Contrary to popular belief, NFTs aren’t just expensive JPEGs. Have you seen The Matrix? You know how Neo enters a virtual world of exploding subway stations and serene martial arts dojos, but behind the façade is a green scaffolding of 1’s and 0s? NFTs are kinda like that. The digital asset – whether it’s a colorful photograph, a piece of writing, or a virtual parcel of land in a video game – is fastened to a boring string of letters and numbers. That code, that data – that token minted on a universal contract called the blockchain – is the NFT.
[I’m gonna skip ahead a few steps here and assume your head is partially wrapped around the concept of NFTs. If not, you can read my essay from February on The Next Internet.]
Although NFTs have been around for years, it wasn’t until 2021 that they became topical. There are countless theories as to why this is happening and I’m fascinated by the social psychology around this movement. Sometimes, I think NFTs and the metaverse are filling the cultural void that the Trump presidency left behind. Twitter is evidence of that. This time last year, the social app was a deluge of the former President’s tweets and the polarized reactions around them. Today, Twitter is an NFT workshop, where crypto whales, budding artists, and tech bros are working on the puzzle together. I used to wonder how much productivity was lost because of the distractions of disinformation and the ensuing chaos. Witnessing rapid NFT innovation over mere months and how disruptive the technology has been to institutions and industries, I cringe at how far we were set behind by trash news.
There’s a larger essay here for another day, but I also think there’s a religious fervor around NFTs that is not unlike cult behavior. The world feels unstable and unpredictable and humans are searching for solid ground. There is a pursuit of singular Truth amidst distrust in the media and the state, the mystery of social algorithms, and even in the sense that your own friends have become brands, marketing deceit. In the metaverse – the spiritual realm – the blockchain would perhaps be represented as the Truth – the God figure. Twenty years ago, the rebuttal to God was, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Today, nobody actually sees the physical money they own, whether fiat in a bank or crypto on Coinbase. The pandemic awakened us to the fact that much of our relationships and understanding of the world is virtual. I mean, we’ve all spent the last year and a half fighting a war against a wraithlike virus. NFTs made it very easy to assign value to invisible things.
People collect NFTs for various reasons because NFTs exist for various reasons.
At the start of the year, 1-of-1 original art was very popular with NFT collectors. This makes sense. Part of the artist’s role has always been to make complicated ideas digestible for the layman to understand. They take abstract notions of the world and distill them down to beautiful visuals. Artists see movements before they happen (This is also why they’re adept at gentrifying neighborhoods!). NFT artists helped to onboard large swaths of art collectors – from blue-chip auction buyers to casual shoppers looking to support the independent scene.
The most famous NFT artist in this genre is Beeple, but other talent quickly rose to the top of the leaderboard. Names like ThankYouX, Fewocious, Pak, and FVCKRENDER. Emerging artists like Sean Williams, Nicole Ruggiero, Latasha and Sophie Sturdevant. Photographers like Dave Krugman, Jeff Nicholas, and J.N. Silva. And the new NFT venues like Super Rare, Foundation, and Zora were there to act as galleries of sorts.
Currently, much of the NFT froth has shifted to collectibles (also known as avatar or PFP projects) and subsequently, secondary, re-sale marketplaces like OpenSea. CryptoPunks by LarvaLabs were not only the first NFTs in 2017, but the first collectibles. The creators uploaded 10,000 unique combinations of 8-bit-style punk rock faces. These are tiny, pixelated characters that carry traits like purple hats or red noses. LarvaLabs doled these images of Punks out for free while retaining a percentage of future sales. For the first few years, nobody cared much and traded them like sports cards. And then the point tipped with NFTs. Millions of people around the world are now trying to claim one of these 10,000 punks. Trying to get into the hottest nightclub in town. This is classic supply-and-demand, like any limited-edition release of a sneaker, toaster oven, or house in a neighborhood with a good school. As of this essay, the cheapest CryptoPunk for sale (of all 10,000) is $369,901 USD. The most expensive CryptoPunk sold in March for $ $7.58M.
At the beginning of the summer, as the hype around the 1-of-1 NFT art market cooled down alongside crypto, inciting much of “NFTs are dead” talk online, a collectibles project called Bored Ape Yacht Club released to the metaverse. There have been a bajillion collectible sets derived from the Punks – every adjective-animal you can imagine. 10,000, computer generated cats, koalas, geckos, even poops (A recent favorite of mine is called 0n1 Force – anime styled profiles). But, BAYC did a great job with the art, storytelling, community, and especially their roadmap. Their NFTs of bored apes blew out at launch for a few hundred bucks each. Today, the cheapest Ape on the secondary market could garner $166k. The most expensive Ape for sale just flipped for $1,681,370.74. In a matter of months, much of the Apes community has experienced transformative wealth (This past weekend, BAYC dropped Mutant Apes, making $90M in an hour).
The reason why NFT collectibles are called avatar projects is because the people who buy them like to feature their unique NFT as their profile picture. As much as the current NFT trend is spurred by flipping and making a quick buck, there is also a tribal aspect to this that is lightly reminiscent of political and social affiliations from the past several years. This time, however, the tribes are gathering and bonding in Discord servers, with the undercurrent of the conversation churning around their NFTs’ market value. You may recall something like this during the stonks uprising that played out simultaneously with the storming of the Capitol in January. While insurrectionists were waving American flags and Don’t Tread on Me snakes, stonks millionaires were doing their best to claim GameStop and AMC as their online clans. You can see why, through NFTs, it’s a lot easier to rally behind an icon of a of a pizza-eating monkey or a trippy duck over a corporate mall chain logo. In fact, NFTs are essentially fun stocks that you can see, trade, and identify with.
There are also people like me who collect NFTs because we are big believers in the metaverse. I won’t repeat points made in my last essay, but if our realities are going increasingly digital, then it makes sense to have ownership of more digital goods. These assets not only make our life’s experiences better, but buying them also supports emerging artists and brands in ways that weren’t possible before due to gatekeepers, lopsided systems, and lack of access.
Last week, we deployed 25,000 NFTs called Adam Bomb Squad. Adam Bomb Squad (ABS) consists of combinations of different Adam, Badam, and Madam Bombs and backgrounds of custom patterns we’ve designed over 18 years. First and foremost, the NFTs act as membership cards to the most exclusive wing of The Hundreds. Perks include early access to popular clothing releases and special drops just for ABS holders. There will be events – both virtual and physical – for the Squad. Our future roadmap points to finding new ways to change the relationship between brands and consumers, where – through the utility of NFTs – the clothing wearers in the physical world can share in the upside of the brand’s success.
Secondarily, ABS is a history lesson in the brand. We have almost two decades of stories to share, of thoughtfulness and talent invested into these works of art. Therefore, we are offering something different with our collectibles. The artwork depicted in each ABS NFT was not rendered by a computer. This is not a generative project where the same character is layered with Mr. Potato Head decorations. Illustrations were hand-drawn, watercolors were painted, patterns were assembled by human designers making unique bombs. Furthermore, all 25,000 NFTs were curated and considered by both Ben and I (Founders of The Hundreds) as well as our core team. This being our first NFT project of this magnitude, we wanted our fingerprint on these and I hope that translates in the overall feel of the project.
Most NFT collectibles like ABS automatically end up on OpenSea (an eBay or Craigslist for NFTs), whether you list it for re-sale or not. If you own one, you may notice that you’re getting buyers bidding on your bombs already. Currently, the floor (meaning the cheapest one for sale) is about 4 or 5 times the original price that we set the bomb for. So, quick flippers can unload their ABS NFTs to catch a nice profit. The majority of our holders, however, are sitting tight. After buying them blind and waiting for them to hatch, everyone is anticipating the “reveal” of their bombs to see which ones they got and more importantly, how rare they are.
Resale has always powered collectibles markets. When I was a kid, I read Beckett magazine, a pricing guide for baseball cards. These rookie and error cards rose up and down the pages like stocks, depending on how few were out there in the marketplace. When I got into sneakers and streetwear as a teenager, the same framework applied. There were only so many vintage Jordans and Dunks on store shelves – especially before Nike started retro’ing them – and as more enthusiasts piled into the culture, the prices rose. The brands eventually capitalized on these dynamics and categorized product as “limited edition,” leaning into the rarity level of a piece. NFT collectibles follow the same train of thought. What makes certain NFTs more expensive than others is how “special” they are according to the attributes. Those CryptoPunks wearing purple hats I mentioned earlier? There aren’t as many of them, so they re-sell for about $100,000 more than an average Punk.
Adam Bomb Squad is also loaded with rarities and scored by infrequent attributes. This was by design, but also inherent in the artwork. Again, ABS is a history lesson. The Hundreds and our generation of streetwear mastered the game of limited distribution and Veblen goods, marrying the mindset of luxury with street collectibles. Therefore, rarities are relatively affixed to how prevalent the bombs and backgrounds were over the brand’s timeline. There’ve been seasons where The Hundreds was confined to tighter sales channels and those bombs will respond accordingly. There was a time before functional e-commerce, before DTC opened up the brand to a wider audience. There have also been years as of recent where we clamped down harder on Adam Bomb iterations as the brand took a different creative direction. Plus, there are so many brand guidelines that any time that Adam, Madam, or Badam broke a rule in the past, it’s come back to haunt us in the NFTs as a scarce trait. For example, the bombs are always meant to face to the right. So, imagine what happens if you get Adam turned the wrong way?
When NFTs reveal, it’s a big day because not only do you get to see which designs you bought, but how rare your NFT is according to the metadata listing the traits. The secondary marketplaces like OpenSea immediately publish the characteristics alongside your NFT and sites like Rarity Tools calibrate how special your purchase is. Immediately, the trades, the dumps, and the wins begin as buyers come in to scoop NFTs with higher point value, sellers cash out, and investors hold for the long run.
We aren’t going to do that.
Yes, upon reveal, you’ll get what you paid for: your Adam Bomb Squad NFT. This is your membership card, but highest of all, it’s a piece of art. We want you to appreciate the drawing and gauge how you feel about the combination you received. For just a brief window of time, we want to encourage the community to mind the creative part of all of this. This is bound to annoy some flippers and opportunists who are here to turn and burn NFTs. And it also foils some of the savvier buyers who take advantage of less sophisticated participants, prying a valuable bomb from their hands without proper understanding of the game. If nobody knows how rare their bomb is according to an algorithm, they’ll either a) hold tight and wait, b) sell them off out of frustration, or c) buy and sell according to which ABS bombs speak to them. We’re praying for more of the latter, especially as this project has onboarded so many new collectors into crypto. For much of our camp, this is their first NFT and we want to continue educating and protecting them. Plus, our community is attracted to certain bombs because of personal memories. I guarantee you there’ll be someone out there collecting Watermelon Adams, whether they’re rated floor or ceiling.
In a few days, we will post everyone’s metadata. I’ve written exhaustive stories for every bomb and every background that we’ve been leaking in our Discord. There are attributes specified from artistic styles down to whether Adam’s spark is lit. And if you follow our Discord, you already know the Black Adam is the rarest of them all, tracing back to our legendary Black Adam T-shirt, the most exclusive physical item from The Hundreds. We are all about re-selling NFTs and the investment side of all of this. That is part of the thrill and theater. We just don’t want people to forsake the cultural and artistic facets of the movement and this is our celebration of what’s most meaningful.
If you couldn’t already tell, we are in this for the long haul (and by “we,” I don’t mean The Hundreds, but our community). I’m excited for short-term wins and if people make gains off this in the near future, more power to them. Branding, however, is about pairing that love with longevity. I call it, “Passion and Patience.” I literally wrote the book on building brands around community. We are now taking all those principles, all those hard-won lessons, and applying them to Adam Bomb Squad. At the end of the day, everybody wants something limited, but if you hold an ABS NFT, you’re only 1 in 6,500+ unique members to this clubhouse (as of this writing). There are 8 billion people in the world and in the next month, in the next year, and in the next decade, we believe hundreds of millions of new people will come knocking on that door.
Meanwhile, you’re here with us, already inside the green 1s and 0s. Let’s party.
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions that I recall
I really don’t know love
Really don’t know love at all
– Joni Mitchell
If you’ve watched the Woodstock ’99 doc, you know it’s less an analysis of music festivals as it is about displaced male rage and the anxious social climate as we teetered on the new millennium. 1999 was an awkward time for the world; it very much felt like we were neither here nor there, nervous about what Y2K might bring (or take). Or maybe that was just me, as I turned 19 in the year 1999. Not quite ready for the responsibilities of my 20s yet feeling distant and removed from my youth.
