Hidden Characters – The Forefathers

Hidden Characters is a new wave Streetwear brand run by a shadowy group of people from America’s midwest. However some members of this organization are based around the world, such as Tepei and Hong Kong. The brand has been around for more than 3 years and immediately found a following among young adults, primarily 90s kids and people looking for a more forward thinking Streetwear brand. Most of this is due to the fact that many long time fans of Streetwear have become largely apathetic towards the current state of Streetwear. As many of the brands they used to love have grown too big and fallen away from what they originally were, becoming very generic, so that they could appeal to a broader spectrum of people. Hidden Characters has continued to maintain it’s status as an artistic yet sought after brand, as its concepts appeal to many young adult, while also being representative of what Streetwear used to mean.

At the start of 2016 HC had been riding a wave of 2 years filled with well received releases. The first half of 2016 saw another another shift in HC’s focus. 2015 was characterized with HC’s desire to create more cut n sew pieces. As a result the brand dropped a fair amount of non graphical apparel that were loved by customers. However this also meant that there were fewer graphic tees. Many initial fans came to respect the brand from their 2014 drops, which were mostly focused on creating dope designs. 2016 has seen a slight return to that form, ergo more emphasis had been put on the graphics. As well as giving their graphics a more traditional fine arts execution. Fans were hyped on the 2015 tees, though some of the tees felt a bit too perfectionist. HC has a demonstrated that it has a variety of fine art skills, but much of Hidden Characters’ style has been rooted in its affinity for asymmetrical designs and its subtle rejection of perfectionism. Regardless the 2015 tees were still loved by fans.

HC’s 2016 pre season releases included a solid gold pendent and the BDU 1.5 pants. Hidden Characters have been tinkering around with jewelry since 2015. Their first pendents were made of enamel and gold plated. It was not overly ambitious. However their second major attempt definitely was. The pendent was based on Hidden Characters Ifrit logo. Made of 14k solid gold, complete with a chain. The chains also came with another incentive, one person would be given all the items from Spring 2016. Later a preorder was also made for the BDU 1.5. These newer BDUs were made of a nylon/cotton material , making these more expensive than their previous pants, though with a different fit, better quality materials, and unique costomer customizations. Both products were well received by fans. As promised one fan who bought an Ifrit chain was given the full product line of S/S 16.

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It’s about the music, man

Spring 16 was probably one of HC’s high points. The brand was given a a few features by Hypebeast. Exposing HC to a wider audience. This further culminated to the drop selling out quicker than the last few releases. S/S 16 was broken up into 2 parts.

S/S 16 drop 1 had a nice balance of Cut n sew and graphic pieces. The Cut n sew consisted of the Split crewneck, Bleach hoodie, and the Webbing jacket. The graphic tees consisted of Ghost Army, Teachers, and Fuck Ian Conner tees.

Teachers is a tribute to Blue Note records. It is a historic jazz record label founded in 1939. Though many people probably won’t recognize the label for its artists or albums. They might recognize some of the sounds Blue Note produced. Jazz has been in existence for more than 100 years. Though the common man probably won’t directly listen to Jazz, they have likely listened to it indirectly through hip hop. Jazz is inherently tied into black culture. As with other genres of music that originated from the African American zeitgeist, it was almost always initially perceived in a negative context. Until the genre or elements of it were appropriated by white musicians. Jazz was no exception to this process. Jazz was not initially popular in America, largely due to people labeling it the “Devil’s music,” and its origins as black music. However it was popular in speakeasies during the 20s and 30s. The height of Jazz’s mainstream sensibilities were arguably the 40s and 50s. Though it would be a lie to say the genre died outright. Elements of Jazz were absorbed into other forms of music. Blue Note records is particularly important because they recorded music for some of the most notable Jazz musicians at the time. Such as Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis, among many others. Eventually the label went defunct and was later revived. Many hip hop artists have actually sampled music from Blue Note artists. Such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Yasiin Bey, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Eminem, the list goes on…Though it’s intriguing seeing HC give props to an often overlooked label that has indirectly contributed a lot of inspiration to many genres of music. The front graphic of Teachers is cover art from Wayne Shorter’s album Speak No Evil. The back of Teachers has a line of text at the top which is the title of the Horace Silver album Song for my Father. Blue Note 1017 is HC giving a nod to Blue Note’s 1500 series of albums. Below is a track listing of Blue Note songs, all of which have been sampled by hip hop artists. The graphic below appropriates art from Art Blakey’s album Indestructible! Below is a quote from prominent black poet Langston Hughes. The graphic to the left is from Lou Donaldson’s album Quartet/Quintet/Sextet. The next line of text is HC paying tribute to Reid Miles’ aesthetic. As he designed many of Blue Note’s album art, including all the albums referenced on this tee. The text below that is a flip on Horace Parlan’s album “Happy Frame of Mind.” Below that is the Blue Note logo, though in a dual colorway instead of  one. Theres actually not a lot of original interpretations by Hidden Characters on this tee, however thats likely the point. Rather than trying to create something easier for people to understand, HC chose to bring many elements from Blue Note together. In essence accentuating what Blue Note was all about. While also subtly representing hip hop’s re-appropriating of Jazz. Though as a whole Teachers was likely meant to convey that artifacts from black culture never die, but are simply adopted by more modern black zeitgeists. This tee works well on so many levels, conceptually it is on the same level as Ghost Army, and even surpasses it in some respects.

