the biggest rappers were from the South and East. Though other rappers may not have been given heavy exposure, they did have a following. Such as Jurassic 5. The 2000s also saw the premiere of an Anime that had strong hip hop undertones. It was also acclaimed as famous Japanese producer/DJ Nujabes worked on the show to produce some choice tunes that helped shape the world of Samurai Champloo, making it a crossover hit in both Japan and America.

HC’s October drop was very much a tribute to music, and was a bit riskier than what they have done in the past. People may recall that Hidden Character’s Spring 14 release came with various patches, that everyone wanted. Unfortunately the brand is sticking to their no re-release policy. HC did give extra detailing to something most brands usually don’t put much effort into designing, the neck tags. Turning something that most people don’t give much notice to, into a somewhat collectible item. It was a risk, though their biggest gamble was a more personal item. Influences for this release are primarily cemented in music, however one artist is given more significance, HC also shows off more of their drawing skills, while Anime only helped emphasis certain themes.

Nujabes working on Samurai Champloo’s audio was a pretty significant thing in of itself. Beyond that he put in work with various hip hop acts, working with rappers in Japan as well as in the American underground hip hop scene. He often went for a more classical/jazz style, using instrumentals from the piano, bass, drums, among other musical instruments affiliated with that genre of music. This allowed other artists to create a style that seemed more sophisticated in nature, combined with lyrics that were relevant to their era. Its what some hip-hop acts were striving for, a sound that echoed the studio era of music production, but were very relate-able to the struggles of the world. Nujabe’s style concerning Samurai Champloo was very unorthodox. Usually music, or audio, is only supposed to be in the background. People may not notice it, but its there. It gives life to fictitious worlds in film, video, TV, and Animation. With bad audio, its easier to unravel these worlds. Nujabes gave hip hop a bigger role in Samurai Champloo, allowing the genre of music to give the main cast a certain flair, while also using it in an expressive way to convey a sense of drama or comedic relief. The music of Samurai Champloo may be his most well known work in America, however internationally hes better known for his hip hop compositions. Unfortunately he died on February 26, 2010 due to a fatal car accident in Japan.

Music was a general theme used for HC’s A/W pt 1 drop. Early on, Children of the Corn were referenced in previews. The group was made up of rappers from Harlem: Big L, Bloodshed, Cam’ron, Herb, McGruff, and Mase. The group never made it to the big leagues. Though Cam’ron would go on to Mainstream success. While Big L has been given posthumous recognition in the hip hop community for his lyrics. Cam’ron is given a small reference for this drop, though Big L would be given a standout tribute in the second drop. Beyond this, other rappers, big and small, are also referenced through their lyrics. Giving people the opportunity to discover these, at times, overlooked rap artists.

Hidden Character’s lookbook for A/W 2014 was shot entirely in black and white, unlike their Summer 14 lookbook. A bit of an irony considering color was used more this time around. You get a feeling of aggression, fearlessness, and camraderie. Some of this does crossover into their graphics, though it comes off as being more of an artistic expression. Three tees made up this release, their first baseball jersey, as well as their first go at cologne. As usual fans of the brand eagerly awaited the drop date, and everything sold out fairly quick. Part of this was due to their Nujabes tribute, which was the well designed and very anticipated. Their bb jersey was given a personal touch, as it had some nicely executed embroidery, labeling, and tackle twill typography. Fallback: ROY was cleanly drawn, it allowed HC to maintain an individual identity. Perhaps their most peculiar, yet still highly desired item was their Snake Oil fragrance. Part 1 of their A/W collection was released shortly after their 1 year anniversary.

The I Won’t Cheat baseball jersey was more or less Hidden Characters showing off more of their diy skills. In some ways it was more of a warm up for their Pt 2 cut n sew items. I Won’t Cheat was made of a subtle burgundy poly blend. The fit was more true to size, unlike traditional baseball jerseys. What made IWC a standout piece was the tackle twill letters, and custom embroidery. Tackle twill is the standard material that most sports teams use, it has a certain look to it, you just can’t get with silk screens. It gives better depth to typography, and an overall ruggedness to garments. The text wasn’t too elaborate, however the use of tackle twill gave the letters more of a pop. Moreover the twill seems to have been heat sealed onto the jersey instead of sewn. Their cherries design, shown earlier in 2014  was finally implemented. It was incorporated into the small baseball patch made by HC. The embroidery of the patch is quite intricate. Its something many brands may not think they could pull off due to all the details, yet HC managed to make the patch. Its interesting to note that the cherries design had a bit of controversy earlier this year, as someone inferred that HC had plagiarized the design. However HC proved that wasn’t the case. A custom red “Characters” label around the hem rounded out the design. Ultimately making a garment that wasn’t too loud, yet was very unique, a baseball jersey that any fan of the sport can wear.