That same year, a movie called The Matrix premiered in theaters, architecting a cyberpunk universe around virtual reality and a classical hero named Neo. Keanu Reeves plays an average dude who jacks into the simulation and is reborn a Christ figure. Once he acknowledges his departure from the physical world and embraces his standing in the green grid of 1s and 0s, the possibilities are limitless. At the time, with the dawn of the Internet, many young people shared Neo’s enthusiasm and ambition around this brave new world. We were graduating from AOL chatrooms and finding each other on ICQ. And then, a website called Blogger launched in the late summer of ‘99 and changed everything. Once again, maybe the entire planet didn’t feel the ground shake, but I certainly did.
“Blog” was short for “web log” and it was a means to broadcast loud messages and connect with a borderless audience. Blogger addressed a lot of the problems that plagued traditional media. For one, it was relatively free and decentralized (not governed by the Big 6 media strongholds). Blogging was also efficient, immediate, and lowered the barrier of entry for desktop publishers. After years of cutting, gluing, and pasting physical ‘zines at Kinko’s to distribute to 100 punks at my local music venue, I could now blog to thousands, and then millions, of strangers from Detroit to Indonesia. In fact, I saw so much inherent value and opportunity in Blogging, that when Ben and I started The Hundreds four years later, we framed our clothing brand with the technology. Throughout history, fashion had been storytold exclusively through product and advertising. Blogging (and its later iteration, social media) changed that, erasing the line between logos and lifestyle, design and narrative.
We were one of the first clothing companies in the world to capitalize on the power of a dynamic web. In the early 2000s, a startup T-shirt label from LA called thehundreds.com was attracting as many eyeballs as a Gucci HTML page. Most fashion designers used their websites to publicize a CONTACT US button or static lookbook. They rarely updated their dotcoms. Meanwhile, you could refresh The Hundreds’ front page 2-3 a day and be surprised with fresh material. The hyperactivity of our blog communicated streetwear’s galvanic energy to an impressionable new customer. This first generation of the Internet (Web 1) also granted independent brands the freedom and power to circumnavigate gatekeepers and media middlemen. In those days, it cost $10,000 USD to take out an ad in Complex Magazine. Through Blogs, upstart designers like The Hundreds without any connections, clout, or money could now tell their story in their own words and meet customers on their own terms*.
*I should clarify that the technology wasn’t the key component that brought The Hundreds to the world. For the Blog to work, it required a writer and a photographer and most importantly, someone who saw the benefits of tending to a community and cared enough to do it. Most technology can’t replace the creator’s ideas or intent. However, technology can accelerate an artist’s vision.
For the next ten years, Blogging and social media amplified and expedited our mission in streetwear. Then the rest of the brands caught up, thanks to centralized Web 2 applications like WordPress and Instagram. In the decade and a half since, this marriage of Blog and Brand has become Business and revolutionized how companies and commerce perform. Yet, there has been relatively low innovation otherwise with regards to both fashion and technology. On the tech side, the platforms swap out and e-commerce gets more sophisticated, but we’ve become complacent with the system and stagnant with the breakthroughs. We’ve acquiesced that this is the Internet in its final form when the truth is that Web 3 is just beginning. The next evolution of the Internet – NFTs, blockchain – is inspiring and stimulating me in a way I haven’t felt since Blogger launched twenty years ago. And a lot of that excitement has to do with, once again, a revised approach to fashion.
Although the concept has been floating around for some time, the science fiction writer Neal Stephenson coined the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 novel, Snow Crash.
“Hiro’s not actually here at all. He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse.”
Ever since, futurists and blockbuster movies alike have referenced the term for a reality that is tethered to both a digital and physical experience. In The Matrix, Neo is immersed in a fantasy world of red dresses and bending spoons while physically wired into a post-apocalyptic dentist’s chair. The metaverse is different from solely virtual reality and it’s not necessarily a game or an Internet thing. It’s this idea that there is a universe beyond (aka “meta”) the one we’ve known and participated in. In this metaverse, rules are being written, societies are being built, and new realities constructed.
“When Hiro goes into the Metaverse and looks down the Street and sees buildings and electric signs stretching off into the darkness, disappearing over the curve of the globe, he is actually staring at the graphic representations—the user interfaces—of a myriad different pieces of software that have been engineered by major corporations.”
The working theory is that we will build atop the tech to mirror our lives here in the physical world. There will be no hard line drawn between this reality and the next. One day it will hit us that we have already been living a full metaverse existence, one where our physical and digital lives are inextricable and unmanageable without the other.
For many of us, that awakening was the pandemic. It wasn’t just food delivery apps and streaming services that made the lockdown transition more seamless than it would have been mere years ago. While Zooms handily replaced meetings, our social relationships stayed intact because our friendships are hoisted up by digital rebar. There are many friends I haven’t seen in five months, ten years, or decades that I maintain an unbroken rapport with virtually. Some of these people, I’ve never met in person at all! And yet, we’ve shared deep conversations in forums, worked together over DMs, and built memories in groupchats like any other IRL relationship. It wasn’t long ago that we defined friends as online or “In Real Life.” Today, that distinction is evaporating.*
*Spike Jonze’s 2013 movie “Her,” in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character builds a romantic connection with an AI that he’ll never encounter in his physical life, doesn’t seem so outlandish in the year 2021.
Not only is our social life already grounded in the metaverse, so is much of our identity. Last year, we used filters to alter our appearances, posted black squares and blue stripes to declare our political stances, and farmed carrots in Animal Crossing to feel productive and purposeful in a flat and motionless season (all while binging Tiger King, prostrate on the couch in tie-dyed sweatpants by a DTC brand). In the metaverse, we can be whomever we want, unfettered by physical constraints, geography, even race, class, and gender. Video games allow unlikely athletes to be e-sports champions. Editing apps bless those with beauty. In Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, Aech’s avatar in the OASIS is a white heterosexual male. In the physical world, Aech’s name is Helen Harris, a Black lesbian. As the world around us decays and grows more inhospitable – whether due to climate change, pandemics, political differences, or social collapse, the metaverse becomes more enticing as a refuge*.
*The thought leader Balaji Srinivasan talks about pseudonymity in the metaverse (the ability to commandeer multiple identities and profiles) as a foil to cancel culture. Whereby cancelling one of your pseudonyms doesn’t take down your entirety. You can simply pivot to another avatar and continue your life and livelihood.
If you can accept that we’re already steeped in the metaverse, that our bodies remain in the physical world while our brains are increasingly minding a digital life (are you having trouble concentrating on your dinner date, anxious to return to a developing conversation or situation on your phone?), then it only follows that there needs to be some type of protocol to establish ownership, goods, and property in cyberspace. The apt currency to trade in this galaxy of virtual worlds are crypto coins like Bitcoin, Cardano, and Doge. My sons call Ethereum my Star Wars money and it certainly sounds like something Watto barters for on Mos Espa. Planet Earth has been slow and cautious in accepting Jedi cash, so in the metaverse, NFTs are commodities and utilities to spend cryptocurrency and accrue value with digital investments. Even my grade-school sons appreciate how a fist full of Robux (Roblox) or V-Bucks (Fortnite) enhances their life over a $20 USD bill at Target.
Speaking of which, we should probably start by discussing why humans need to own anything at all. At some point, we went from cavemen with no possessions, to hunter-gatherers, to hoarders stashing sneakers and rare vinyl. We own some things for utility and survival. Then there are those items that are imbued with sentiment and fill an emotional need. We also own things to decorate our lives, to make our environment more tolerable or beautiful. And we hold onto much of our possessions because they express who we are. In his book Subculture*, Dick Hebdige talks about how punks upset the wardrobe with anti-establishment symbols** to fight the hegemony.
* If there was a bible upon which The Hundreds is spiritualized upon, it’s probably Subculture by Dick Hebdige. Although written in 1979, I didn’t discover the book until – you guessed it – 1999!
** “There was a chaos of quiffs and leather jackets, brothel creepers and winkle pickers, plimsolls and paka macs, moddy crops and skinhead strides, drainpipes and vivid socks, bum freezers and bovver boots – all kept ‘in place’ and ‘out of time’ by the spectacular adhesives: the safety pins and plastic clothes pegs, the bondage straps and bits of string which attracted so much horrified and fascinated attention.”
It’s hard to judge which pieces of property are essential. How do you weigh the necessity of an heirloom against an appliance? But you can debate their costs and detriments, especially when it comes to the environment.
Look around. Chances are that you have too much stuff. I’ve spent the last two weekends editing my closet of clutter and feel like I’ve barely made a dent. It’s a problem that weighs on my mind, considering the type of work that I do. I run a streetwear clothing brand here in Los Angeles. We’ve generated truckloads of T-shirts, denim, baseball caps, and jackets. And although we’re doing what we can to re-purpose apparel via a vintage program (Greatest Hits), incorporate recycled water and cottons in production, and employ sustainable materials, there is no doubt that we contribute to gratuitous waste. The sustainability question is a real thorn for the fashion industry because if you only look at the utility aspect of apparel – to protect us from the elements and insulate us from exposure – then we have enough clothing to last us a lifetime. No matter how environmentally conscious brands are with their manufacturing, the very existence of new fashion is problematic in an unforgiving, black-and-white world.
“Many are making it look as if the fashion industry are starting to take responsibility, by spending fantasy amounts on campaigns where they portray themselves as ‘sustainable,’ ‘ethical,’ ‘green,’ ‘climate neutral’ and ‘fair.’ But let’s be clear: This is almost never anything but pure green washing. You cannot mass produce fashion or consume ‘sustainably’ as the world is shaped today. That is one of the many reasons why we will need a system change.”
– Greta Thunberg, climate activist, Vogue Scandinavia, August 8, 2021
The type of clothing I design and make is especially prickly because it’s artistically, socially, and identity driven. I believe in the virtues of Art and Design and how fashion can make people feel happy, special, and part of a community. But, is there a way to accomplish these functions without taxing the environment and exacerbating the climate crisis?
This is an awkward re-entry point for the metaverse conversation as the computers that house simulated environments and mine cryptocurrency transactions devour energy at an alarming rate. Although bitcoin mining is starting to clean up its act and Ethereum is transitioning the blockchain to a proof-of-stake system, even Elon Musk rescinded his crypto co-sign earlier this year because of its environmental impact. Bitcoin’s network, according to Fortune, “uses more power per year than Pakistan or the United Arab Emirates.” Of course, there is the rebuttal that any and all computer activity harms the planet. “The average impact of a user on Instagram is 18.6 gEqCO2 / day, the equivalent of 166 meters traveled by a light vehicle.” And back to fashion, making one T-shirt eats “up to 120 liters of water per wear, and contributes 0.01 kilogram of carbon dioxide per wear, just from dyeing alone.” This, before you factor in the energy costs to print, the chemicals in the ink, and shipping and freighting these T-shirts between factories and to the end-consumer. Oh, and then there’s what happens to the T-shirt once it dies….
Since we’re ruminating on a fantasy world, let’s indulge a bit and imagine a future where crypto carries through with its promise to run cleaner. The metaverse could solve many of fashion’s environmental issues and maybe it already does. Consider the blue Verified check, a badge of distinction. The real-world equivalent might be something akin to a friends-and-family pair of AF1s, a Rolex watch, or a medal of honor. In 1974, Umberto Eco wrote, “not only the expressly intended communicative object . . . but every object may be viewed . . . as a sign.” Donning a graphical logo in your profile picture is not unlike hanging it on your back. They are both acts of affinity, announcing your association with a lifestyle to your friend group. Except one of these things projects and the other pollutes.
A “GOT ‘EM” screen-grab off Nike’s SNKRS app holds as much weight as wearing the sought-after shoes to a party. Most of us who are fashion-aware could tell you all about Kanye’s GAP “round jacket,” the levitating puffy coat having flooded our feed enough times to commit to memory. Yet, we’ve never seen one in “real life,” considering the actual jackets aren’t even made yet. Meanwhile, the coveted pieces are just as ubiquitous as illuminated pixels as they would be stretched across reams of nylon. Billboard-sized projections of the jacket are currently blasted onto the sides of buildings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
In a more direct and literal sense, brands are already designing clothing for the metaverse. The social status aspect of fashion is on the move from cotton to pixels. Video games have been doing this for years. My children are well-practiced in shopping for digital outfits in games like Fortnite, more conscious of their Valorant skins than the types of T-shirts they wear on the playground. Shops like BNV.me, artists like Stephy Fung, and sneaker brands like RTFKT are creating and selling metaverse fashion that run parallel to what you might find stocked at Dover Street Market. Virgil Abloh recently hinted that he is working on dressing you for the next world with the help of venture capitalist and essayist Matthew Ball. It’s only a matter of months before the social apps flip the switch on for NFTs. Just like you can pull a Disney princess filter over your face in Stories or Snapchat, you’ll be able to wear your favorite digital sweatshirt on TikTok. There will be an IG tab to showcase all the NFT art you’ve collected with the capabilities to trade them on the blockchain (NFT art can stand for everything from a motion graphic to a scan of an oil painting to a pair of Bode shorts).