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Possibly the most well designed and hyped piece from this release was the Ghost Army tee. GA is a prime example of HC’s graphic skills. The graphic was moody, it was well designed, there were smaller designs that accentuated the main print, and it had some embroidery along with nice tags. Firstly the name itself is a reference to the actual US Army group nicknamed the “Ghost Army.” They were a special unit of the Army who were active during WWII, they were tasked with deceiving the Axis powers. Their official designation was 23rd Headquarters Special Troop. The Ghost Army were not made up of soldiers, but instead with artists. They had more than 1,000 members. They often created large and elaborate diversions. The Ghost Army accomplished their tasks by using inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions, and phony artillery. Some of their biggest deceptions occurred during the Allied landing of Normandy and Operation Plunder.   There is text found throughout the front and back of the tee, much of it is crossed out, save for the text on the corner in the front. Some of the text are just indicative of Hidden Characters, such as SRANK, HIDDEN CHARACTERS, and COMPOSITION HIDDEN C. Whereas certain key words are references to the Ghost Army such as SONIC & VISUAL STAGE ENSEMBLE, SABOTAGE SUBVERSION, and 23rd HEADQUARTERS. The text of DUALITY OF MAN is essentially the overarching theme for both s/s pts 1 &2. The back graphic is obviously a reference to war and humanity. While mankind is capable of doing great things, we also have the capacity to do great evil, war often being our outlets for committing crimes against humanity as a whole. The left sleeve has a lightning bolt, which is partially utilized from the emblem patches of the Ghost Army. The bolt came in three random colors, white (common), green (rare), and red (rarest). These colors are based off the Ghost Army’s emblem. Overall this tee had lots of time and effort put into its design and execution. The tee dropped in White, black, gray, olive, and sand.

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Front.

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Left sleeve.

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WWII Ghost Army patch.

The Fuck Ian Conner tee seems to be Hidden Characters finally trying to creating some sort of logo for themselves. For the past 3 years the brand has been toying around with fonts, but seemingly never chose a particular style of text to match its overall aesthetic. The front graphic is very clean and well executed. The back has a large melting “srank” text which is possibly channeling the same art style as Salvador Dali. Dropped in blk, wht, baby blue, olive, yellow (friends&family only).

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Standard tags for S/S 16 pts 1 and 2.

As for the Cut n Sew there were a few dope looking products. First off is the grey Bleach hoodie. This was originally released in 2015 as a DC auction item in black. The Bleach hoodie is a reference to Nirvana’s first studio album called “Bleach.” The hoodie is likely grey because the album itself is an inverted black & white photo, as such the grey tones are very visible. The Webbing jacket was a nylon coach jacket that dropped in black and sand cws. It sports a sewn on Ifrit H patch, while the back has a vertical rectangle with an x in middle. Finally theres the Champion split crewneck. It was a heavily 90s inspired  garment, the split look of the crewneck was personally cut n sewn together by the HC crew. They also added an embroidered “HC” on the right sleeve, the front sports an embroidered “Hidden,” and the left sleeve has a 3M “Competition.”

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Right sleeve. Embroidered.

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Left sleeve, 3M.

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Following the release of SS drop 1. Many og and prospective fans where left disappointed. As many were unable to cop the ghost army tee. HC decided to help out their og fans by creating another version of the ghost Army tee, dubbed HB Edition. The tee was made availiabe via pre order. The biggest difference between the HB and GR version is that the HB Ed has a sewn on tag in the front of the tee. HB Ed also has printed tags instead of neck tag, and instead of having embroidered lightning bolts, it has printed HB lightning bolts. Released in the same cws as the GR version.

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Note the HB text on the left sleeve.

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Though SS drop 1 had plenty of hype, drop 2 had even more anticipation. primarily because of their lookbook. In past lookbooks HC tended to create a sort of narrative. Their SS lookbook did the same. However instead of taking photos of live model, the lookbook used clay models. Needless to say the clay figures looked very bizarre. This added another element to their lookbook’s narrative, capturing an ugliness/style that could only be expressed through clay rather then conventional photography. The lookbook caught the attention of HB and was promptly posted. HC was lauded by many newcomers, especially CLSC, a fairly respected streetwear brand.

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Lookbook.

S/S drop 2 consisted of two tees, hat, sweater, and jacket. The cactus Jack design made a return in 3 new cws. Burgundy was the most hyped and sold out instantly. The black cw was fairly sought after, and the inverted white cw sold out within a day. The inverted white cw is the most unique as HC inverted the printing process from the 2014 tee.

