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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Back.

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Left sleeve.

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WWII Ghost Army patch.

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

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

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

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Right sleeve. Embroidered.

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Left sleeve, 3M.

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

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Note the HB text on the left sleeve.

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

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Lookbook.

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

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

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Momotaro plans a surprise attack.

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

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

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Special pin. “Hidden Frame of Mind”!

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

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Back, 3M vinyl.

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

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

*All s/o

*Hidden Character’s twitter

*Hidden Character’s instagram

*Hidden Character’s website

* Official Hidden Character’s forum

*Largest fan run forum

Hidden Characters – After Judgment Day

Somewhere out in America there’s a place called Purgatory. Though where its located is unknown, it is the headquarters of a very unorthodox brand. A subversive brand who’s fan base continues to expand. Their themes range from the macabre to Anime. Though they’re barely two years old they have been making waves. Their designs are far from being clean cut, yet its apparel are nonetheless methodical in execution and only people with an appreciation of graphic design could understand the method to their madness. While most brands are concerned about trying to keep up with trends, the people behind this brand are only concerned with their own vision. Every season they seem to be moving against the grain of what many bigger Streetwear brands release. It doesn’t matter if they make enemies with the sheep of Streetwear. In 2014 they ended up being one of the top three brands on the HB forums. 2015 continues to be an important year for Hidden Characters.

Judgement Day

Following one successful release after another in 2014 you would think the people behind a growing brand would rev up production and ride the wave into a typical cycle of growth. Such as upping stock, and selling more products. Yet Hidden Characters decided to slow down production instead. Nearly more than half a year into 2015, the brand released almost no products. Of course you run the risk of alienating costumers, and even from a financial standpoint the brand missed out on making money. Instead HC seemed to focus on improving the quality of their prints and their cut n sew technique.

Not too long after the New Year, two HC members headed to Hong Kong on a personal trip. Along the way they met up with an artisan leather maker named Mr. Shen. One HC member grew up next door to him. What occurred was a journey into artisan design and Hong Kong’s vast textile industry. When the dust settled Hidden Characters had created their Blood In Blood Out jacket. Featuring insane specs, the jackets took quite awhile to be made. Everyone’s jacket came personalized with their initals, a mix tape, and a comb/knife. Due to the long wait time HC gave a free tee to the people that ordered from the first run of BIBO, it also made a reference to their HB fans. To date the tee has not been made available for purchase. For the full story go here.

Blood In Blood Out jacket.

HC’s signature asymmetrical quilted sleeve.

BIBO freebies.

Mix tape by Khez.

 

For Spring 2015 the brand was planning a discreet drop. There were two elements to this. A secret quick strike that was to be uploaded onto Silkroad. HC’s Silkroad was instituted back in 2014, its a call back to the online black market, which itself is a callback to the og Silk Road of Asia. HC was giving out a link to their loyal fans for a secret concert/auction. Days before the release the quickstrike was revealed, putting fans on alert. As a result Hidden Characters was forced to produce more of their Judgment Day tees. The downside to this is that there are no custom tags. Despite this the tees sold out.

HC’s Judgment Day tees came in white and pink. The front features an embroidered H patch, while the back is a multi layered print. The patch is actually a reworking of L’s screen avatar from the Anime Death Note. Death Note delves into Japan’s Shinigami mythology. The Protagonist, Light Yagami, finds a book which can kill anyone whose name is written in it. While his intentions are initially good, he is a narcissist and is eventually corrupted by the power. His main adversary is L, who also happens to be the world’s greatest detective. The back print is a tribute to WWE’s Judgment Day matches and Kane. Judgement Day matches were special WWF matches, but were discontinued a few years back. Kane is a veteran wrestle from WWE’s 90’s era, Undertaker was typically either his wrestling partner or foe. The print is a combination of regular inks and semi gloss inks. Most of the bright reds are semi gloss ink, so they feel very smooth. Below the main print HC seems to have posted it’s membership list.

Judgement Day tee.