THE FUTURE OF FASHION
Having said that, on the topic of metaverse clothing, what excites me the most is not the mirroring of physical garments in the virtual world. It’s thinking beyond the confines and constructs of logistics and tradition and norms. This is where I envision NFTs and the metaverse really changing the game. There are two prongs that will drive the future of fashion:
1) the reimagining of design and
2) the rethinking of brand and business
For as long as I can remember, I’ve kept a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus on my desk. Published in 1981, the Codex is a meticulously detailed encyclopedia of a fantasy world, illustrated and told by the artist Luigi Serafini. Included are colorful drawings of bizarre food eaten in this imaginary space, wedged between chapters of made-up ecosystems and fabricated science. Even the text is comprised of a fake language that Serafini distills down to an alphabet and vocabulary in the appendix. While the creatures and customs are reminiscent of our world, Serafini designs the plants and chemistry beyond the scope of our earthly limitations. In the fashion chapter, the garments could dress the cast of the Hunger Games or Alice in Wonderland. Flashlights project out from the chest, umbrellas are worn as hats, and shirt sleeves loop infinitely into themselves.
While fashion has been pinched and pulled for centuries, the useful innovation has stayed within the parameters of human anatomy, legal and ethical boundaries, and the laws of physics. In the metaverse, our avatars don’t have to play by any of these rules (Note: In Snow Crash, Stephenson stipulates that, “your avatar can’t be any taller than you are. This is to prevent people from walking around a mile high”). Not only can we identify with the gender and weight we feel most comfortable with, but we can also be cartoon trees, bored apes, or a foggy orb wrapped in bacon. If one of our pseudonyms is a purple duck, then physical-world shoe design won’t accommodate our webbed feet. A COVID face mask won’t fit our wide bill. And do pants go over or under our feathery tail? This sounds silly, but you can see how traditional fashion can quickly fall obsolete when the template for design centers around a slender, proportionate European male or female with two arms and legs. If you add a seventh arm or a second head, how does that impact the garment’s silhouette, where to draw emphasis, and the way the fabric drapes? Do you need to wear shoes or belts in the metaverse if gravity doesn’t apply? Do you need clothes at all if there are different thresholds of nudity? What if you aren’t a corporeal being?
Because exposure and weather are less of a dire concern for clothing in the metaverse, there is an accent on the social function of apparel and accessories. On the other side of the screen, fashion will be more about identity, tribalism, status, and self-expression than ever before. The difference is that those statements won’t be relegated to a T-shirt graphic, a red hat, or a pin on a lapel. Like a Plumbob in a Sims game, that signifier may come in an oscillating pink diamond hanging over your head. Fashion doesn’t have to just be dresses and jackets anymore. Fashion can be polka-dotted skin, 37 rabbits circling you like a hula hoop, or a liquid sweater that’s 11 miles wide.
THE FUTURE OF BUSINESS
While we’re rethinking fashion design, we should also take another look at the business behind it. As I write this, I’m wearing a pair of Brazil Dunks. The Nike swoosh is one of the rare logos I wear like a uniform, even though I am not friends with the founders or get paid by the company to promote for them. I believe that Nike executes superior design and aligns the best partnerships. Yet, my unquestioned loyalty to the swoosh sometimes makes me think back to wearing large skate logos on oversized T-shirts as a teenager.
“You look like a walking billboard,” my mom would remark. “Why do you want to advertise for some corporation that doesn’t care about you?”
Of course, the answer was nothing more than, “Because it’s cool, mom. You’ll never understand!” But the further explanation was that I felt like I was a part of a lifestyle and subculture by wearing that logo. A “Think” tag or “New Deal” graphic was a quick ID on a core, authentic skater. With my brand, The Hundreds, we’ve also sold a similar meaning behind our logo and mascot, Adam Bomb. Young people from around the world have proudly sported the cartoon to exhibit their ties to streetwear, love for Los Angeles culture, or empathy with The Hundreds’ point-of-view.
Beyond the usefulness or quality of a product, people commit to brand names because of 3 things:
3) Sense of Ownership.
Yet, while wearing Nike tells the world something about my identity, while dressing in The Hundreds offers our customers a community, neither of us retain any skin in the game. That disparity in ownership betrays a big disconnect in the brand-consumer relationship, one that until now has been dismissed because there was nothing to be done to fix it.
When I started delving into NFTs back in December, what most intrigued me was the postulate that social media companies have made 100% of the revenue off the creative content that its users publish on their platforms. This explains why these corporations have become the biggest — and their founders the wealthiest — in the world. Twitter generated $3.7 billion USD revenue in 2020, an 8.8% increase year over year. Meanwhile, Facebook’s advertising revenue was $84.2 Billion USD (they’ve more than doubled since 2017). Everyday creators know their work has value. They’ve just been convinced over the last decade that there isn’t a market for their art or ideas and that the clout associated with posting free content is just as valuable as currency.*
*Plus, there just weren’t many viable solutions on centralized platforms to be compensated for content (subscription sites like OnlyFans have experienced rapid growth in response).
Designers and clothing companies also hold a disproportionate relationship with their patrons in that the customers advertise brands without being compensated equitably. Travis Scott catches a check from Nike because the culture deems him an influential person. But, every time I wear the Check over Stripes, I’m a Nike influencer too. In fact, anyone who has a following – whether you have 600 people on TikTok or 3 people who admire your shoes at the barbershop – is an influencer. Nike shouldn’t pay us equal royalties for helping them move product (Travis sells millions of sneakers while I’ve maybe convinced my dad to grab a pair of Monarchs on sale), but if there was a device that could measure an influencer’s impact and grant them some of the upside in a brand’s success, then everybody wins. The consumer is incentivized to wear the company’s product because they now hold all 3 cards: Identity, Community, and Ownership. And the brand gains greater visibility in the marketplace.
ADAM BOMB SQUAD
Along with Blogger and the Matrix, there was one other seismic development in 1999: Napster. The peer-to-peer MP3 sharing software broke the music industry, which up until that point, bottled music in $12.99 plastic discs, distributed from behind a monolith of big box retail. Once the floodgates torrented open, the fans reclaimed the power in the label-listener balance. They dictated how music should be consumed: quality singles, instead of paying for 11 shitty tracks. Music became more discoverable and shareable. Napster’s greatest legacy, however, was in taking music online.
Whenever friends of mine have trouble grasping the intangible nature of NFTs, I point to music. As a borderline boomer, I still have trouble discarding my CD wallets and cartons of cassettes, even though there’s no stereo in my car or boombox at home to play them. I’m still emotionally bound to these jewel cases and liner notes, but it’s time that I accept that music has been invisible for twenty years. We don’t even store files anymore, we stream sounds off a cloud, whatever that means. Napster was instrumental in this paradigm shift – in how the business around music is conducted, but also in how music is received and enjoyed.
In the next few weeks, The Hundreds will be unleashing an NFT project titled Adam Bomb Squad, comprised of unique, 1-of-1 jpegs of characters. The bombs will only be available for a short window of time before what doesn’t sell “blows up.” There have been hundreds, if not thousands of NFT collections minted recently, inspired by the very first NFT, Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks. Some of the more popular “avatar” collectibles would be the Bored Ape Yacht Club, ArtBlocks, Cool Cats, Glue Factory Horses, and the Vogu Collective. Adam Bomb Squad shares a lot of the same principles as the other sets. Think of these NFTs as sports cards or sneakers with built-in rarities (a specific colorway, a special background) and the ability to buy, sell, and trade the bombs on the secondary market.
However, our project is different from the rest on multiple levels. First, it tells the 18-year-old story of The Hundreds. While every other NFT collectible is setting up a new universe, ours recalls a deeply ingrained history that has intersected with our community throughout their lives. Every single bomb and background pattern is pulled from a season between the years 2003 and 2021, corresponding with milestones and memories that our customers have cherished along the way.
As is customary, we will be anointing NFT holders with perks like exclusive merchandise and early links to drops. Our dreams are outrunning the infrastructure, but a major unlock with these NFTs will be in resolving that outstanding Ownership piece in promoting a brand. We are working on technology to allow Adam Bomb Squad NFT holders to 1) buy The Hundreds clothing featuring their bomb, and 2) be rewarded for the sales on the clothing to others. We want The Hundreds to win, but there’s no reason why our community shouldn’t also partake in the upside.
The first stage of Adam Bomb Squad begins as a digital mirroring of streetwear. Our community will pick up these JPEGs the way they would collect T-shirts. They’ll wear them as their avatars. They’ll deep-dive into the rarities and stories. The long-term goal, however, is that Adam Bomb Squad will institute a new way of conducting and consuming brands – streetwear, fashion, and beyond.
Like Napster changed how we engage with music, our mission is to onboard new users to the blockchain and NFTs and equip them for a future in the simulation. We’ve introduced many to streetwear over the generations (supported by Blog technology) and now we want to be the first to walk them into the metaverse (with the aid of NFTs). It’s not uncommon for fans to approach me in public and profess how they grew up reading thehundreds.com or discovered sneakers and Supreme because of The Hundreds. Years from now, I look forward to hearing, “You were the first NFT I owned” or even better, “You opened my eyes to the metaverse.”
In Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s metaverse is called The Street: “a grand boulevard going all the way around the equator of a black sphere with a radius… considerably bigger than Earth.” The author later clarifies, “the Street does not really exist—it’s just a computer-graphics protocol written down on a piece of paper somewhere—none of these things is being physically built.”
The world I come from, Streetwear, also traces its origins to a hypothetical street. Although we dawdled around the Lower East Side and lined up on Harajuku, even though we hang our hat(s) on the Rosewood corner of LA’s Fairfax District, the “street” in “streetwear” is code for the cultures and subcultures that fostered us. The “street” can take the form of a BMX track, a sunset wave, or a sneakerhead message board.
Before COVID took hold, there was a lot of discourse around the state of streetwear in end-of-decade editorial. The 2010s had witnessed an underground fashion movement seize the mainstream spotlight. Streetwear was Everywear: on everyone and everywhere. Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh predicted in a Dazed interview that the party wouldn’t last: “Its time will be up. In my mind, how many more t-shirts can we own, how many more hoodies, how many sneakers?”
I kinda love the narrative that the first NFTs were Larva Labs’ CryptoPunks because the original UK punks circa 1979 also challenged and reshaped fashion’s definition. Eventually, punk style became too popular and played out, just like streetwear’s overexposure. If Hebdige were to concur with Virgil and re-write Subculture today, he’d suggest that it’s time to offer streetwear new meaning.
“Thus, as soon as the original innovations which signify ‘subculture’ are translated into commodities and made generally available, they become ‘frozen’. Once removed from their private contexts by the small entrepreneurs and big fashion interests who produce them on a mass scale, they become codified, made comprehensible, rendered at once public property and profitable merchandise.
Youth cultural styles may begin by issuing symbolic challenges, but they must inevitably end by establishing new sets of conventions; by creating new commodities, new industries or rejuvenating old ones.”
Greta Thunberg did call for a system change…
A couple weeks before Virgil’s quote in Dazed, I also proclaimed that streetwear was dead, but in the sense that it’s constantly culminating and renewing: “The streetwear generation is about regeneration.” The takeaway from this essay echoed my memoir, This Is Not a T-Shirt. Streetwear is boundless because the ethos exists beyond the clothing. It’s beyond the pavement and beyond… the physical. All things considered, at this juncture, doesn’t it make the most sense for streetwear to dress the metaverse?
“Streetwear transcends dress and music, just like rock n’ roll set the philosophical tone for an era. Streetwear defined a generational attitude toward art and commerce, brand-building, and financial autonomy. It was like punk, but about selling. It was like business, but not about selling out.
‘Streetwear.’ Over the next ten years, perhaps we’ll call hoodies and hats something else, because ‘streetwear’ will be applied to tech…”
Is Metawear too… meta?
If you are confused about NFTs and want to start at the beginning, first off, understand that we’re all wondering. That’s the point. We’re working together to piece the definition, so don’t trust anyone who claims to have a solid grasp of the subject matter. In February, I wrote about as much as I understood on NFTs – at the time – HERE.
Join The Hundreds’ Discord and follow our socials (@thehundreds) for updates on Adam Bomb Squad.