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The Militia tee was another design heavily inspired by the militarism. The front has a sort of cross design with the words HC and SR respectively. This small graphic is possibly invoking a feeling of WWI, possibly WWII war insignias. Below is the word HIDDEN, followed by “Trot & Guerrilla Task Force.” These last few words are important as they refer to the back graphic. Trot is possibly a shout out to that particular style of Korean music, furthermore it is probably personified by the fox on the back. Guerrilla is of course a term that describes a type of unconventional warfare strategies. Wherein a rag tag group of people attack their enemies with unconventional tactics and hide in plain sight, it is symbolized by the gorilla on the back. The back graphic is fairly big. A fox and gorilla are flying, likely, a WWII plane. The gorilla seems to be looking for their enemies, whereas the fox is identifying them. Behind the fox is a machine gun. This design is definitely playing off of the Animation style of Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943)  and it’s feature length sequel Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945) . They were both WWII Japanese propaganda Anime films. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is one of the earliest, if not the first Anime movie. The story follows Japanese folk hero Momotaro and animals as they join the Japanese military. The animals specifically join the Navy and eventually gain prominent positions. Later Momotaro leads the animals/soldiers in an invasion of the island of Celebes. The British forces are taken by surprise, the story ultimately ends with the British surrendering the island. While Momotaro and the animals plan another attack. This film is often overlooked by many fans of Anime, for various reasons, though it is undoubtedly an important aspect of Japanese Animation History.

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Momotaro plans a surprise attack.

Though the tees were well received the cut n sew was very hyped. Inner Demons returned as a jacket and the Split Crewneck dropped in a new black cw. There was also the H cap and  a pin.

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The most hype piece for this drop was without a doubt HC’s first hat. It’s no secret that HC strives to make to the best apparel that they can. However There have been a few instances wherein they designed, but did not directly manufacture their own products. The most notable being their first BIBO jackets and their gold H necklaces. Their BIBO jackets were produced by artisans, and their H necklaces were made by experienced jewelers. Not wanting to make hats with standard textile blanks, HC tapped Ebbets Field Flannels to produce some very high quality caps. They only dropped in burgundy, though it appears some black samples exist. Made of melton wool, they are very soft, have a leather strap, and have a sewn on wool Ifrit H. The hats did not have a satin underbrim, they were shipped in a custom box, and they came with a special pin that was not available for purchase.

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Special pin. “Hidden Frame of Mind”!

The hooded Inner Demons jackets was made of nylon and dropped in 3 cws: black, navy, and forest green. This jacket uses HC’s 2014 Inner Demons design. Its basically taken from an ep of Attack on Titan. The graphic is demonstrating how to kill a titan. The front has a sewn on tag. There are small vents near the pits, buttons are brass, and the graphic is 3M vinyl. Green is arguably the best cw, as its probably another lowkey reference to AOT. Eren Yeager, the main character joins the Survey Corps, a branch of the military. One of their notable characteristics is that they are often seen wearing a forest-green cloak with their symbol sewn on to them.

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Back, 3M vinyl.

Finally HC dropped a pin that was based on their snake oil design, and they made a new type of cologne.

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Its interesting to note that the most common theme for s/s pts 1 and 2 is militarism. Though more so that HC doesn’t necessarily base everything on Ameriaca. The light and subtle Japanese inspirations in Militia tee are a nice contrast to the darker Americana inspired Ghost Army tee. Back back the Cactus Jack tee was also pretty cool. Although its obvious that the Ghost Army and Fuck Ian Conner tees were the most loved out of both drops. HC’s cap was also an instacop for everyone. Though its not clear if or when it will come back, as it was not reissued last year. Beyond this there was plenty of cut n sew that many people were digging. Its a testament to HC’s growing skills outside of their graphic design skills. As such many fans, OG and new have patiently been waiting in the shadows for the next drop. As usual stay hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Character’s twitter

*Hidden Character’s instagram

*Hidden Character’s website

* Official Hidden Character’s forum

*Largest fan run forum

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2008: Converse 1917 All Star Reproduction

For anyone familiar with Converse’s history, it should be no surprise that the Chuck Taylor All Star has been the brand’s most iconic shoe throughout the company’s long history. However the shoe was originally not called the Chuck Taylor All Star, but was sold simply as the All Star. As the silhouette has been around for almost 100 years, the All Star underwent many changes. From these changes the most modern  iteration of All Star was birthed sometime in the early 2000s. However it’s interesting to note that Converse has actually revisited their initial 1917 All Star design quite a few times. There has been a total of five All Star reproductions/tributes that were created.

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The earliest reproductions were seemingly introduced in the 70’s, during the Eltra Corp era. This version is arguably closest in design to the 1917 Converse All Star. The other retros are not necessarily true reproductions, but instead seek to honor the Chuck Taylor All Star’s genesis. While Converse was still being made in America, the brand rarely tapped into it’s legacy. The Chuck Taylor All Star remained consistent and was reinvented numerous times, but Converse as a company never took great interest in revisiting it’s past with retros or reproduction, which seems a bit odd today. When Nike bought Converse, the company began to delve deep into their heritage. As a result fans have been treated to many retros and reproductions of older Converse shoe silhouettes. The most successful ones have been the 1970’s Chuck Taylor retros, the Bosey boots, and the Weapon. While some of modern Converse’s current reproductions are not the most accurate, they arguably did make the best Converse All Star reproduction.