The Reflection graphic tee was the most hyped item in the drop. There were many elements that alluded to Nujabes. The front of the tee has rows of text, Reflection is at the top. It basically describes the design work. Various paralleling designs can be seen. In the kanji text below, one reads Nujabes’ birth name, while the text next to it is his artist name. Written below is Nujabes’ real name in english. Below that is a track from the second Samurai Champloo album. The last line indicates his birth, while also subtly praising him on his music. Looking at the text from a distant, theres an almost parallel like placement of the words. The back portion features a nice rendition of Mugen and Jin battling, another use of “reflection,” while Purgatory is seen in the background. The details put into the duo’s clothing is pretty amazing, though it may be easily overlooked by people. Hidden is written below the two swordsmen, finishing up the design is another song by Nujabes written at the bottom. Two cws were available, navy was the rarer of the two. As it was initially a family/friends exclusive. The navy cw also had different colored prints, ranging from pink, lavender, to off white.  The tee is less of a nod to Samurai Champloo, and more like a tip of the hat to Nujabes. The other tee was dubbed Fallback ROY (Rookies of the Year). Unlike Reflection, ROY was strictly a Hidden Characters tee. There are no references to take away from the design, and in ways it helps gives the brand a stronger identity. The front of the black tee sports a pocket, with a simple “Hidden” tab. The right sleeve featured the text “Fallback” with the complimentary words: “HDNC: S-RANK.” Fallback has a metallic like feel, while the inner words give the graphic an old school arcade feel. Possibly from the late 80s. The back ROY graphic is the best. Showing, what could be, two inner demons battling one another. The one with the bigger horns, likely Hidden Characters, being the obvious victor. That character with the big horns has actually appeared in a past graphic from earlier this year, so it may be some sort of mascot or symbolic of HC. Perhaps akin to what Ed the Head is to Iron Maiden. Regardless the original artwork is skillfully drawn, with plenty of detail. It gives off a feeling of boastfulness, though 2014 has been a great year for a group of young adults, who created an unexpectedly popular brand. Making ROY a tee for anyone who likes original artwork, or clean graphics. All the tees came with red neck tags, every tag was unique as they featured lyrics from different songs, by different rappers. There didn’t seem to be much overlap in featured artists. Music artists featured ranged from mainstream to virtually unknown, so people will likely have to Google the lyrics to figure out who these rappers are. Making the tags almost as collectible as HC’s patches from their S14 drop.

Lastly theres the Snake Oil cologne. While many brands have ventured into this territory, many others have not. Its almost always one of those final frontiers brands undertake, that go along with years of testing. Though not caring for the rules, HC jumped headfirst into making a small batch. A mix of China musk and mink oil made up the concoction. The name itself being an homage to a misrepresentation of what a product can do. The three headed snake label furthers that idea. What made it truly covetable is that HC actually made custom wood boxes for the fragrance, instead of putting them in cheaper cardboard boxes. The Snake Oil was shipped out with condoms, giving a guy everything he needs for his night out.

Overall the drop was pretty solid. With numerous small details that helped make every piece in A/W Pt 1 enticing to anyone who wanted quality workmanship, a unique sense of design, and an execution thats against the grain.

From Purgatory with Love

While 2014 has been a solid year for Hidden Characters, it would have been easy for the brand to phone in their last release and drop some average designs, or possibly even skip their A/W pt 2 drop. However the brand decided to end 2014 on a high note, making this release more inclined to their dedicated fans from the past year. There were various tees available to grab, the uberly hyped “Hidden” Hidden hoodie, and 9 uniquely dyed shirts. HC also decided to make new patches. Making this drop half experimental, half fan service.