As a child, my parents encouraged me to journal. This was pre-Internet, before blogs; at the time, it was popular for kids to scribble their private thoughts in padlocked diaries at bedtime. I doodled cartoons and wrote bad jokes or riddles. I also mulled over broader philosophical questions and I thought a lot about race. “Race is mankind’s greatest question,” I jotted down, “and knowing mankind, there is no answer.” Maybe it was around the LA Riots in 1992 or perhaps I had just learned about Vincent Chin or the internment camps, but I wasn’t unique in wondering these things. As we grow up, we are confronted with the stark reality of race, a reality that we chew and digest for the rest of our lives. Even when I speak to my own children about race, they are confused. Why are we designed in different colors? Especially when those categories are so politically charged and can cause division and injury?
My brother Larry, a pastor in Boston, was on the sidewalk. “Hey, Chinese guy!” this man yelled. “Are you gonna cross the road or do Kung-Fu?” Instead of picking a fight or swallowing the remark, Larry approached the driver with a word of introduction. It wasn’t until they were talking that Larry realized the man was wearing a The Hundreds hat. Over the course of a patient conversation, they actually became friendly. As he was driving off, the man told my brother, “Only real gangsters can wear The Hundreds!”
Sometimes, this anecdote reads as hopeful, sometimes I laugh at the absurdity. But mostly, I’m infuriated. Why did this dude feel the need to level a stranger like that? As I write about in my book, racism abbreviates a complete human being. I think that’s why it’s so viscerally repulsive. It’s beyond ignorant and uneducated. It’s against our nature.
I’m older now and as lost as ever on why race exists. Sure, it provides community and endows people with a firm, distinct identity. But, perhaps race also gives people a reason to cross the street and meet at an intersection. I think about the world that white supremacists want and the homogeneity sounds incredibly boring, if not depressing. Race, meanwhile, is an immediate distinction between you and another person, one that can be a curious unknown. What if differences aren’t meant to keep apart, but to coaelsce? What if borders between nations aren’t there to demarcate, but to bind together? All these years later and I’m in the same place. I do have to say, however, that I was wrong about knowing mankind there would be no answer. I think mankind IS the answer.
There were two instances of men picking fights with me today. One was in the water, right here off the shoulder on PCH. I found myself embroiled in a surf entanglement, ironically against ocean spray and the bluest sky. A hunched, older man – a salty dog – accused me of intruding on his wave and denied my apology. His bloodshot eyes bulged, his fists pounded his board like a toddler throwing a tantrum. I felt bad for this curmudgeon; he was consumed by an unbridled rage that preceded this argument and he’d be bound to for years to come. Any retort I could’ve given would pale in comparison to the toxins that orbited his universe.
The other, a streetwear beef thing. Even sillier. A snarky Instagram dig by a bitter ex-friend, a gossipy sizzle amongst the community. This news broke when I was out enjoying the holiday with my children. I was treating them to a trip to the Pokemon card shop. This individual did his best to steal our afternoon together. I didn’t give him the opportunity.
“Hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
It was either Buddha, Malachy McCourt, or Mandela who said it best (When quotes are hard to place, that tells me that they’re universally felt). So much of my young life was articulated by Hate, but anger and vitriol hold less meaning to me with time. I see them for what they are: impediments, nuisances. I’m on a mission, I wake up each morning with purpose, and Hate’s only job is to distract me from my goal. Or to derail me entirely. Fuck that. I don’t have enough time.
My problem is that Hate feels warm and familiar. It’s galvanizing and electric. Whether I’m projecting that energy or on the receiving end, it’s a shiny new toy to gnaw on. But, Hate takes more than it gives. It eats so much bandwidth. Like coming off a howling bender, Hate saps us of strength and leaves us cold and confused. It’s a debilitating, unmerciful cancer in the form of a fidget spinner.
Hate is a waste of everything, I really don’t know why we have it. I’m simply not interested. I’ve got so much to do and so much love to accept.
Tonight, I choose to sleep peacefully, having seen my children and our memories of today clearly.
It was just a couple months ago that I wrote primers on NFTs to help orient our audience around the crypto art wave. Today, Non-Fungible Tokens have gone mainstream, starring in Saturday Night Live skits, with celebrities like The Weeknd and Takashi Murakami partaking, and brand names like Funko and Taco Bell onboard. The music industry has been shaken, the art world has been tested, NFTs are growing so fast that they’ve already survived a couple cancel-culture cycles.
Yet, as forward and futuristic as this all is, NFTs are spiritually rooted in the decades-old cultural phenomenon of Streetwear. Consider how NFT marketplaces work on a Drop schedule, the Limited Edition nature of the goods, and the emphasis on secondary market resale. Every time I meet a leader in crypto art, they readily acknowledge how NFT practitioners are inspired by the collectability, coolness, and rarity of brands like Supreme, Off-White, and Nike.
Two of those pioneers were John Watkinson and Matt Hall, the “creative technologists” behind CryptoPunks: the very first NFT. In early 2017, Matt and John ran an experiment, assembling 10,000, 8-bit style, punk characters, each one of them with unique attributes. They gave them away for free, and for the most part, those images sat uneventfully online for a few years. In 2020, with the pandemic pushing us deeper into our phones, life in the metaverse started making a lot more sense, as did digital ownership. CryptoPunks exploded.
Today, those digital Punks are flipping for anywhere between $40,000 and $7.5 Million USD (!). Because there’s such a limited supply of these collectables, there’s all sorts of speculation. Some believe Punks will be the last NFT standing. There’s even a theory that the couple thousand Punk owners out there will one day be the richest in the world. On the ground level, Punks have been adopted as identities – oftentimes as a crypto collector’s avatar – if not a badge that says you’re a member of the NFT tribe.
Tomorrow (Sunday) night, The Hundreds is releasing a very special collaboration with CryptoPunks. Matt and John wished to keep it ultra-limited (50 hats for sale). They also wanted to make the actual Purple Hat (a trending, trademark Punks attribute). And for whatever reason, they requested we stick to the Zombie (instead of the Alien, Gorilla, or a straight-up Punk). This snap-back embodies many firsts: their first collab, our first time working with a crypto artist… It also bridges the physical collector’s space and the crypto world. To me, it brings NFTs and Streetwear full circle. And The Hundreds is right there, in the center of it all.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
– Pema Chodron
“They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
So, when they said robots would one day destroy us, I pictured square steel monsters shooting laser beams from their eyes. Or, something more eerie and android: superhuman, zombie armies of cyborgs in the vein of I, Robot or Terminator. I never imagined these robots would sneak up under our noses in the shape of phone apps and home assistant devices with people names. Recording our behavior, selling our data off to corporations so that they could find us and drown us with material distractions and debt.
These robots would feed our insatiable appetite for information, and once we were hooked, indulge us with an impossible amount of news and content to absorb – ungodly helpings that drive a human mad with anxiety or worse, contempt with self-righteousness.
These killer robots powered “social networks,” which were put in place to further isolate us into our echo chambers, turn brother against sister, and dupe us into baring our most private and unformed thoughts with total strangers. Social networks stoked our primitive desire for acceptance by coaxing us to share our darkest secrets – the ones meant for our community to help us face and process – not suitable for a public square or even less forgiving, the court of public opinion.
Robots removed context from our narrative, they stripped us of nuance that makes us complex and human. Robots auto-tuned our art, they made us comparative instead of competitive. We traded brilliance for convenience. We didn’t want the best of anything as much as we wanted it fast and plenty, so that we could have more time. To do what with exactly? Tend to our robots.
Robots made us mediocre and unhealthy – not just in body, but of mind. They stole our most valuable asset – our attention –and made the world endless and exhausting, so we were never fulfilled. We assumed we weren’t enough for ourselves, but really, we just weren’t enough for a robot world.
These robots convinced us that our disagreements were irreparable; ideas outside of our own were laughable at best, and at worst, to be extinguished. Only the loudest and most severe voices were given preferential treatment by the robots, not the factual and prevalent as these were construed as pedestrian. We only had time now for splashy headlines, not bodies of stories. A newspaper that runs solely on headlines is neither fair nor real, but we took them for truth. And with the aid of the robots, we then published our own news and truths and nobody cared about news and truth anymore.
The robots didn’t sleep or rest. They worked forever, without food or vacations or healthcare. The men who hired these robots were happy with their choice, so that they could make more money to buy more robots. These robots took on the work we didn’t want to do, and then they stole the work we needed to do, and so we were left purposeless.
And in this way, robots defeated us. It didn’t happen one day, but over many, and it wasn’t the robots at first, but our greed, our narcissism, and our apathy that walked the robots in. Until one day, we sat up and realized that the robots surrounded and controlled us, and we didn’t know how to manage our lives without their guidance or assistance. They were as much a part of our identity as we were of theirs. As with a dogwalker who is being dragged by a wayward beast, it became trickier to determine who owned who.
The one thing these robots could never be was broken. Conversely, we needed to be fixed always. The only ones who could help us do that, we remembered, were the others like us. We were naturally equipped with tools like empathy and compassion to heal. With arms to hold and eyes to tear. The restorative process, the human bonding, were inefficient in the robots’ opinion. There was no financial incentive in bridging relationships. It took too much time. It was boring. Yet, we were engineered to need Love and give Love and in this way, the robots were confounded and useless.
We were reminded then that robots are made better and perfect and exciting. And we were never meant to be so. What made us valuable were our imperfections and shortcomings and failures. Because in those errors – those weaknesses – was room for growth, which is what life is all about, isn’t it? Progression. Our existence isn’t just about winning the race or knowing the most. It’s about running and tripping, and then learning and advancing.
The next morning, we awoke and acknowledged the greatest collective mistake. We had granted the robots too much room in our lives and far too much credit. They made us faster and stronger, but we were already fast and strong. They made us money and showered us with glory, but we had enough and were inherently glorious. The robots needed us to have purpose, not the other way around. From then on, we lived with them and still used them, but we were glad to not be stainless like them. And, we were happy to realize this together.
A couple of years ago, Gary Vaynerchuk invited me to a DM groupchat about investing in baseball cards. I didn’t get it. I mean, I grew up trading cards and still have my 3-ring binders, but I didn’t understand the mechanics of sports collectibles as modern investments. For decades, 40-year-old virgin hoarders – I mean collectors – have been jeered for believing that stockpiling Garbage Pail Kids and Star Wars figures in our youth would ever amount to a retirement payout. Being a 40-year-old virgin hoarder myself, I was skeptical.
“Bobby, trust me,” Gary texted, “Buy this LeBron card on eBay. It’ll grow in value.” I didn’t. And Gary turned out to be right. It was a thousand dollars at the time, but today, that card is hundreds of thousands. I had it right in front of me and I blew it! I’ll be honest. Sometimes, it nags at me that I could’ve effortlessly made 5x my money flipping rookie cards over selling clothing.
If you were around when social media started, you remember this word: FOMO. In 2004, author Patrick J. McGinnis coined the acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out” in response to the nature of smartphones and Instagram reminding everyone that they weren’t a part of something that could make their life better. At the time, these important moments were parties or TV shows. “How do you not know about this?!” FOMO was born out of fear of being left behind, left out of the conversation, and stems back to a childhood anxiety of being the last one picked on the playground.
FOMO never left the social media experience. It just mutated like a COVID variant. In the worst sense, I think people grew so aware of FOMO, that they learned how to weaponize it and capitalize on it to either injure or manipulate others (Marketers can attest to that…). FOMO is also what’s catalyzed politics and activism over the last several years. People fear not having the information to keep them safe from racists, from a virus, even from shame and cancellation for not speaking the correct vernacular or moving about their social life in accordance with a standard of responsibility. And whether we’re conscious of it or not, FOMO is now baked into a weekly Wednesday cycle of current affairs. How do you not know about Nik’s Dior Jordans at the inauguration, GameStop stonks, Bitcoin all-time-highs, and the Texas freeze?! As fragmented as the Internet has made us and our interests, we are all more rhythmically bound to the same water-cooler moments than ever.
Lately, I’ve been sharing a lot about cryptomedia and NFTs. The response has been overwhelming from fellow artists who want to tap into the space to get their work seen. But, I’ve also noticed this frantic alarm from creators who feel like they’re too late. Many feel frustrated for not entirely understanding the concept. They’re banging down the Clubhouse doors trying to access the information and are worried they’re losing out on that “better life.”