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Converse Century logo.

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Black Fives label.

It’s important to understand that the Chuck Taylor All Star was originally called the All Star. It wasn’t until the 1930s that Chuck Taylor’s name was added to the shoe’s name. While both shoe’s histories will forever be linked, certain elements of the AS were eventually phased out on the CTAS. Back in 2008 Converse was officially 100 years old. To celebrate, the company made many retros/reproductions which sought to create a retrospective of Converse’s century of existence. This endeavor was appropriately called Converse Century, which was basically a sub line. Some of the rarest pieces from this line were the Weapon 86, Pro Leather 76, Chuck Taylor All Star 1938, and All Star (2008).

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The 2008 Converse All Star is a premium shoe inside and out. It was also a tribute to African American basketball teams, called Black Fives, of the early 20th century. The sneaker has leather panels, which are made of full grain leather. There are other leather components which are made of distressed leather. These pieces are indicative of the AS and CTAS’s early years of existence. The distressed pieces were originally used to help reinforce the AS/CTAS. These leather components were phased out some time in the late 1930s to early 40s. This was likely due to advancements in sneaker construction methods as well as possibly due to Converse trying to make their footwear comply with WWII rationing standards. There is also a leather patch which pre dates the iconic Star patch on the CTAS. The patch used displays Converse’s Big C logo, this was one of Converse’s oldest logo’s and was used as one of selling points til roughly the 30s. The 2008 AS also sports 10 eyelets which is accurate to the original version. It uses a reproduction of the OG Converse AS heel label. The toe cap is also fairly true to the era of the AS. The final component which the Converse 2008 AS gets right is the sole. The sole used on the AS was actually different than the modern CTAS. The sole design on the AS changed a few times, as Converse was still refining the design of the sole.

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Converse OG B5 Hi. Strongly based on the Converse 1917 All Star.

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Distressed Big C logo.

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Leather backstay sewn into heel.

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Leather backstay exterior.

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Basketball cage diagram on insoles.

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Ribbed toe cap.

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All Star/Non Skid label.

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1917 All Star sole.

While Converse (Nike Inc) did a very good job paying tribute to the heritage of the classic Chuck Taylor All Star, they also made a fair amount of missteps with this sneaker. For one the entire upper is composed of alternating leather panels. The original version of the All Star only had a duck canvas upper, with various leather pieces that helped give the AS longevity and stability. While there were leather versions of the AS, they did not look like this. It’s possible that the stripes are meant to echo an older era of fashion, specifically during the early 20th century when stripes were very fashionable. Furthermore the upper possesses an embossed cage design. This is a reference to how basketball used to be played in the early 20th century. Players would play in an enclosed cage. At times opposing fans would burn the players, other times they would be burned by heated sections of the cages which were too close to stoves that heated the courts during the winter. The insoles have a printed diagram of an early 20th century basketball court. Another inaccuracy is the use of a modern CTAS bumper. The older AS’s used bumpers which looked more like bumpers on a Vans Authentic. Another hiccup is that the height of the the 2008 AS is shorter than that of the OG AS.  The 2008 AS is the same height as a modern CTAS. The AS is probably 1 to 2 inches taller than modern CTAS. Another small flaw is that the rubber used on the  2008 AS midsole and toe cap is brown, the rubber used on the AS was black. Black rubber was the standard color for Converse sneakers, until the 1950s by which point white became the standard. Finally theres the fact that Converse choose to distress the sole, which shortens the 2008 AS’s lifespan. Beyond this there are smaller inaccuracies which further the differences between the 2008 AS and the OG AS.24l5v12

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Converse All Star circa 1917.

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I do feel that the 2008 All Star gets the overall look and feel of the original 1917 All Star correctly. However it is far from being perfect. The main issue is that the 2008 AS was a concept sneaker. Converse Inc took many elements of the AS, however they were not seeking to truly pay tribute to the All Star, but instead were looking to honor the Chuck Taylor All Star. The Converse 1938 Chuck Taylor All Star is  a very well done reproduction of the original CTAS of that time. Although there are inaccuracies, it does many things correctly. Hopefully for Converse will make a more accurate All Star for the Chuck Taylor’s 100th anniversary.

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*All s/o

*Rare, but probably won’t be worth more than $100

Ludwig VAN – Americana & Luxury

Ludwig Van is an atypical Streetwear brand. This is primarily as a result of the brand’s focus on creating quality garments instead of  mass production. Another reason tends to be that Ludwig usually distances themselves from whatever trend is going on in mainstream/corporate Streetwear. However another reason is that the man behind the brand is very active in many fields outside of Streetwear. As a result 2014 was a somewhat slow period for Ludwig Van.Of course production was still going on and there was a release here and there, but there was no regular seasonal drop. During that time the owner was doing work for the Olympics, WWE, Adidas, as well as coaching an MMA team.