While there was no strong theme for the majority of these items, there was one item that did have a concept. The Put it On tee, acts like a bridge from pt 1 A/W to pt 2. The tee strongly draws a link to Big L, while also tying in his defunct group Children of the Corn, HC throws in a bit of their own charm making something that has a 90s feel, with a small amount of macabre thrown in. The front of the l/s is pretty simple, though the the right cuff has some text from a Big L song. On the back we get a bit more of HC’s dark modern sensibility. A collage of images comes together, drawing subtle links to Children of the Corn as well as possibly acting as a warning. An image of Big L, having a vintage feel, draws in people’s attention. A Child Shall Lead Them can be read in the same image, its a nice little reference to Big L’s group Children of the Corn. The overlapping text of Put it On, balances out the tee, making it more for Big L fans. The repetition of the eyes, may just allude to the gangsta era of the 90s, when people needed to have eyes behind their back. Put It On is dope, because the use of Big L and the symbols throughout make it somewhat of a nostalgic item, however it doesn’t try to be an obvious 90s tee.

Probably their most ambitious project to date were their oxford shirts, the BDUs also made a return. While their past cut n sew projects haven’t been too big, they did try to add a more personal touch to them. They grabbed some white shirts, and hand dyed the top portions of them. However dying materials is not an easy process, nor can anyone predict how partially dying a garment will look. The end result yielded 9 unique dye patterns. Instead of going back to completely dye them, which would have created something more uniform, HC opted to go with the misfit dyes. Ultimately making something that feels more diy in the process. Labeled as Oxford A-I, the shirts have an uniform look, something most brands aren’t looking to make. While HC may have wanted them to look a certain way, it definitely fits into their concept of not wanting to fit in. Overall the oxfords have a mature look, with a more personal feel to them.

While both the Put it On tee and Oxfords had their fans, probably the most hyped items of HC’s last 2014 drop were their Hidden “Hidden” hoodie, and Mystery bundle tees. The H”H” hoodie was more of an experiment by the brand. Using 2 layers of ink, an under layer of regular ink, with a top layer of 3M ink. 3M is made reflective with either particles of glasses or aluminum. The experiment entailed allowing the 3M ink to slowly degrade the stencil. This would mean that H”H” hoodies printed after the first hoodie, would begin to look slightly different with each passing print. Its because of this reason, that fans went into a full on frenzy, causing the site to almost crash. Probably the second most sought after item, was Hidden Character’s Mystery Bundle tees. The bundle came with two tees, there were a variety of prints. Some were based on older designs, while others were new designs. Some may think the older designs count as rereleases. Thats not the case. HC changed certain details or in other cases theres missing elements from the first designs. Moreover the tees don’t seem to have a set focus, other than HC just making randomly cool designs. This may be a jumping point for HC to release their og graphic designs as prints for 2015, which they have already alluded to. Regardless the Mystery Bundle tees were met with much praise from fans. Both the Hidden “Hidden” hoodie and Mystery Bundle tees were the must cops from this drop. Everything about them represents what HC is about.

Over the past year Hidden Characters has grown, cultivating a decent sized fan base. While the numbers may not impress the people who have been in streetwear for years, the fans keep coming back. They’re obviously attracted to the brand’s concept, and thoughtful graphic designs. Hidden Characters has also managed to end 2014 as the third most commented brand on the HB forums, breaking a triopoly on the forums that has been headed by Black Scale, Diamond Supply Co, and Supreme for much of the forum’s history. While this may not mean much, it does show that the newer streetwear brands are finally gaining a foothold in the industry. So streetwear may have a future afterall. Perhaps Hidden Characters will lead the way, while the older brands fade away. Though its unknown what 2015 will hold for Hidden Characters, regardless fans are patiently waiting, til then stay hidden.

*All S/o

*Hidden Characters twitter

*Hidden Characters instagram

*Hidden Characters Tumblr

* Use Google to find Hidden Character’s forum

Anime and Streetwear, its a Homecoming

Anime made its debut in American around the 60s. Since then its become a mainstay, with various facets of American society embracing it little by little. By this point Anime is as American as apple pie. Anime and clothing have had some type of relationship in America since, at least, the 90s. Though this has evolved from unlicensed merchandise to corporate merchandising to it finally having a wider acceptance in the world of Streetwear.