For one, FOMO is a collective lie. Your better life is always the one in front of you, with the resources and relationships at your disposal. Secondarily, especially with zeitgeist trends, have faith that the worthy ideas take time and thoughtfulness to sustainably build. NFTs will take years to properly coalesce as a mainstream infrastructure. The truth is nobody totally understands it; we are constructing the definition together, making history, every passing day. Bitcoin’s been around for a little over a decade and just now does it seem like the world is taking it seriously. Like cryptocurrency, NFTs are an (ALT) investment, and a long-term investment at that. This is not only an investment in digital collectibles, but an investment in thinking differently about ownership, new financial systems, a revised approach to wealth sharing and how art is appreciated.
A month ago, Gary tweeted, “Sports cards and Pokemon ect (sic) – graded cards are about to have a wild explosion… most think they missed it .. it hasn’t even started.” And, I agree. Just the fact that you’re wondering about NFTs and baseball cards right now means you’re ahead of the curve. And if you’re not? If you miss the curve completely (Like I did with that LeBron card)? That’s totally fine also. One thing I’ve learned is that having the knowledge and access to an opportunity is not enough juice to seize it. You also have to hold the passion and care, otherwise you won’t last. Different hearts are wired to latch onto different loves, so don’t dive into a venture simply because you’re afraid of missing the boat. There’s another boat out there specifically tailored for you. And you won’t be the one swimming after it. You’ll be driving it.
As you know, the media has been reporting a recent rise in hate crimes towards Asian-Americans, especially the elderly. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating. But, I’m not gonna outline infographics, share anecdotal experiences with racism, or teach an Asian-American history lesson here. There are better-informed activists and leaders who’ve done the work (see @amandangocnguyen @nextshark). Truthfully, I found myself between a rock and a hard place in posting something about this. I wanted to be thoughtful and impactful in how I responded. I also didn’t want this to be some viral social justice trend that Americans are granting space for, just because there’s not another “more pressing” activism matter to tend to right now. Because the cold and gnawing reality is that none of this is new. You can Google articles from a decade ago covering trends of physical assaults against our Asian grandparents in SF and NY Chinatowns. Even last year, as COVID erupted and Trump leaned into his “Kung Flu” rhetoric, the Asian-American community circulated daily nightmares of innocent victims being painted with epithets or harmed. But, unless you are Asian-American or have positioned yourself in our spaces, you probably didn’t hear much of it. I waited a while to say something because I didn’t want to be emotional and reactionary. Sensational moments can be fleeting and I want to leave this permanent mark: Hate towards Asian-Americans is NOTHING NEW. Although the statistics are higher, the biggest reason why these reports are in your face is that We are getting louder. Even though we’re few, there are more of us in this country than ever, we are emboldened, better organized, and uniting our efforts. This might be the story of the month and in March, we’ll find a new topic to be outraged about. Meanwhile, Asian-Americans will still be getting attacked, spit on, and discriminated against. But you know what? We’re also still gonna be here, plotting, mobilizing, and building. The next time you pay attention to us, we’ll look differently to you. And then it’ll get to the point where you won’t be able to forget our grandparents, our communities, our stories. You won’t step over us.
And then, I realized I don’t need to be known as a great writer.
I just want to do great writing.
Two totally different things.
Legendary downtown photographer Ricky Powell died this week, leaving behind a lifetime’s worth of hip-hop history gold. Jensen Karp called him, “the man who photo’d absolutely everything I’ve ever thought was cool,” much of that attributed to frozen moments in time with rappers like LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, and RUN DMC. Along with Glen E. Friedman, Estevan Oriol, Craig Stecyk, and Chi Modu, my own foray into photography in the ‘90s was inspired by cultural documentarians like Ricky Powell.
In fact, there was a season where photography led my career aspirations. I grew up shooting film at concerts and skate sessions, but I most enjoyed taking people’s portraits. In the early 2000s, DSLRs and editing programs lowered the barrier-of-entry to the practice. Smartphone cameras empowered laymen to be savvy photographers. It became harder to distinguish whether someone was a serious shutterbug or hobbyist. Then, the Internet democratized content and social media became a media free-for-all (Or a freefall, depending on how you look at it).
Years ago, I shopped my photography portfolio to some select art galleries only to discover that many of them had a policy of not curating photo shows. I then toyed with the idea of producing a photo book but was promptly told by mainstream publishers that photo books are a tough sell.
“Well, what do I do with all these photos I’ve been shooting since I was 12 years old? Live photos from punk shows and ‘90s skaters and world travels?”
“Put them where everyone else puts them: Instagram.”
I love the medium of photography. Some of my pictures mean more to me than the clothing I design and sell. Yet, the marketplace tells me that unlike a physical product, photos aren’t worth as much because they’re easily replicable, drag-and-droppable, and digitally disposable. And it’s not just photography. GIFs and JPEGs, memes, captions, MP4s. Whichever the file extension, we’ve grown accustomed to offering our creative output for free. We’ve been trained to believe that nobody owns anything on the Internet. Online media is to be liberally sourced and shared with all. And there is no monetary value in a tweet or a TikTok.
But, that’s not true. Your social media posts do make money. It’s just that you don’t see any of it. Your gorgeous photographs, compelling essays, and motion graphics draw attention to platforms like Facebook and Google, which churn advertising dollars off of all those eyeballs. You do all the hard work. They make the money from it. And now that you see it that way, isn’t it incredibly unfair?
I have good news. Over the past few years, but really in the last 12 months, there’s been a revolution welling up to reclaim value and ownership in digital art. There is finally a way to restore much of the meaning and value that have been lost with – what is now coined as – cryptomedia. And that’s through blockchain technology and Non-Fungible Tokens. Or NFTs.
What is an NFT?
Do you remember the Art Basel banana? In late 2019, a duct-taped banana sold at the Miami art fair for $120,000. But, of course, bananas rot, so why would anyone pay that much for a perishable installation? What the patron was actually buying wasn’t the physical banana itself, but the certificate tied to the fruit. The artist Maurizio Cattelan clarified that the mushy, decomposing banana can always be swapped out. But, there’s only one certificate, and that’s where the value existed.
NFTs are those certificates recorded on Ethereum blockchain. *Heads up, I’m not gonna attempt to explain bitcoin or how blockchain technology works (You can dive deep into a Reddit or Wiki for that). For all intents of this essay, all you need to know is that if the banana is a metaphor for your cryptoart (a photo you shot, a song you recorded, a meme you passed around), you can now mark it – or mint it – as an NFT. It’s now listed in the blockchain and universally recognized by the world that you are the rightful owner of the work. Which, means that you can sell it. It also means you can buy other people’s NFTs.
Where does this all go down? Decentralized marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, Rarible, Superrare, and Zora. How much money are we talking here? Cryptomedia made headlines in December when Instagram artist Beeple sold 20 of his pieces for $3.5 Million. The more sensational story, however, is the thousands of everyday artists who are striking overnight success and notoriety in this digital gold rush. Estimates are that over $8 Million of cryptoart changed hands over the month of December.
On Christmas Day, Sean Williams, a former Cartoon Network intern, accidentally kicked a hole in his wall. As an experiment, he placed a frame around the gash, snapped a photo of it, and minted it on the Superrare platform. One week later, on New Year’s, Sean accepted an offer of 7 ETH for his cryptoart, entitled “Idiot.” 7 ETH, as of this writing, converts to roughly $11,000.
Who is buying this stuff?
I love this question, because it’s one that I’ve been personally hearing my entire career:
“Why would anyone spend $300 on some basketball sneakers?”
“$500 for denim with holes in it? What’s wrong with some $50 Levis?”
“Who is paying thousands of dollars for a T-shirt? Just because there’s a red box on it?”
There’s a lot of money floating around out there, especially these days with stimulus checks and stonk surges. And there’s a market for everything. We can compare an $11,000 Amir Fallah painting to $11,000 “What the Dunks” or a fancy $11,000 Napa dinner with Screaming Eagle wine. It’s relative. One or none of these items may mean as much to you as Sean’s photo, but there are consumers out there who will readily justify each expense down to the penny.
Granted, gambling speculators are stirring much of the frenzied activity around cryptoart right now. These are the same types of people who bet big when bitcoin first broke or squatted on domain names or hedged their investments on real estate in the 2000s. They believe that cryptoart may very well be the next big thing for the Internet. And, although $11,000 is a lot of money for a digital photograph of a hole, it pales compared to the upside of millions if this is the next Banksy, or billions if it’s the next Mona Lisa.
I still don’t get it. Why would you want to own a digital piece of media if it can be downloaded onto anyone else’s computer? Wouldn’t you prefer a physical possession (e.g. a 1-of-1 oil painting) instead, to ensure that – and brag to your friends – that it’s the original?
Speaking of Christmas, at the crack of dawn, my boys tore through their meticulously wrapped presents under the tree. Santa gifted them board games, action figures, books, and remote-controlled robots. However, to our dismay, they spent about 35 minutes playing with their new toys before diving back into Fortnite. For many children today, their realities and social scenes exist within the digital framework of video games. What does it matter if you have a Baby Yoda doll or new Jordans if you can’t flex them to your peers in the gaming universe? It’s more important to stack digital assets inside the games instead, like back-bling or spray. I could literally hand my kids a $100 bill and they wouldn’t know what to do with it. Instead, they’d ask, “Daddy, can you convert that to Fortnite V-bucks?”
As bizarre and disheartening as this sounds for the kids, you’re no different. You spend more time digitally interacting with your friends than seeing them in person. You’d rather curate your page instead of decorating your home. You can hang a painting in your living room for your 25 guests a year. Or, you can take a photo of the painting and post it to your social media where thousands of followers will appreciate it.
You can even rotate cryptoart through a digital picture frame: A sunset photograph, Trump’s “covfefe” tweet, a Beeple IG video, an NBA Top Shot digital basketball card. Although each slide is a Google Images click away, you can take pride that you own the unique certificate to each of these masterpieces. And that somebody, somewhere, is willing to buy it from you.
So, why are you so excited about this?
I’m still figuring this out. Cryptoart and NFTs are so new that history is being made every hour of every day. Most of the insightful editorial, podcasts, and YouTube thinkpieces on the subject matter have been recorded in the last month or so. Last night, a new marketplace called Foundation sprouted up. And this next week, The Hundreds will be the first clothing brand to mint NFTs against our Spring season’s collection of T-shirt graphics.
I think what inspires me the most is that creators will finally be able to make the money they deserve from their hard work. Facebook is a half-a-trillion-dollar company while many young artists are struggling to make rent. Although the financial rewards aren’t the only things that matter in making art, money and compensation help to provide a safe and secure environment to create. And it cuts the lie that your art doesn’t hold value or that nobody cares to pay for your work. They do. The market is there. Its just that instead of paying you, the clientele’s been paying the social media companies with their time and attention.
Every ten years or so, there’s a paradigm shift with the Internet. First, it was the transition from portal sites to Google. In the 2010s, social networks not only flipped how we interacted with each other, but how we consumed content. Could cryptomedia and NFTs indicate the next wave of how we consider and use the Internet? One where everyone, not just artists, stand to benefit as far as property ownership and profitability are concerned?
That shit is bananas.
A special Thank You to Trevor McFedries, Dee Goens, Sean Williams and Charlie Rosenthal for teaching me the wonders of NFT. And yes, I did mint this essay on Zora.
If you read my book, there are a couple quotes that resonate louder tonight in light of the GameStop short squeeze.
1) “Streetwear doesn’t die. It multiplies.”
Streetwear is not a product relegated to T-shirts, hoodies, and sneakers. It’s an attitude and business strategy that can apply to other industries and marketplaces. For decades, streetwear brands like Supreme and sneaker sellers pioneered the “hype” business model of limited-edition drops fueled by anti-establishment, culture-based groundswells. These days, the most successful businesses – from tech startups to restaurants to furniture makers – understand the power of intentional scarcity, Veblen goods, and capitalizing on the hype economy. For the streetwear-minded, this week’s stock market shakeup is thrilling, but not confusing or unexpected. We are used to watching young communities rally together to up-end systems. Our culture thrives off of momentum-based runs, inspired by emotional, social movements. We know how to make something out of nothing, manufacture trends, and toy with perceived value. I spoke to a traditional finance friend this morning who remarked that, “None of this makes sense.” Baffled garmentos said the same about our $30 T-shirts and $150 Dunks twenty years ago.
2) “People used to buy streetwear because nobody else wore it. Now, they buy it because everyone else is wearing it.”
As evidenced by stonks and bitcoin collectables like cryptomedia and NFTs, our culture is transitioning from “standing out” to “fitting in.” It used to be cool to be the outsider, now everyone wants to be first in line as an insider. I can write another essay about why this is (and the threat of compromising individuality in pursuit of community), but we are clearly LONGING for BELONGING (see political tribalism). In her 2017 essay, “My Collectible Ass,” McKenzie Wark writes, “The future of collecting may be less in owning the thing that nobody else has, and more in owning the thing that everybody else has.” Again, very streetwear. When we share the cheat codes and mobilize together, all boats rise.