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However Ludwig Van’s 2015-16 releases were definitely worth the long wait. The 2015 drop was heavily influenced by Americana. Some of the characteristics of Americana are things indicative of the 1950s in America. This includes, but isn’t limited to: motorcycles, bikers, your typical American athlete wearing sportswear or letterman jackets, classic Hollywood actors, etc. I suppose people look towards Americana because things seemed much simpler back then. America had won WWII, there was an economic boom, and the future seemed to be limitless. Many well known Japanese brands have actually appropriated Americana, of course there are many brands in America that employee this style as well.

2015: Athletes & Hollywood

Although that begs the question, what does Americana even mean? If you’ve ever watched one of those documentaries about the 70’s I’m sure at a certain point they’ll discuss how Americans developed nostalgia for the 50s. Its ironic that even in the 21st century people are longing for an era they never knew. I feel as though many people have a Romantic vision of the 1950s. Despite this era having many social issues and injustices. Seeing that the founder of Ludwig is closer to that era, I believe his execution has more truth to it, as Ludwig tends to explore the various zeitgeists which make up the era that the brand is channeling into their clothing.

Ludwig’s 2015 drop had everything, which consisted of some tees, a crew, coach jackets, snapbacks, jeans and a rocker patch. One of the must cops was the Audrey tee which is an obvious tribute to Audrey Hepburn. The graphic is a two tone print (green and blue), the pic is further modified with Audrey having a bright red ball gag. Now for starters it seems that the tee is referencing Audrey’s sexuality, as its well known that she had quite a few lovers in her day. Though its actually very tastefully in what its trying to say, there are many tell-all books about how old Hollywood was filled with rampant sexual affairs, drugs, flings, and orgies. However Audrey also had a humanitarian side which summed up the latter half of her years before she died. I supposed thats why this print has two prominent colors, Audrey was a very complex woman.

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Following this theres the varsity jackets. In particular this was done a bit differently than others, I’ve seen over the past few years. For one the jackets have a small back print, however its a clear print, instead of being a traditional ink print. beyond this Ludwig used vintage ribbing material, likewise the liner is made using Vietnam era rip-stop nylon. The jackets are finished off using a new style of label and Lampo zippers from Italy. It looks like something athletes can wear, but also seems a bit more sophisticated, probably due to the fit.

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This drop also included the Selvedge IV snapbacks. Honestly when most brands make snapbacks they tend to use very cheap and uncomfortable twill textile or flimsy denim. Both caps were made using Cone Mill denim, only top denim brands in the US buy from them. The ounce is pretty heavy so theres a bit of stiffness. The caps are lined with vintage 1980’s Pendelton flannel. Both caps are topped off with an indigo calfskin emblem.Overall they feel like quality snapbacks, and very comfortable as Ludwig didn’t opt to use cheap material.

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While we’re on the subject of denim, Ludwig finally made more denim jeans. I believe their last pair was released in 2009? Ironic considering the brand is always tinkering around with denim. Regardless its dope that they finally made some more. As to why these jeans are special, they’re a collab done with Rivi Goods, an artisan denim maker. They are constructed using 1980’s orangeline slevedge denim, think Levis, before production went overseas. If that wasn’t enough they are reinforced with og US military spec nylon webbing in certain areas. They also include a back label and calfskin patch. Americana at its finest.

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Ludwig label.

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Arguably the instacop from this release were the crews, coach jackets and rocker patch. The Born to Roll patch is on both the crewnecks and coach jackets. They are very high quality and the look is very striking not to mention it gives off a strong feeling of 1950s America. One important thing to note about them is that they are made using chain stitching, meaning they were made by hand. Almost all modern embroidery is done by machines, so think about that. Born to Roll seems to be a call be back to the early bike clubs in America, however Ludwig encouraged fans to interpret the phrase anyway they see fit. The patch is fairly large and so it would look great on jackets and crewnecks. Born to Roll crew was given a heavy stone rinse to give each sweater a unique look. The patches on the crew come with a special label. Furthermore the crews have some subtle silkscreens, which are all indicative of Ludwig’s overall theme. The coaches are also pretty dope. They dropped in two c/ws and were constructed of nylon, with a mesh liner, plus Ludwig’s logo printed on the front. Overall the Born to Roll stuff seems to be heavily inspired by athleticism, probably because the owner practices MMA. There are also quite a few MMA fighters who rep the brand, so it may be a small shout out to them.

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2016: Beethoven & Luxury

At the beginning of 2016 Ludwig released their Spring collection. This is different from the last release as Ludwig seemed to be going back to their roots. Now while the brand has done many projects that have dabbled in reappropriating vintage materials, for a time Ludwig Van was putting emphasis on their graphics. However they began to move away from being graphically driven, though the brand was still making graphic tees, cut n sew became more significant to the brand’s overall image. One of the main goals for this release was creating graphics which better reflect the brand’s overall concepts. Of course things probably won’t stay this way, which is why this release is particularly intriguing, as Ludwig Van tends to experiments and try new things with every release. The graphic aspect of Ludwig tends to reflect the current mentality of the man behind the brand or channel his artistic nature. Ludwig dropped their second collab with Rivi Goods which also took years to make, lastly the brand appropriated some well known Luxury logos to make something thats purely fun.