It started with skate decks

To fully understand Streetwear’s incorporation of Anime as an aesthetic. One has to look towards the origin of Anime in American society. Specifically in the 80s, when Anime had its second big run in America with the Robotech series. At the time it was highly acclaimed and had a strong fan base, as many Americans had never seen that style of Animation with a deep story line. It went on to influence various artists, one artist is particularly important. namely Jeremy Klein. Jeremy Klein is an important figure in the skating world, the man has designed many iconic boards, and was one of the people responsible for turning World Industries into a prominent skating company.

He had quite a wide array of art styles in his early years with World Industries. Drawings that echoed Norman Rockwell with a twist, referenced video games, were punk influenced, very sexual, basic flips, and even an Anime style that was the standard of that era. 1991 was the time that Jeremy released many hit decks, however the one thats probably helped define him was his Dream Girl deck. Released in 1991 for World Industries it was a major release. Jeremy has only given small insights as to why he designed something that was obviously inspired by Anime of the early 90s. It summed up his interests at the time, which were Anime, Mechs, and of course women hence the name. He would eventually take the concept of Dream Girl and expand it to create Hook-Ups Skateboards in 1994. Hook-Ups boards were very controversial as they often had Anime women with big beasts posed sensually. Though he also included various facets of Japanese culture and even gave nods to it in his videos and ads. Jeremy’s Hook-Ups boards have since become collectibles, especially his older boards.

Though whats important is that Jeremy was possibly the first person to put and sell Anime characters on clothing. This is pretty significant, considering that at this time it was definitely not a cool thing in fashion, nor was it even on Streetwear’s radar. Its important to note that Klein used Anime more or less as a mascot for Hook-Ups. Some designs expressed Japanese culture, so in some ways it was a bit educating, though that probably wasn’t the point. Hook-Ups has used Anime primarily in a one dimensional context in order to give the brand a strong identity in the skating world.

Klein would go on to ride for Birdhouse, continuing his style of controversial graphics, and making a few Anime inspired designs.

People like it, let’s sell It

1996 saw Dragon Ball Z  have its debut on public TV. Many kids, and even teens were in awe. DBZ had nearly blasted the doors open for Anime in America. It was nearly a revolution.

Though finding official tees to rep your favorite shows is easy to do today, years ago it wasn’t the case. It was rare for cartoon shows to have tees or hoodies available to people. Even in the 90s. Only Disney and Warner Bros were really making apparel featuring their most popular Animated characters. Companies who made cartoons were only interested in selling toys or action figures to kids.

This lack of officially sanctioned merchandise eventually led to people creating unofficial merch. This is pretty interesting, as companies that owned the rights to certain Animated series may have thought that licensing things other than toys would be unprofitable. Yet people were clearly profiting off other companies’ intellectual property.

I can recall going to Venice beach as a kid and visiting various shops with my siblings. On one of these trips we stumbled upon a shop that carried a multitude of DBZ merch. They were selling VHS, posters, coasters, poker decks, and clothing. In hindsight I know that all that stuff probably wasn’t licensed by whoever owned the rights to DBZ at the time. Needless to say, you could have found shirts at certain swap meets, with Goku or Vegeta. Of course those shirts would never say Dragon Ball Z on them. You could even find some crappy toys that looked like the Z fighters.

Thats Un-American

There was obviously a market for clothing with people’s favorite TV characters on it, more so with cartoons. It wouldn’t really be til the first few years of the 2000s that studios would realize that they could make money by putting popular characters on t-shirts. Even when Animation studios did do this, it was a slow relationship for Anime and fashion. In the late 80s Vans had made shoes for Disney, it was the start of making cartoons fashionable, and making them more financially marketable.

It became more typical to find American animated series apparel in retail and department stores. Spongebob would be an obvious example, as countless clothing items could be bought from places like JC Penny to Walmart. However Disney broke ground a bit earlier with their Disney stores, making their licensed apparel somewhat more available, besides having to go to Disneyland itself.