The interesting aspect about this release were the auction tees. One of HC’s proxy profiles had made a reference to a special event and those interested in the event were given a link.  You had to register in order to be part of the auction, and it was not widely announced. The link was for a live streaming concert, all run by HC members. The tees were mash ups of various Hidden designs. A new design was also implemented, which has yet to be given a wider release.

Online concert/auction from spring 15.

The auction/concert is important because in an increasingly interconnected world, the biggest Streetwear brands have become largely apathetic to the fans. On the flip side many people don’t care about loyalty to brands. So in many ways the internet has essentially destroyed the old relationship between fans and brands. Many of HC’s fans are located across the US and overseas, so its hard to just have one city based event. It used to be that brands would sponsor concerts in LA or NY in order to build a relationship with fans. So HC hosted their concert online, thus circumventing the problem of travel. Honestly what other brand has even thought about doing this?

Two of the auction tees. There were various versions and cws.

To Hideo: Good Bye

Hidden Character’s first seasonal release was in July. A little more than halfway into 2015. While the wait was pretty long, the fans never left. This release was interesting because it was on the eve of Hideo Kojima’s, supposedly, final Metal Gear Solid game, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. There were other themes too, such as WWE, Bone Thugs, and Pokemon. This release was noteworthy because of how HC made their tees and also because they made a gold plated Playboi Pikachu necklace. It was different from their last releases in that, they seem to be exploring other facets of American culture. Such as with gangsta rap, black metal, and video games. They went pretty subtle on their designs. Moreover it feels like they wanted to put an emphasis on improving their print quality. This is most obvious with their Solidosnake and  Bottomline tees.

WWE originally began its existence as Capitol Wrestling Corporation back in the 1950s. However CWC eventually went defunct and was replaced with World Wrestling Federation, WWF, in 1979. It would remain in this state until 2002. By the 1980s WWF became one of the biggest companies in Wrestling, it’s only true rival being WCW. By the 90s a new generation of wrestlers was leading WWF into a modern era of wrestling. One that focused on wrestler’s penchant for mayhem and their degenerate lifestyles. The biggest of these wrestlers was arguably Stone Cold Steve Austin. The man was a vicious fighter, he wasn’t graceful in his technique, but rather he just really wanted to beat his opponents to a pulp. Often times he did. Beyond this he was a heavy drinker, so it wasn’t unusual to see him with a six pack of beers. He also had a memorable hatred for HHH and D-Generation X. Another reference is Norwegian Black Metal band Darkthrone. Norwegian Black Metal essentially became a fully realized genre partially due to them, and other bands like Mayhem. What characterized these groups were their sound, dedication to satanism, their use of corpse paint, as well as a deep seated hatred for Christianity in Norway. That last one actually led people from this group to burn down churches in Norway.

Custom tags return.

HC’s Bottomline tee was released in two cws, charcoal and powder blue. The front features some nice embroidery, unlike their Judgement Day tees these are not iron on patches. 3:16 is a reference to Austin 3:16, one of Stone Cold’s signature phrases. The back mimics Darkthrone’s font, it’s very jagged and printed in white semi gloss ink. There are many finer details which could have been done through silk screening vs digital printing, just look closely at the print. HC’s take on the logo is different from the original in that, overall their font looks broader, and there are a lot more jags. The back graphic is striking because many of the jags are drawn horizontally, almost like they’re moving, so it feels aggressive. What really put this piece together was the white semi gloss ink, which isn’t too loud, and the embroidery. The references are niches, yet the materials used to make the tee gives it a more lux vibe.

Bottomline tee.

Front embroidery.

Back graphic.

The Metal Gear Solid series started back in 1987, with the release of Metal Gear. The series has been around for almost 30 years now. While there was a sequel, the next major development in the franchise was in 1998 with Metal Gear Solid. Here fans were given a much better understanding of the main character Solid Snake. Hes essentially driven the series since the beginning. Though Solid saves the world numerous times, he often never finds happiness and spends most of his life dealing with one global conflict after another. MGS3 introduced his biological father, Jack aka Big Boss, as a main character. Boss is somewhat like Solid, though initially he is a “hero” he eventually realizes that he has been manipulated by the US government and leaves the country. Soon after he decides to create his own army free from governments or ideologies. MGSV: The Phantom Pain sees Boss going on a quest for revenge and bringing the series full circle. Hideo Kojima has been the mastermind of this entire series. He had often said his next MGS game would be his last. Sadly as of 2015 Konami finally decided to end Hideo’s tenure with the MGS series.