First off is the Regal. Now why I said this is interesting is because the Regal is the first true Ludwig graphic that has been released in a while. Thats not to say that the other tees aren’t indicative of Ludwig’s style. Its just that the regal isn’t a simple flip or takes cues from existing pieces of art. Instead It takes the core elements of the brand and juxtaposes everything together flawlessly to create something new. Such as Beethoven, Classical design, sleek motifs, a unique sense of symmetry, and  a feeling of originality. This graphic represents everything that Ludwig Van is about, without being very predictable.

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Symphony No. 5 has the simplest design of the three tees released. The print seems to be water based and feels very smooth. Its designed as a football jersey. The back graphic is big and definitely looks like it could be a jersey. The design is of course done as a Chanel flip, however it differs greatly in what others have done to the iconic No. 5 logo. Rather than mimicking the font Ludwig enlarged the 5 while keeping “No.” fairly small. The change is significant in that 5 becomes indicative of a sports jersey, however its a bit deeper than that. The whole idea of the sports jersey is that the wearer is loudly endorsing a player. However Symphony No. 5 is twofold in that a balance of Chanel and Beethoven are being channeled. Although right off the bat the musical reference is more apparent. Furthermore the tee feels a bit looser compared to the other tees, in order to better capture the sports look/feel. Regardless its a subtly complex tee that can be worn everyday.

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This last one in particular again shows off Ludwig’s graphic design prowess. No. 5 is another tee that taps into Chanel’s signature perfume, however its much different from Symphony No.5’s execution. Unlike  Symphony No. 5, No.5 is much more colorful and plays extensively with text and is riddled with references. Aside from Chanel and Beethoven overall the print is an homage to Andy Warhol, who himself made prints based on No. 5 perfume for Chanel. Below the main text is “Deutsche Grammophon,” which is a nod to an iconic classical music label founded in 1898, the name itself translates to German Gramophone. Beyond the graphic visuals the text itself retains a lot of Chanel’s signature layout, but there are also Classical elements such as “Deutsche Grammophon” and “Ludwig Van.”

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Every tee comes packed in its own reusable bag.

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Signature Violet & Emerald stitching.

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Ludwig Van label, front.

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Ludwig Van Label, backside.

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Finally, the most standout piece from Spring 16 has to be Ludwig’s second collab with Rivi Goods. Dubbed Case Shell Pants they are constructed of 1980s US Army case shells. So to clarify case shell are basically bags or boxes you store ammo inside, which may also function as a carrying case. Considering how much material was needed to make these pants, 100 were made, the case shells were likely used to carry around artillery or perhaps heavy caliber rifles. The 80s were the height of the Cold War, both America and the USSR were ready to go to war and possibly nuke everything into oblivion. The case shells were obviously used as some pants have prints or stitches on them, which has resulted in various shades of olive drab, so no two pairs are like. The primary material of the pants seems to be canvas, while also having nylon webbing as belt loops, as well as sporting nylon reinforcements in certain areas like the first Rivi Collab. The pants were given an enzyme wash in order to make the pants soft and comfortable. Rounding out the design there is a Rivi Goods tag, and another label from Ludwig Van. While this project seemingly took forever to be released, I think it was 4 years in the making, its definitely something that Ludwig wanted to make sure was executed properly. If you’re into vintage fabrics or Americana this is an instacop.

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One last thing. Ludwig also dropped another patch. Called Libertas, its a fairly decent size, 5×5 inches. I believed they were used on some jackets a few years back. Like Born to Roll Libertas is made of a heavy wool with lots of hand stitching. The quality looks very on point, and it would probably look good as a should patch for your leather jacket…or denim jacket, or tee, etc. The price price practically makes the patch a steal.

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Prints

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So overall both Releases were done very well. 2015 feels like its mostly about Americana. While 2016 digs heavily into Classical composer Beethoven while also paying tribute to Chanel. All the tees were made of fine Jersey, and washed in order to give them a softer feel and vintage look. Its important to understand that they are not made using regular blanks, instead they seem to have been custom made by Ludwig Van, this is obvious when you see the back of the tees. Furthermore I it seems that the tees were dyed after their graphics were printed on them. As you can see that the neck tags have an image of Alex de Large, which have been dyed on every tee to match their shirt’s corresponding color, save for the off white shirts. All items were made in Los Angeles. Theres something here for everybody who wants to stand out in Streetwear. Regardless Ludwig Van has delivered another great release, hopefully we’ll see more drops soon.

*Ludwig’s VAN Instagram.

*Ludwig’s website.

*Ludwig’s store.

*Ludwig’s Twitter.

*Ludwig’s Facebook.