From destabilized government to toppling industries, the upheaval and decentralization are interconnected. Without quality leadership, we have appointed ourselves the Leaders. With unfettered access to information, the old guard – the gatekeepers – can’t keep the people at bay. We at The Hundreds like to say, “Strength in Numbers,” in reference to the community and it’s days like today that reveal the Might of the Many. I’m hopeful, entertained, and scared out of my wits at how fast and violently this is all happening. But, as any hypebeast will tell you, it’s been a long time coming. And it’s about to get really fun.
Love doesn’t follow a straight line.
On this Inauguration Day, it stands that my interpretation of being an American is one who holds its leaders accountable, recognizes that dissent is not disloyalty, and takes its government to task for any self-serving corruption. At some point in their terms, I’ve protested every single President since I was a teenager. Although I voted for Barack Obama, I was one of many who marched against his administration’s immigration policies (I shot this photograph in 2012), spoke out against his signing of the NDAA in 2011, and drew red circles around his drone killings. Now that Joe Biden is in office, we must continue to do our part. We, the people. We, the largest and most powerful branch of government. Just because Trump’s left office, doesn’t mean that these antiquated systems are fixed, that white supremacy is erased, or that politicians uncoil themselves. Today has been a breath of fresh air and there’s much to celebrate. Exhale. Tomorrow, we march on.
Your prejudiced ways – are so fucked up
Your mind’s so dense – look inside yourself
You’ve closed your mind
I can’t get in
Look at color – not within
How many must die
In front of your eyes
Use your brain – help to stop
War Between Races
Gun to my head
Knife to your back
Nowhere to run
I wonder how – it all started
Time is now to stop and think
You might be next, watch your back
You’ve got a choice – tie to act
War Between Races
Gun to my head
Knife to your back
Nowhere to run
Your prejudiced ways – are so fucked up
Your mind’s so dense – look inside yourself
– Warzone, 1995
Yesterday, during the insurrection, somebody left a comment on my IG along the lines of, “How come you’re not saying anything about what’s happening?”
For one, Instagram, while an ideal venue to shop and market product, is not the most efficient platform to host political debates or share information (I’d prefer to use Twitter or my Blog for that). But two, I just didn’t have anything to say. I was speechless. I was crippled with anxiety, horror, and sadness, as we watched our President incite treasonists to storm our nation’s capitol.
Yesterday was akin to 9/11, witnessing terrorists defile our democracy, uncorking a seal that will never quite be restored. That, of the sanctity of our republic and our precious institutions. Of the countless, chilling images, the one that broke my heart was of the man shamelessly brandishing the confederate flag down the halls. If you’ve ever been robbed or burglarized, if you’ve ever been physically violated, you know the feeling. Except this time, the assault was happening to your country. It was like watching thieves roam in your house from a home security camera. I will never forget that helplessness.
Some responses are best served immediately and scorching with emotion. Fuck everyone, I felt in the moment. Fuck Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. All my homies hate Hawley and Cruz. Fuck Pence and Mitch for speaking up at the twelfth hour. Fuck the cops who didn’t try hard enough, fuck the terrorists who killed the cop. Fuck the racism. Fuck the system. Fear steeped in anger, the hate churned and churned…
However, the most useful responses are those that are seasoned with time and reflection. My thoughts will mature and evolve as the weeks, months, and years go by, and I will share with you what I learn along the way. But, just one day later, what I can say is this:
There is a time and place for reaching across the aisle and establishing common ground. Yesterday, in DC, was not that time or place. I believe in political discourse and shared communication. But, when it comes to Hate, conspiracy cults, and dismantling the Democratic process, there is no room for compromise in the United States of America. The middle would still fall somewhere amidst enemy territory.
I don’t know where America goes from here, but I care for her more than ever. Perhaps we needed to be reminded how fragile it all was. In the meantime, there is a wild and corrosive trauma that’s been unleashed upon us. So, there’s no rush to diagnose, or solve, or even to speak on the matter. There is only listening and surviving and adapting.
that my children don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore.
Perhaps it’s time
for us all
to grow up.
AOC, on billionaires.
From “What Cool Means Now,” by Marc Bain
When I say I miss traveling, what I mean is that I miss the feeling of being slightly uncomfortable, outside my element, and for a moment, living in someone else’s shoes. To see the mountain from the other side. It’s a reality check, an awakening, a revelation that spurs and informs new creative choices.
There’s this website called WindowSwap that is perhaps as close as I’ll get to experiencing the quiet corners of the world in a pandemic. I’ve been leaving it on in the background as I work, if not to simply listen to the movements and breath of a universe that exists beyond mine.
Dry popcorn rustling during the trailers
Shoes squeaking on the wood, the resonant thump of the ball
Sitting patiently through the daily specials
Ears ringing, post-concert, thwarting a night’s rest
New people, hearty handshakes
Nodding off after takeoff
Getting lost amongst unfamiliar buildings
Spoons colliding in a shared dessert
Birthday balloons on mailboxes
A distant cough that goes ignored
Laughter with abandon
Brilliant, luminous, smiles
As you know, I’ve been spending less time on my social media this year. I’ve allocated those hours instead to texting my community. It’s been a healthier exchange for everyone, but I personally love it because our conversations run deeper. Plus, there are zero trolls (they need an audience) or algorithms. The best part is the honesty because neither of us are afraid of being shamed or judged for our statements.
Over the weekend, I asked the thousands of you that I text with if you were voting and if so, who for? To no one’s surprise, the majority of my following answered, “Biden*.” I’d say about 75% of the texts. It’s eye-opening, but also not entirely shocking, that about 7% responded with, “Kanye.” After all, I speak to a streetwear crowd, mostly young, male and into Kanye’s music. Some were half-serious about Ye, some wanted a non-politician in office, others just wanted to up-end the system. Another 7%-ish or so were staunchly Trump, with exhaustive justifications attached. There were a couple of religious reasons at play, one guy who said Ice Cube’s work with the Republicans last week pushed him over the line, but the red hats voiced the usual: Trump has done a lot of good in four years, the media is biased against him, and Biden sniffs children’s hair. The last 10% was a blend of Jorgensen, a few Howies, and anti-voting.
After I turned 18, the first presidential candidate I voted for was Ralph Nader with the Green Party. I was opposed to the idea of Bush or Gore, and the Republicans and Democrats in general. My rejection of a mainstream duality spoke to my personality, especially in my teenage years. More than backing Nader’s policies, I wanted to prove a point, refused to hop onboard a two-party system like the rest of the sheep, and believed all politicians were dishonest. So, I get it (I’m also aware that I probably inadvertently helped the GOP win that year).
There’s a large asterisk on those Biden votes btw. The majority of the people who said they were backing Biden are settling. In fact, I’d say most everyone who responded to my text is actually a Bernie and/or Yang supporter, who is reluctantly checking Joe’s box to extinguish the current administration. Although “Anyone but Trump” and “Lesser of Two Evils” are baseline strategies to hobble a Democrat into office, it’s not a sustainable plan for America’s political future. What do we do in 2024, 2028, and beyond? If we take my nationwide community as a small sample of the incoming class, it’s evident that young people’s relationship with the government is sputtering. A 2014 Harvard study found that only 31% of America’s youth trusted our nation’s leaders. I can only imagine how much further that number’s plummeted in the last four years. In 2016, Yascha Mounk reported that around the world, the youth are increasingly taking democracy for granted. Only a third of American millennials see civil rights as “absolutely essential” for a democracy. More than a quarter don’t see why we need free elections. These are the same kids who’ve been left with less opportunity for wealth and happiness, a ravaged planet, and emotional brokenness.
As much as we’re focused on November 3rd, there’s a much deeper crisis at hand. This earthquake was rumbling long before Donald Trump and will surface for years after. We have to address the youth’s disenchantment with our political system and we need to do that by reconstructing the system itself. A viable third party. Candidates whom the people – not the powers that be – want. Less self-interests. And so on. Politics have always been corrupt, but with the transparency and immediacy of the Internet, we are all now privy to how the sausage gets made. It’s gross. These kids today, they’re gonna stop eating those sausages the more they learn about what goes in them. Then they’re gonna burn the factory down. And yes, I know there’s a glizzy joke in here somewhere.
When I tell people how much of my community sincerely thinks Kanye would make a great President, I get perplexed laughs and asinine eyeball-rolling. Instead of making fun of Yeezy voters, we should ask them why they feel Mr. West is the best or only candidate. We should listen to what they want and what convicts their hearts. And we should help them get to their destination, with better options, a renewed faith in our system, and people to believe in. Because we all need people to believe in. Not perfect people, not sinless people, but people who are willing to sacrifice for a better and beautiful America. I still believe these people are out there and exist. I talk to them every day.
One of my favorite writers, David Brooks, writes the most thorough summary of our social condition in The Atlantic.
Read the full essay here.
You know how you’ll get buried so deep into an argument sometimes that you don’t even know what you’re fighting about anymore? It’s not about defending or challenging the issue at hand, but venting resentment for the unaddressed problems around it. Or it’s just retribution for being ignored and marginalized. So much of politics feels this way today. We are crying for help, but nobody is listening – so we guard our fear with self-righteousness, arm ourselves with tribalism, weaponize politics in a wicked sport of revenge. It’s understandable why we’re disillusioned and scared: Wealth disparity. Morally bankrupt leadership. Systemic oppression. I’ve spent the last four years immersing myself in all corners of social and political discourse, and I come back to the same conclusion time and again. Americans are united in our hurt and isolation. We are desperately seeking bonds and relationships with our neighbors, but we are being hardwired for opposition. Whether it’s the social media algorithms, Russia or China, the dark powers that be that are making us lose hope in each other, it is unnatural for us to behave this way. That’s why this feels so wrong and inhuman. What if we approached Politics from a place of Love and Support? Not to protect one’s self only, but to help others? Is there a Politics that believes a better life for everyone else is ultimately an improved existence for ourselves? A Politics that listens more than it speaks, that gives more than it takes? Can Politics be a restorative tool instead of a harmful device? For me, there’s only one Pres/VP team in this race that speaks a more reconciliatory language, and so I’ve lent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris my “Solidarity” art for a collaborative T-shirt now available on their website. The coolest part about America is that you can vote (or not) for whomever you want, even if it goes against your friends, your family, or me. I just hope you vote for the guy who wants to keep it that way.
On this Labor Day, I want to address the disturbing number of Americans without jobs, having trouble finding work, or worrying about stimulus payments running out in the face of a looming recession.
I’ve spent the bulk of my weekend answering texts (323.310.2844) from those of you who are feeling alone and anxious in a historically catastrophic job market: brand upstarts who are losing hope. Influencers, models, and freelancers who are being forced to pivot. Musicians who can’t tour. Recent graduates, especially, are facing the worst prospects since the Great Depression.
If this speaks to you, I want you to know that you are not alone. I’m alarmed by the number of close friends and followers who have reached out to me over the last few months seeking employment help (I’m even more bothered by the lack of openings I can find for them in the marketplace). I understand there is a certain sense of shame and disappointment associated with being jobless and nobody likes to publicize their hardships. But, it’s very real and happening all around us, if not happening to us. It’s a collective crisis.
So, if I can lend any unwarranted advice…
1. Lean on your network. The most successful people I know did not elevate in their career by blind resumes or job search engines. They were referred by friends and juiced their social connections in landing the jobs of their dreams. I know it’s especially hard to do this in a pandemic, but utilize social media contacts and scrub your Address Book for anyone who can grease that link. And you don’t need to have a fancy social scene to do this. When I say “network,” I mean your wacky uncle who runs a deli, the girl you graduated with who started an app, your friend who works at a company and can get your foot in the door.
2. Take this pause to master a skillset. Employers are looking for specific roles to fill. I get a lot of people asking if they can work for us, but when I ask them in what capacity, they say, “I’ll do anything.” I don’t need you to do anything. I need you to do the one thing. And be the best at it. For example, if you are interested in design, learn the Adobe Creative Suite by following YouTube tutorials. Master a diversity of styles by tracing other designers’ work. Once you’ve gotten fast and proficient enough in the design programs, add your personal opinion to develop your own style.
3. If you don’t know what your interests are, it’s time to open your mind and gain some experience. Look for an internship in a field that you are remotely curious about. I interned for over a year (for free) at a skate magazine. I didn’t go into that industry, but I did discover a passion for clothing and editorial through that time. Speaking of which, although there’s a lot of chatter in our culture on the subject, it’s actually pretty rare to identify passions, let alone build a career out of them. Follow your curiosities instead. I didn’t grow up being obsessed with fashion, but I was curious about the youth culture industry, and that wonder led me to where I am today.