Solidosnake is probably the most unique item in this release. There are actually 3 versions of this tee, a white tee with a black print and vice versa, though both had green accents. The 3rd version was only available to 10% of the people who bought Solidosnake. It’s essentially the same as the black tee, however there are red accents instead of green, there is also another graphic that says “1st edition.” Something to taken away from Solidosnake is the amount of effort it took to make it. By contrast the print from Bottomline probably took only 2 passes of ink to make the graphic, as its one solid color. However Solidosnake has midtones and shadows, which required various amounts of ink in certain areas. For those that bought the tee, feel around the back graphic and you’ll feel that some areas have more ink than others. This adds an extra dimension to the tees. As the blk tees use white ink, it looks like Solid is sneaking around during the day. Whereas the wht tee uses blk ink, so it looks like Solid is running around at night. The amount of layers on the print will probably be more obvious on the wht version. The small green/red accents saying “Call Hideo 2” are of course small tributes to Hideo Kojima. The front features 3M vinyl decals, the “!” is another callback to the series’ earlier days. It would pop up whenever an enemy spotted you. Even the entire print may be a reference as the shape somewhat resembles a box, which are staple items in MGS. The 1st Editions tees may be a reference to Pokemon cards. 1st edition cards are rarer, for varying reasons. The main one being that they are made in small batches.

Farewell Hideo. Green accents printed in semi gloss ink.

3M vinyl decal. It is not printed.

Print from 1st Edition version.

Other items from this drop was the Bone Thugs tribute tee Crossroads and the very sought after Rare Candy. Crossroads was pretty straightforward, it was all silkscreened and the print design was nice. The Rare Candy necklace had a hard enamel base, and was 18k  gold plated. Its obviously a tribute a Pokemon, even the name Rare Candy is hint to the Pokemon series. It’s modeled after their PP logo. It came with a chain and its own special packaging. Overall Hidden Character’s Summer 15 drop had a wide variety of themes and they hit most of their marks. The two hypest pieces were Rare Candy and Solidosnake. Bottomline was an interesting combination of different aesthetics. Crossroads was essentially for Bone Thugs fans, HC did a good job at echoing the group’s style of the era. Though of course this is essentially a warm up leading up to the brand’s autumn/winter releases.

Crossroads tee.

Rare Candy necklace.

Kitten Characters Hack

Almost every brand has its enemies. Hidden Characters has a few, one of which is apparently a strange organization dubbed Kitten Characters. Though it’s not clear who they are or what their beef is which HC. KC hacked all of HC’s accounts and proceed to re-release some of their items. Specifically the BIBO jacket and Rare Candy necklace.

Kitten Characters.

Needless to say the restocks sold out. The damaged had been done and KC got away. HC was able to regain control of their accounts. What this hack tells fans is that, yes restock are possible, but only if Hidden Character is hacked by Kitten Characters.

Hacked on 09/15/2015.

Possible Kitten Characters member.

While Hidden Characters has remained very quiet throughout 2015, they definitely have motivates for doing this. Spring 2015 was very low key, almost non existent. However HC is obviously trying to find a way to build a more meaningful relationship with their fans. What continues to sustain the brand are people’s appreciation of the brand’s unique outlook on niche cultures as well as their graphic design prowess that is inclined towards the 90s kids. Moreover their cut n sew ambitions have continued to grow. Though its unclear what type of message HC is seeking to leave on Streetwear’s  cut n sew sector. Regardless the fans are patiently staying hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Characters twitter

*Hidden Characters instagram

*Hidden Characters Tumblr

* Use Google to find Hidden Character’s forum

Hidden Characters – They Came From Below, Like Marauders

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

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

The Day the Music Died

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Purgatory with Love

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

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

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

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

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

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