 

effulgence – In the name of effu, I will Punish you

Of the many newer Streetwear brands that have sprung up, its easy to forget them. There are numerous reasons for this. The most common being that a brand is too common. Post 2008 many senior brands had withered away. Although many people never question what came before the current trend or recent era of Streetwear its somewhat important to look back at them in order to better understand a particular San Francisco based brand. Today there are numerous trends throughout Streetwear, ranging from sweatpants, to particular colors, to collabs, to blank tees, to all over prints, to yearly themes, etc. Before the end of the Golden age of Streetwear things were different in that there weren’t as many trends happening at once. There was no common formula most brands would implement in order to sell their clothing. You could say the need to standout drove brands to be more creative. In many ways effulgence is a byproduct of the golden age of Streetwear, yet its also part of the newer wave of Streetwear brands that stick out like a sore thumb.

Mind you sticking out is not a bad thing. If 10 brands were lined up next to each other, they would definitely need to stick out. Pre-2008 many brands were delving into the world of underground hip hop or golden age of hip hop in order to be inspired. Many tees were dropped that implemented hip hop in a stylistic way. Not necessarily in a boisterous or corporate hip hop sense, but with an aim to be more enlightening. Abcnt, early Obey or Akomplice tended to portray hip hop in a less commercial light. At times they showed lots of expression through their designs, which tended to be more vibrant, yet still maintained a cohesive theme, usually about people resisting the lies of Big Brother or corporations.

Effulgence has been around since 2009, meaning the brand was at the tail end of Streetwear’s Golden Age.  While a system has evidently been put into place that runs the economics of Streetwear, many brands will not survive. Theres a lot of factors that can and often do kill brands. One of which being their size. The biggest brands have the most products on the market, so its easy for them to more or less decide what will and does become the norm in Streetwear. Theres also an established link that holds all the big brands together.

However effulgence is in a unique position in that they can say they are part of the original Golden Age, yet its not part of the collective that drives Streetwear today, instead effu is part of a newer wave which ultimately has its own sphere of influence. What makes up this sphere is that many of these brands have gone back to silk-screening their tees, the owners attended college, some use concepts of vaporware, they tap into Anime, they’re 90s kids, but most importantly they are very creative. The brand is solely run by effustephen.

Classy effulgence packaging .

The driving force behind effulgence is its appreciation of Hip hop. Another important aspect is the brand’s San Francisco background. Going back a few years they made an impressive tribute tee to Hieroglyphics. Though the past is the past, it still says a lot about the brand. For summer 2015 effulgence looked to music and Anime. As far as the entire drop is concerned the hip hop products are arguably the ones that stand out the most. However effu has also placed a strong hand in the Anime community as well. Overall the drop is very 90s-centric. Effu’s logotype returned in two different colorways. The tonal salmon colorway sticks out more, as you won’t see too many brands using that shade of orange, furthermore its color loosely echoes the Pokemon Magikarp. So you know if you wanna show Magikarp some love. There’s also a pink logo tee, you know because pink is manly as fuck.

Logotype tee.

Backtracking to 2014 effu made a clean looking Pokemon inspired tee, dubbed Jenny/Joy. Ultimately removing the color and some of the definition from both iconic characters. Allowing people to admire the contours of the women. For their Summer 15 drop they made a Mega Man tee. Mega Man,  has had a long history in the gaming industry. Capcom created the character in the late 1980s, his name is Rock Man in Japan. Although Mega Man didn’t reach the height of his popularity in America until the 1990s. While he is primarily a video game character his origins are also rooted in Anime. As Rock Man’s concept art is definitely Japanese, the series later had its own Anime series. Effu’s Mega Proto tee shows Mega Man clashing with his nemesis Proto Man, rendered as line art with a sense of motion, you can really feel the mood of this classic rivalry. Though the Mega Man series has arguably waned this tee is a reminder of better days.

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Mega Proto tee.

One of the instacops from this drop was their Sailor Squad tee. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, known as Sailor Moon in the US, has had a long and successful history in Japan. Its difficult to summary its legacy, but beyond the original mangas, its had numerous spinoff books, it became an Anime, had numerous seasons, there was a few movies, there was even a live action series. Then it eventually ended, however its legacy was so great that it was recently revived and after numerous delays premiered in 2014. Sailor Moon is a quintessential 90s cartoon. Most kids from that era will likely recall waking up and changing the channel on their old blocky tv. There were a lot of shows back in the day, but Sailor Moon is a classic mainly because of the dynamics of the characters. The show had lots of silliness, you couldn’t really take anyone too seriously, yet the show also had some very dark moments. Effu’s Sailor Squad tee is interesting as their execution is fairly simple, all the graphics are white, there are no other colors. The front shows a small Luna with the effu logo, while the back shows the entire Sailor Squad with the effulgence logo. You can almost compare the back design to Charlie’s Angels, the juxtaposition of the women and the logo just look that way. Other than that, the emphasis of the tee seems to be the design of the characters. There are many details that could have been missed if color were included, so its obvious effu put thought into this graphic. The pose of the women perfectly embodies the Sailor Scouts and does them justice.

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Sailor Squad tee.