4. Maybe you know your interests and have the knowledge, but the circumstances have to be aligned just right in order to move forward. This hesitation is a result of fear, self-doubt, and laziness. Just press Start. You have to get the car moving in order to get anywhere, even if it’s in the wrong direction. You need the inertia to steer the car and direct your life towards a destination… anyway, that’s the easy part! The hard part is getting yourself out of Park and committing to a path. Unfortunately, the majority of people will be too comfortable or scared to ever leave that space. There is no better time than Now to release that parking brake.
Lastly, if you do have a job or a means of income, hold onto it. I know I’m out here preaching inspirational messages and urging you to follow your dreams. But once the unemployment checks run dry, once the elections are over, I worry about the fallout. So, while I advise you to be reckless in your dreaming, it’d be irresponsible to also not warn you of the oncoming storm. I’ve been coaching people to lay low for the next 6 to 12 months. I know there are those of you who hate your jobs or are dying to get into your own thing. But think about launching your passion project or seeking a shinier job once the dust settles on 2020. Until then, you can always stack more skills, raise capital, or strategize your future. Just make sure the next lily pad is secure before you jump.
I hope any of this is helpful. Always here if you need me.
The Olympics and Paralympics. Wow. This is big. The world’s stage! When #LA28 asked me to help design the logo for the 2028 Games – along with the #LACreator class – I was beyond honored. I wanted to champion the city’s diversity in my art. I wanted to put on for fellow business owners like @joytostada. Selfishly, I made it a point to draw my “A” in front of my children. Eight years from now, they will be teenagers. We’ll go to the Olympics together and the story of this logo will have chronicled their youth.
However… as much positivity, attention, and growth the Olympics brings to their hosts, there is also a problematic history surrounding gentrification, displacement, and other issues that can arise from a massive event moving in and out of a city. LA28’s response is that the LA Games will use existing infrastructure around Southern California (no new permanent venues). There is also a concern, with Los Angeles especially, that there will be a rise in police akin to what happened with the ’84 Olympics. Considering we are eight years out, LA28 has told me that no operational decisions have been made about security. In the meantime, LA28 is enhancing direct community input through a community advisory council and youth council, in the hopes of setting a new standard for event security.
Regardless. I welcome all the feedback. And want all the pushback! It makes me proud to see that of all the artists and athletes who worked on this project, our The Hundreds community is loudest in challenging WHY. Make yourself heard. You have an opportunity to speak up and create real change in how these Games are conducted in our city. And they have eight whole years to get it right. No excuses.
– Rainer Maria Rilke
Ezra Klein: “How little…the advantage is built on… You need to make other people both believe in the story or reinforce the story, because if the story goes away, the whole thing goes away.”
Isabel Wilkerson: “Because it is so fragile, it is defended with such force and such rigidity.”
Please listen to the podcast episode HERE.
A constant, unyielding state of grey.
Like a baseline hum. A drawn out note. A blur.
There is no punctuation. No beginning or end.
Just a forever middle. On infinite loop.
A metaphysical void. The absence of spirit.
In the pit of the tunnel
In that damp melancholy
It is most disorienting
Where nothing connects with nothing.
We are at the same time disembodied and imprisoned.
Stuck. Rudderless. Floating.
there are dreams that can not be
and there are storms we can not weather
to the following people, places, and things that have gotten me through this year:
- Jeni’s Ice Cream
- Dave Choe
- Lamb of God
- Lake Arrowhead
- Itaewon Class
- Juice Wrld
- Sunset and El Porto
- Taylor Swift
- The Plot Against America
- Group texts with old friends
- Texting with the community
- My family
The earliest art my parents have from my childhood.
I was 4. I know this sounds crazy, but I vividly remember the choices for the “L” nose and how proud I was that the checkerboard pattern made the beach ball look more realistic.
This drawing is from when I was 9. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of some of my favorite newspaper comic strip artists like Bill Watterson and Garfield. The medium didn’t survive, but I still found a way to draw cartoons for a living.
Egon Schiele was one of the most popular – and controversial – artists of his time. That time being the period of the Spanish Flu in 1918. His mentor Gustav Klimt died of the flu. Then Egon’s wife Edith got it. He drew this portrait of her as she lay dying. After she passed, he started feeling sick and died 3 days later.
An entire generation of artists – and art – faded away with Egon Schiele. The Spanish Flu changed everything, including the direction of the art movement.
Egon Schiele was 28 years old.
I have this dream
Where I feel like
into the sky
So I hold fast
to the earth
like my hands
through the clay
the crying branches
through my limbs
in my heart
in my mind
in my heart
in my mind
I know that Life
I don’t know
how to deal
It is much easier to believe a conspiracy theory than to admit that life can be chaos. Our brains are hardwired to search for narratives and reasons, but sometimes there is only entropy and disorder. It was always this way and we’ve always done the best we could. But, self-deception, spinning lies, and fabricating grandiose stories because they’re more comfortable is detrimental.
To parents, educators, students, and anyone else who understands that figuring out our schooling situation should be paramount right now:
There are many issues associated with the pandemic. My two biggest concerns (besides public health and the economy) have to do with domestic abuse and education, and they kinda go hand in hand. We need kids back in school for a number of reasons. They need the structure. They need to be mentally stimulated and to grow intellectually. They need to learn how to build relationships. They also need a place to escape violence if there is abuse at home, and a way to signal for help. Finally, we need kids in school so that parents can get to work.
However, students also need to be kept safe from contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it on to their community. The ideal scenario, therefore, is that kids stay home as long as they receive some type of distanced education that will equip them for the next step in life. If a student has access to a computer and an Internet connection, we need a standardized digital curriculum for every grade level set in place by experts and educators at the national, state, and local level. Their teachers can reinforce this framework through bite-sized Zoom sessions and add supplementary teachings that jibe with their personal approach. Parents or guardians should be expected to contribute 30 min – 1 hour a day to assist their child through the lessons, acting as a pro tempore teacher’s aide.
Some form of this already exists with home schooling, but most parents and students know how boring online-learning can get and how quickly Zoom Gloom can set in. We’ve stripped all the fun parts of school attendance (the incentives have always been recess, lunchtime, and hanging out with friends). Therefore, we need Hollywood studio-level programming interwoven in the school curriculum to keep young people socialized, entertained and engaged. If my children are eager to communicate with their friends over Fortnite, veg out on YouTube, and marvel at TikTok personalities all day long, they should theoretically be willing to sit in a digital classroom that follows the same playbook. I’m thinking Bill Nye meets School House Rock for 2020, but re-imagined as fun courses led by The Rock, Yara Shahidi, Addison Rae, or Naomi Osaka. Learning can be gamified, paired with popular music, and hosted intermittently by recognizable personalities, especially those who can teach a skillset (think MasterClass for the kids – How do Draw by Takashi Murakami. Coding with the FaZe Clan). When I was growing up, we had educational shows like Channel One and Sesame Street. In the age of streaming and content creation, we should be supporting and funding more “TV” like this for the next generation, especially in an isolated year. And – along with the oversight of education departments and teachers, this should be a united effort across studios and networks, game companies, the music industry, social media platforms, and sports leagues.
This begs the question of how to accommodate families who don’t have access to computers or the Internet. Since there are less students in physical schools, we can take advantage of wide open playgrounds and parking lots to set up tents and have students gather outside in properly spaced seating arrangements. This would be especially effective now while it’s still warm during the summer. They can view and learn from the same material that’s broadcasted online for the rest of the students.
I’m sure I’m missing a lot of important things here. I admit, I know nothing about schools, I am not an educator, I design clothing and write for a living – I am entirely naïve and think this is a simpler fix than it is. So, I will apologize for any ignorance. At the very least, I think we need to pump more money into education than ever. Many of our societal ills can be attributed to the poor education in this country, especially for underprivileged and marginalized youth. Also, in addressing the coronavirus’ strain on our economy, most parents can’t focus on their jobs until they trust someone to focus on their children. So, what will keep the children focused? And how do we prepare them for success?
You gotta know the rules before you break the rules.
HAIM released a new album yesterday.
I’ve always had a soft spot for these Valley sisters since we discovered them at SXSW in 2013.
What struck me about their sound – at the time – was it flowed somewhere between Fleetwood Mac, Michael Jackson, and Wilson Phillips. They were packaged almost too succinctly for the Coachella era, the Snapchat filters, Lena Dunham’s GIRLS… The hair, the irreverence, the mysterious middle sister Danielle who abstains from Instagram. Upstairs, I ran into Pharrell who said he was also keeping an eye on the trio. All the record execs were there that afternoon, salivating. HAIM was going to be big. Like Taylor Swift big.
But, not really.
I’ll admit that it’s felt a bit awkward since – like, they were dragged by the world’s momentum instead of their own. Maybe they got ahead of themselves. There were just too many people watching – an unfair amount of anticipation. And in that room, people tend to imagine their own paths to what success and stardom look like. Everyone had an idea as to what HAIM should be and play. But there’s one piece that was missing – it couldn’t be bought or bestowed. It was Time.
I think the band just needed time. They needed distance – to outrun that first explosive record. And now it sounds like they’re beginning once more, this time full and complete and settled… At their own pace. There is no hurry or haste.
I am so happy that I love this album. It really helps right now.
(Here are some more photos I shot of HAIM later that year at The Glass House in Pomona).
“Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. ”
– George Orwell, 1984
a love that I knew so well.
Scary and unpredictable and unknown
is also how
I describe my favorite theme park rides.
Scary and unpredictable and unknown
is how the first paragraph of every coming-of-age story begins.
Scary and unpredictable and unknown
is another way of saying
Exciting, different, change
but best of all
Scary and unpredictable and unknown
means anything is possible
You are scary and unpredictable and unknown too.
Been thinking why Chappelle’s “8:46” special was so powerful. I loved the way he pins the cultural narrative around George Floyd’s murder back to his own personal life. It makes a nonsensical, far-out storyline feel up-close, human, and painfully intimate. This is why Chappelle’s style works. He cuts through the fourth wall, he brings you right into the room.
Also, it was a performance but not performative. It was raw and honest and I believe every word he says. Such a marked contrast from those ensemble celeb videos, where you can tell the actors’ sentiments are scripted and rehearsed like they don’t know where their make-believe profession ends and reality begins. You just know that deep in their phones, there are hundreds of throwaway takes alongside their second-rate selfies. No, this is very much non-fiction and it’s happening all around us now. Dave Chappelle can be problematic, but you can always count on him to give you his unbridled opinion. And that’s what we need more of now, because it’s all too real.
More truthfulness. Even if it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant. We’ve been living under darkness and self-deception for so long…
“I’d rather be a hypocrite than the same person forever.”
– Ad-rock, Beastie Boys Story
The Beastie Boys were my first exposure to pop music. I was 5 years old, digging through my older cousin Eddie’s bedroom. There were die-cast Voltrons and Transformer Dinobots. There were also stacks of Sports Illustrated magazines, including the lusty swimsuit issues. Not only was I exposed to Playboy centerfolds in that room, but cassette tapes. Eddie slid “Licensed to Ill” into his boombox and played “Girls.” The sophomoric jock chorus and bouncy beat were easy to fall in love with as a Kindergartener. “Girls to do the dishes / to clean the bathroom…” We played that misogynistic song over and over in the afternoons, then washed it down with “Brass Monkey.”
When I was a teenager in the ’90s, I was once again introduced to Beastie Boys during the West Coast period of their album efforts. I loved “Check Your Head” with the Haze art design-ed covers, but as native New Yorkers, the Beasties didn’t feel like they ever authentically fit into the Southern Californian skate/snow trends of the time. They’d wear the Arnet “Hotcakes” sunglasses with the bleached Jamie Lynn caesar haircut, but pair it with an extra medium T-shirt and bad sneakers. Aside from their XLarge affiliation, they were often associated with some random brands that weren’t as legit, but whatever. That’s neither here nor there now.
Regardless, I really did love them. How could I not, they produced friendly rap music for a white-washed Korean-American kid like me. They started off as a hardcore punk band (Egg raid on Mooojo!). And as MCA grew in political awareness and became more a socially conscious artist, I admired how he made “Free Tibet” a mainstream chant. The Beasties seemed like they were always having fun, enjoying the ride and creating. I wouldn’t say they made the most significant music in the hip-hop timeline, but it was never just about the raps. Their greatest contributions were their music videos, in my opinion. That’s what really set Beastie Boys apart.