However as American animated shows saw a boom in merchandised clothing, Japanese Animated shows were still on the fringes of society. Eventually bootlegged DBZ items were more or less stopped as Funimation who held the rights to DBZ tried to further capitalize on its popularity. The Early 2000s saw some decent looking tees be released. The tees were pretty straight forward, having prints of the individual Z Fighters. However they were pretty hard to come by. The tees were almost always found in places that sold DVDs/VHS, think FYE. They’d typically be segregated in the Anime section, plus there would only be a few tees. By the mid 2000s DBZ was over, and not much had changed with Anime and fashion. Other Anime series in America continued following DBZ’s method of selling clothing and other merch.

Part of the reason why Anime apparel wasn’t widely available at this time, may have been due to it being seen as too foreign. Although shows like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and DBZ were popular. It was undoubtedly clear, probably to adults and American retail stores, that those shows were definitely not American. Perhaps as a result, these shows became fads, instead of initially becoming classics, on par with shows like Dexter’s Lab, Invader Zim, or Samurai Jack. While Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and DBZ had great fan bases at the start of their first runs in America, eventually it drove away its initial audience with various elements that are found in Japanese Animation.

Things would soon change in the latter 2000s with the mass opening of Hot Topics across many malls in America. Though the store has no viable link to Streetwear, it did serve as a platform for fashion and Animation’s relationship to evolve. While its demographics were strongly held in the goth world, eventually they decided to start selling various Animated series merch. Of course it started with American Animated shows. However Hot Topic soon started looking towards Anime, not as a niche culture, but something that was obviously going to appeal to millions of Americans. As such, something perceived as being on the fringe for years, finally had a much stronger presence.

Triumvir’s last stand

 In 2008 the Recession was officially recognized in America. The world of Streetwear was going through changes. Brands that were thriving before were not doing so well. This was also true with Triumvir, a brand which had quite a rep for their products and concepts. The economic turmoil as well as Streetwear’s doubted financial market caused rifts within the brand.

One of Triumvir’s last great releases were their Street Fighter collabs. At face value the collabs seem uninspired or lazy. They are important, as it was the first time a major Streetwear label decided to tap into Anime. Moreover it may have been the first time Anime and Streetwear came together in America. While most people may think that Street Fighter is wholly a gaming thing and has no connection to Anime, thats not the truth.

The original concepts for the characters were drawn in a very 1980s Anime style, by of course Japanese illustrators. Likewise there was a manga series, an Animated movie, and even an Anime series. With all of this in mind Triumvir had decided to formally collaborate with Capcom. Again this was something pretty rare at the time. The collab was met with a mix of anticipation and hate. People were obviously questioning whether a capsule collection that involved video games and Anime even belonged in Streetwear. Look in the comments section of blogs and you’ll understand why this collab was a bit too ahead of its time.

The focus of the collab was quality and artwork. The first collection was the Shadaloo Psycho Brigade drop. An entire wardrobe that did a good job at balancing Streetwear and Anime. It managed to be stylish, without coming off as being too geeky or otaku. The collab was followed with graphic tees that showcased artwork based off the original concept art for the Street Fighter games. Most of the tees were line art, complimented with watercolor graphics that added a sense of motion to a seemingly flat piece of art. However the concept of the collabs eventually lost interest in the Streetwear community. By 2011 the collabs were over and Triumvir was fading away.

The Street Fighter collabs proved that well designed graphic tees with Anime or video game inspired backgrounds, could indeed be accepted in Streetwear. Triumvir’s collab was something that crossed over into other territories. Specifically into the gaming and Anime communities. Capcom used the collab as a way to generate hype for Street Fighter IV, along with other famous street artists, like Futura. It seemed to work well for both entities. Triumvir actually ended up on Wired’s radar, as well as Kotaku, though their respective communities were not as fond of the collab.  It would still be a while before any major Anime Streetwear collab would come about. Bape’s collabs with One Piece and Mastermind Japan’s Gundam collabs were major steps in Anime’s relationship with Streetwear in America. As both brands had a strong presence in America, with an equally strong reputation. The Japanese fashion community has  a good relationship with Animation/Manga. They know how to treat the medium with respect, but more importantly they see it as part of their culture.