Finally we have the Hip Hop inspired stuff, which is an import aspect of effu’s aesthetic. The wildest of all the tees was the Ghost Maiden tee. Its a combination/tribute of Ghostface Killah and Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie. Ed the Head sports a hockey mask, making him a “ghost,” its a nice lil flip of Maiden’s World Slavery artwork with the effu logo on the bottom. Much of Iron Maiden’s aesthetic is kept, giving it a metal feel. Though the back is different, we see a much bigger ghost maiden graphic drawn as line art. While below we see “tour dates” which are all references to Ghostface Killah. What makes this really unique is the fact its printed on inside out tees, so you won’t see anything like this from any other brand. However the piece de resistance is probably effulgence’s Makeveli Coach jacket. Effulgence wanted to utilize a do it yourself aesthetic, so effu made a bunch of patches and sewed it onto their jackets. It feels very clean and not too rough around the edges, yet still feels unique and not commercial, most of the patches are references to the 90s. Such as 2pac, Mike Tyson, Death Row Records etc. Overall the drop is very memorable, it shows that effulgence is still a brand to be recognized in  Streetwear.

Rips not included.

Maiden Ghost tee.

Makaveli coach jacket. Navy on navy violence.

*Pronounced effulgence, no capitalization.

*effulgence’s instagram, twitter, facebook.

*effulgence’s forum.

*effulgence’s website.

*effulgence’s webstore.

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.

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

Paint me Indigo

Indigo is a unique color which has come to dominate the world. Their biggest triumph being that indigo is the default color that every major denim maker uses for their selvedge jeans. As indigo’s popularity has grown over the centuries designers and artisans alike have expanded Indigo’s focus. From not just jeans, but to other clothing apparel. Such as jackets, shirts, belts, shoes, backpacks, and other such accessories. Many brands have treated Indigo as a new unexplored territory for clothing. To this end we will cover various offerings of indigo t shirts, as well as what make each brand’s own version of their indigo t-shirt unique.

Tender Co. (UK) $128

 

First off we have Tender Company’s Type 353 T-Shirt. Being a collective of artisans the brand tends to have more free form thinking in term of their designs. First off this shirt is constructed using interlocked jersey threads, providing added durability. The design of the shirt takes cues from vintage sportswear shirts, likely from the 1950s. Some standout designing is the shirt’s slightly wide neck design and flatlock seam construction. What makes the Type 353 truly unique is that Tender Co decided to hand dye their shirt with Woad instead of  using conventional Indigo dyes. Woad was the precursor to the use of Indigo blocks in Europe. The dye has to be extracted from many Woad planets, so much so that it isn’t made on a commercial level. Another aspect being that Woad typically yields a somewhat lighter shade of Indigo. Woad usually doesn’t dye evenly, which introduces another element to the garment dyed, being a more unique fade pattern. Based in England, the company fashions their clothing there with various artisans.

Merz B. Schwanen (Germany) $100

Based in Germany Merz B. Schawnen has taken it upon themselves to recreate vintage clothing from the first half of the 20th century. Many of their clothing is based on either work or basic military attire of their respective time periods.  This particular shirt, the 215, is based off a 1960s tee shirt design. What makes this shirt interesting is that it features under arm gussets, which gives the shirt the ability to better conform to your body. Furthermore the shirt is made using two threads instead of one. This makes the shirt more durable, as well as making it feeling a bit more heavy duty. The shirt was hand dyed using natural Indigo. Like Woad, natural Indigo is not produced on a commercial scale, but can nonetheless be made. Likewise the shirts will eventually develop a unique fade pattern. Indigo comes from a fern and is typically dried out then formed into a brick. Throw it into a hot vat, then you’re in business, the dying process is long. Merz makes their clothing in Germany with old school machines from the 1920s, giving their clothes a more authentic background.

Ludwig Van (LA) $36

Finally we have Ludwig Van of Los Angeles California. Their Caligula tee is made using ringspun 30-single threads, making their shirt very soft and strong. Adding another element the brand employed jersey slub instead of the run of the mill jersey cotton fabric. The weave of Caligula gives the shirt a mix of both soft with an added bit of feeling. As the shirt runs across your body it gives off a little sensation that may feel soothing. Likewise in the summer the shirts weave allows for a nice air current to give off  a sense of relaxation. A wider neck provokes a more laid back demeanor. The owner of the brand hand printed the text, adding a personal touch to the Caligula. Like the other shirts, the Caligula also went through an Indigo dying process, though the process is not stated. They possibly used a block of Indigo. Ludwig Van gave the shirt a wash in order to give their tee a vintage feel, as they often use vintage materials for their clothing. The shirt should develop a nice fade pattern, partially due to the jersey slub fabric. Many of their products have been made in LA.

So whether its through an artisan or streetwear brand, Indigo has certainly expanded its horizons. Each brand’s takes on the Indigo tee shirt, which is becoming a phenomenon, is wholly done with a particular thinking process you won’t find at your local mall. Needless to say, there are many options that people have when looking to buy an Indigo shirt. The dyes alone could be the deciding factor for a lover of Indigo, or the design of the shirt, or even the fabric that was used; that may ultimately convince a person that an Indigo tee shirt is worth buying, or even an essential garment for their own style.

*Some of these shirts may no longer be available for purchase, as these brands usually don’t re-release products

*Tender Company site.

*Merz B. Schawnen site.

*Ludwig Van site.