Probably the biggest challenge for Anime to become an accept Streetwear element, is Anime’s far flung otaku and cosplay communities. Otakus are people who more or less thrive on Anime and its glorification. Though otakus usually come off as being geeky and, unfashionable. People’s sense of fashion is the last thing Otakus may focus on. Whereas in Streetwear its basically the opposite. Theres also Anime’s cosplay community, which at times can paint Anime fans as being too enthusiastic for something that is often perceived as childish. However due to some high profile collabs with big name Streetwear brands, Streetwear’s view on Anime has finally started to change.

Though the Anime industry has begun to change in a general way. Japanese culture has become more prominent, things that were once thought to be weird, are more accepted now. Things like Pocky, a popular Japanese food item which could be seen in various Anime shows, has nearly become an American mainstay. It can found in Wal Mart and other big chain grocers, however 10 years ago, you’d probably be hard pressed to find some. Theres also the fact that every major streaming service in America has a sizable amount of Anime in their libraries. Theres also a huge fanbase of Anime fans, including celebrities, who probably wouldn’t qualify as being otakus. Kanye West is an examaple, as his Stronger video was obviously a nod to Akira. Probably the most damming evidence that Anime has reached a strong acceptance in America, is Victoria Secret’s 2012 fashion show, in which a model wore a body suit that ripped off Rei Ayanami’s plugsuit.

Don’t trust the new kids?

 Streetwear has grown to great prominence, becoming a legitimate rival to the fashion hierarchy. Stussy is often regarded as starting the movement, while other brands have helped the evolution of Streetwear by adopting certain themes. Such as guns, drugs, women, flipping logos, and most importantly referencing.

Referencing and appropriation of different cultures or scenes has become a very defining characteristic of Streetwear as well as other American industries. Some of the best examples of referencing in Streetwear are tees that try to use the least amount of its source material to bring about a certain mood or idea. Movies are a good examples, as sometimes characters or even phrases have been taken out their context in order to become something else. Heres a good example using Goodfellas, a nice little reference and appropriation by SSUR. It possibly suggests that anyone living the “life” will always meet a brutal end. There has also been the referencing of music icons. This tee, referencing 2-Pac, basically shows its disdain with the current trend of music of the time, circa 2009. There was also Rouge Status’ once infamous gun show tees. That last example is strongly significant because it shows how Streetwear can appropriate things from other cultures and use them to create a strong tone. The gun show design featured guns, specifically military grade weapons, and threw it on a tee to bring about a really aggressive attitude.

All of these examples have taken their inspiration from various corners of American society. America is perhaps where Streetwear is at its strongest. Thats not to say that it is a  purely Western style of design. Various Streetwear brands have popped up in places such as Europe and Asia. Though Eastern brands have a strong unique aesthetic, like Bape and Clot.

In America this is significant, as there are various Asian ethnic groups, who for the most part have never been greatly represented. None Asian American’s love of Anime have ultimately sparked an interest in various Asian cultures. Anime itself has a bigger acceptance in Asia, whether its in Japan, Korea, China, etc. However Asian Americans are not defined by where their parents came from, or the customs they may share with their distant families in Asia. Instead they have begun to grow their own identities and have even had a strong hand in shaping modern Streetwear. Like Bobby Hundreds and Brian from Triumvir.

However progress has slowed. Things that are readily accepted in mainstream America, are what most Streetwear brands use to create their aesthetic. Its why you’ll see more tees that say Fuck in English, but maybe none with Chinese curse words. It’s why you’ll see tees with 40s on them, but not sake. Its why you’ll see more references to American action movies, but maybe not samurai flicks. This also poses the question as to whether or not Anime can be considered a Streetwear thing? The same can said about brands that have done flips on Garfield, the Peanuts gang, and even Disney. People should be able to appreciate well drawn artwork, it shouldn’t matter what the influence is. Anime in particular, with the right artists, can produce very amazing drawings.

Over the last few years a kind of revolution or more appropriately a new generation of American Streetwear brands have sprung up that have brought Anime back into the Streetwear scene. More importantly they’ve brought along their Asian backgrounds, fusing together an aesthetic that is a strong combination of American design with obvious Asian undertones. Ronin is perhaps the first of these brands. Having a strong samurai culture theme, specifically the ronins. Their Mugen tee was possibly the first American Streetwear tee to reference Anime, even using it as an aesthetic. It was released back in 2012, since then other brands have been upping the ante and using Anime more as a theme or motif.

While these newer brands may use Anime, it definitely doesn’t label them as Anime Streetwear brands. It has instead been able to give Asian culture a stronger footing in Streetwear, its also brought back the artistic element, it will perhaps even revitalize Streetwear as a whole. Beyond Anime, each brand has their own unique aesthetics that aren’t easily defined. Many of the newer brands like Sequence, Third Vision, and Hidden Characters employ artists to their rosters.

Thats not to say that brands using Anime or referencing Asian customs have to have an Asian background, Jeremy Klein would be an obvious example. Even Hmn Alns, and his famous stylings of Anime characters in streetwear.

While people may not understand how art and Streetwear’s relationship has been over the last 25+ years, there have been times when the two fields closely worked together. Obey’s Shepard Fairey is an example as the man is a highly recognized street artist, who eventually crossed over into streetwear with his limited graphic tees that showcased his sought after prints. This was also true for artists like Futura and KAWS, whose early Streetwear collabs were highly acclaimed and made brands push Streetwear in new directions. Though as of today Streetwear is in a vexing situation. While the industry has grown to great financial heights, it can be said that its golden age is over. The community has developed a formula to keep money flowing, which many can’t argue with. The biggest brands in the game aren’t really bringing anything new to Streetwear. Likely the lack of newer artists or ideas has caused these brands to rely on what they already know, instead of taking risks and looking for new inspirations. In its heyday the golden age of Streetwear, as a whole, was pushed along by multiple people from various backgrounds, today its mostly left to the graphic designers.

This newer generation of Streetwear may be known as the Anime era someday, or not. These guys use Anime, but it doesn’t pigeonhole their style. Many of these brands express a love of Asian culture, but its not their crutch. They’re very American brands, their attitudes reflect this. One day they may be compared to brands like Supreme or Stussy. Another interesting observation is that Anime’s new found relationship with Streetwear is almost an isolated event. While Jeremy Klein and Hook-Ups may have been the first guys to put Anime on their tees, it can’t be said that they influenced the current trend of Streetwear brands doing the same thing. Even though they did collab with The Hundreds on the Dream Girl design. Unfortunately Triumvir may also be in the same boat, though they used Anime as an inspiration, they didn’t use it as an aesthetic per say. Instead their executions were typically straightforward, and their link to Capcom ultimately leaves their designs in the realm of licensing. Not flipping or appropriation, as many Streetwear brands in the past and even today use other companies’ designs without their consent to bring a more authentic feel to their designs. Flipping/ripping is almost always the Streetwear way.

The future looks bright for the newest crop of HB brands. Every year their fanbase grows, and they keep redefining what Streetwear can mean. While their possible precursors are returning to much anticipation. Jeremy Klein has headed Hook-Ups graphics department since 1994, and even retroed his Dream girl design multiple times. This year he finally decided to reissue his old designs from his early days at World Industries. Some of his biggest being Veggies, Chun-Li, and of course the OG Dream Girl design. Likewise Triumvir is looking to make a return in Streetwear, earlier this year they held a preorder for 2 reissue tees. Brands tapping into the vastly unused Japanese art of Anime will continue to break barriers, it can also be said that they’ve helped give gaming and Asian culture a new found acceptance, only time will tell how these brands will change Streetwear in the long run.

*Anime & Streetwear part 2.

Brands to watch, in no order of prominence:

*Dangerers Death Tribe (defunct)

*Effulgence

*Hidden Characters

*Jeremy Klein

*Motiv USA (defunct)

*Ronin

*Sequence (defunct)

*T.H.E.

*Third Vision (defunct)

*Trailing Nimbus

*Triumvir (defunct)

2016 brands to watch:

*Anime Trash Swag

*Effulgence

*Hidden Characters

*Jeremy Klein

*Ronin

*T.H.E.

*Trailing Nimbus

2017 brands to watch:

*Anime Trash Swag

*Effulgence

*Hvy Blk

*Hidden Characters

*Jeremy Klein

*Jessika Limited

*Phantom Source

*T.H.E.

*Trailing Nimbus

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.