I finally watched the Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV the other night. I was underwhelmed. Bummer. It was too self-aware, too produced. It felt like they were doing it because their fans wanted to see them together onstage again and this was a consolation prize since MCA is absent. That’s ok. They’ve earned the right to do whatever they want, however they want.
Years ago, the Beasties borrowed my DeLorean for their final music video together. It was a closed set because Adam Yauch was sick (he would soon afterwards succumb to his cancer). I got to spend a couple days onset with just them and some notable stars like Will Ferrell, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood. You can see how the entire production went down here.
Out of everything awesome and hilarious that ensued, what I’ll most remember from that video shoot was watching MCA work his directing magic, but taking moments to hang with his daughter between takes. That man saw the world, entertained and influenced generations of worldwide youth, and made a timeless body of work. That day, it was clear that his most cherished role was not as rapper, punk rocker, director or activist. It was being a father.
A few years ago, there was a popular podcast called S-Town. This was shortly after the success of Serial, which broke the mold for similarly formatted true-crime docuseries like Dirty John, Dr. Death, and Netflix’s Making a Murderer. S-Town was about a couple things, really. First, the protagonist: a colorful, idiosyncratic horologist named John B. McLemore. It was also a snapshot of Woodstock, Alabama, or as John B. McLemore liked to call it, “Shit Town.”
I dedicated an Instagram post to how much I enjoyed this series and one of my followers, “Ryan,” DM’d me. “Hey Bobby, glad you liked the show. You should come visit sometime. We have a really cool music scene down here, it’s not what you think!”
Turns out Ryan was not only a lifelong resident of S-Town, he was the sole neighbor who had access to the late John B. McLemore’s mysterious maze garden. As it goes in the story, before he died, our hero landscaped a hedge maze with 64 solutions. The current inhabitants of the McLemore estate were friendly with Ryan and allowed him to visit whenever he wished. I couldn’t believe it. Ryan laughed. About a half-hour later, he sent me a selfie of himself in the middle of the maze. “Told you!”
Speaking of the new homeowners, they were the Burt family, who – if you listened to the podcast – were also central figures to the storyline. For one, John B. McLemore suspected the son Kabram Burt of getting away with a murder (Ryan was friends with Kabram and even took his sister to prom). Secondly, Kabram’s father Kendall owned a lumber company called K3.
“Is it true?,” I asked Ryan, “K3 doesn’t stand for their family initials?”
With anyone else, I would’ve treaded lightly. Ryan and I had established a friendy banter, but I was perhaps too cavalier with how I dumped the next query on the table. “It’s KKK, right? Are they Klan?”
Ryan took a beat, then responded. “Look man, Los Angeles is a far cry from Woodstock, Alabama.” Even over text, I could feel the weight of that reply. The conversation was already getting long, so we traded a few more hopes for me to visit his town one day (I sincerely still plan on it). After that, I spoke with Ryan a couple more times before our exchange went where all tenuous online connections go. Frozen in time, somewhere deep in the inbox, to be excavated when life finds convenient and necessary.
The year was 2017 and Donald J. Trump had been in office for approximately a year at that point. Those first few months were as equally frightening as they were frustrating, and Americans were raw and exposed to a sensitive political climate. What I most remember was how exhausted I was. I wouldn’t say I’m a longtime activist, but I’d been engaged in left-leaning political causes since I could attend punk shows as a teenager. The brand I co-founded, The Hundreds, was a forum to express and fight for a lot of these opinions. We even co-produced a social justice festival around that time to raise awareness for issues we considered most dire and at risk. As the shock of Trump’s election transitioned to reluctant acceptance, I desperately sought solutions to heal a divided nation. My ego has always told me that there is a fix for every crisis, that justice prevails, to attack the problem from a different angle. Yet, no matter how I turned it, I couldn’t find a way out of this worsening nightmare.
Outside of marching in protests, donating to causes, and staying informed of daily disasters, we didn’t know much else we could do short of running for office. Many of us retreated to Twitter to establish solidarity, disseminate our truths, and change others’ minds. Much of that, however, came down to circulating Trump quotes and deriding the White House press secretary or unleashing our vitriol on the Covington boys. I did my best to stay away from Facebook, but once in a while, I’d find myself ensnared in a fight with some asshole I hadn’t seen since the third grade. In the first stage of Trump Era grief, I loathed and cried and complained. Then, I tried to understand the opposing view not just as a valiant gesture to reach across the aisle, but to make sense of this bizarre simulation we call Life. After a year of this, I was ashamed to admit that I had made no progress at all. I was no closer to empathizing with a devout Trump supporter as I was in getting them to exercise gender neutral pronouns. Debating politics with strangers on the Internet in non-sequitir paragraphs was inefficient, if not endless. Even if I did win an argument or humiliated someone online for their moronic beliefs, I rarely felt better. In fact, I felt much worse, not just about them and the state of the world, but about myself and the time wasted. And then there was the residual anger that lingered and polluted interactions with my loved ones for a time afterwards.
Los Angeles is a far cry from Woodstock, Alabama. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ryan’s statement. Yes, our neighborhoods are almost 2,000 miles apart. But, in some aspects, they might as well be 2,000 light years apart. Ryan’s reality is fixed in an entirely disparate set of cultural practices, social norms, and generational customs. How, over the course of an Instagram direct message, could I convince him to see things from my perspective? I’m a second-generation Korean-American, son of immigrants. I’m almost twice his age, have lived in Southern California my entire life, and get squeamish anytime I’m in a room with any racial majority. Of course, I still believe I am in the right to judge and abhor prejudice and hatred. But, was I really going to convince Ryan (someone whom I’ve never met or established a personal relationship with) to abandon his reality over a blind SMS thread? Of course not. That’d be like convincing a stranger to marry me by folding a marriage proposal in a bottle and hucking it into the ocean. If anything, our cursory exchange would cement him further to his beliefs.
I have a book club called Death Sentences and this month’s selection is “Why We’re Polarized” by Vox’s Ezra Klein. In it, Klein addresses why our differences are more pronounced and capitalized than ever: the changing demographics of the country, the social algorithms, the media business, partisandship over party, and politics as sport. One of the notes he finishes on is a suggestion, that if we are to concern ourselves with any sort of politics, it should be at the local level. There is very little we can change at the national level, with even less of a chance of accessing leadership. Meanwhile, our daily lives are most influenced by what happens in our city, county, and state. These are our people, our families, and homes. And that made me think about Woodstock, Alabama.
Our politics are very much dictated by geography. When it comes to worldview and philosophy, we are reflective – and a product – of our immediate communities and neighborhoods. I drove down to Huntington Beach this weekend to visit my parents. I drove through downtown HB, passed open restaurants and crowded beaches. It was a rarity to see a COVID mask on bros in American flag boardshorts and women guzzling hurricanes. As we exited the freeway back home in LA, joggers and bicyclists were covered and faceless. Just a mere forty minutes up the coast, and I entered a different reality with an entirely opposite set of rules and ethics. 2,000 miles away, Ryan was probably adhering to his own sense of right and wrong in the midst of a global pandemic. I doubt that I could go onto his profile and shame him into adopting my understanding of social distancing protocol, based on the news I’ve digested, the conversations I’ve shared, the education I’ve attained, in one of the largest cities in the world. And maybe I wasn’t meant to. The Internet, for all its awesomeness and effectiveness, is a hopeless place for meaningful discourse. They used to say to avoid politics and religion at the dinner table, and that’s in the confines of a warm home over a lovingly prepared meal, with people you’ve known and loved your entire life who share your experiences and culture. Now reduce that complex dialogue to comment slaps with strangers who live on the other side of the world. People whom you’ve never seen and never will, and all you’ll ever appreciate of their entirety as a human being is a square avatar.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t debate with people about politics. How are we to make progress if we don’t challenge people on their wrongs and convince them otherwise? But, we should be smart as to the proper venue to engage others (probably not social media), and realistic about end goals (it’s okay if we haven’t converted them, it should not deter our spirit). Which, is why my politics have taken a different trajectory over the last year – on a course that’s strategically personal, intimate, and offline. This isn’t far removed from how I invite people to discuss faith and religion as well as my life’s work. My business approach has always been to meet and make customers one at a time. I know how shallow and short-lived it can be to market to the masses. I’d rather plant the seeds deep with a patron, affording the time to listen and learn, even if it takes years. Having my mind changed before changing theirs. After 17 years, this is why we have such a thick and loyal base. It’s not that they agree with everything that we make and stand for. But, we share a respect and fellowship that’s come from accepting the other.
We are all such intrinsically different people with deeply entrenched belief systems. In fact, in most ways, this diversity is what makes our country so innovative and interesting and powerful. Of course, there are the uglier nuances that divide us on life and death matters. And yes, we now clutch these points as underpinnings of our core identity. But, it serves us to also brandish other facets of our identity that we share and love together – as workers, as students, as family people. As members of our community. As local citizens of our towns. Perhaps if we begin there, we’ll have better visibility on our collective standing as Americans.
We are only a couple months into the lockdown portion of the 2020 pandemic, but so much has already been profoundly affected, if not altered. I’m at once impressed by how quickly humankind adapted to drastically different and unnatural social norms. It’s a wonder that we have been so forgiving and malleable against an unbending storm. People are strong and beautiful in this way.
If anything, I’ve accepted that life now – more than ever – is about approaching and appreciating its fullness one day at a time. So, I treat my days not as paragraphs or even chapters, but full stories in themselves. I awaken painfully early, I lean into the mundane moments, I wrestle with sleep as it steals my last conscious moments in the evenings. I like to feel every corner of my emotions, I long to suffer and delight in their ephemeral residue. Speaking of longing, I have learned to befriend it. It’s the inertia that pulls me through.
I make the effort. I go to the beach when the window provides, I sift the grains of the sand through my fingers, I stay underwater a half-breath longer. If I have six seconds to spare, I offer it to a few sentences in a book I’m committed to. Yes, I will listen to your band. Yes, this is my new favorite song. I am clear and engaged and I don’t leave the days behind with many regrets anymore.
What is this pandemic if not a time to sit with ourselves? There is a drowning quiet and solitude. Even if we are living with others, this is a lonely time. I have confronted myself on more than one occasion. I’ve studied the mirror. Who is this man?
There are some nominal changes as I’ve entered a new decade. I’m finally starting to show my age after a lifetime of looking 12. My eyes, once puffy and swollen from the salt in the food or the tortured nights are now apparently cast this way forever and that’s okay. My skin is coarse and flecked. Not freckled, but spotted. I kiss my son’s smooth face, clear and pure of imperfections – the fountain of youth. When I smile, my crow’s feet branch halfway down my cheek and tug at my jowls (that part, I like).
Within. I am as impatient as ever, yet somehow oblivious to how long my stories unfurl. I have fewer friends now, but deeper conversations. I don’t chase as much anymore. I let the world come to me. I’ve accepted that I’ll never stop being passionate and zealous about the things and people I care about. I overstep those boundaries without apology. I love wastefully. I am less hopeful now, but more of a romantic. I believe that people can be better, no matter how much they betray me and break me time and again. This is what makes me weak and less than. I am ruled by betrayal.
These are the thoughts I carry with me as I walk back and forth and across. I have never heard myself so loudly. I am listening.
Meanwhile, locusts have been decimating the other side of the world. I’ve been quietly following this story the last couple months, just because it’s soooo Revelations. But, it’s actually turning out to be kind of a thing.
You can read about it here.
On another note, I was intrigued by this locust and the accompanying caption. Me, as an insect.
The desert locust undergoes physical changes as it transitions from its solitarious phase (left) to its gregarious phase (right).
“Was that life? Well then, once more!”
Lately, I’ve been deep-diving into scientific literature around entropy. In physics, entropy is defined as a “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.” Kinda like how there is a natural trend for your house to be messy and cluttered, versus clean and organized. I know I’m not the only one who believes that the universe, and life itself, are unraveling. In some ways, I feel like it’s speeding UP, like the thinning of toilet paper as you get nearer to the end of the roll.
There is a new theory emerging that – somewhere out there – exists a reality with low entropy. In fact, a parallel universe exists that is moving backwards in time. This means that while entropy propels us into our future, we are simultaneously hurtling towards someone else’s past.
Have I thoroughly confused you yet? I’m probably doing a terrible job of explaining it.
Read the article for yourself HERE.
This art and essay are regarding a 1-of-1 T-shirt I designed for Keyla Marquez, who has curated different artists to interpret white T-shirts for charity this week.
It’s called The White T-Shirt Project. You can learn more about it here.
I already have everything I need. More importantly, I already have everyone I need.
If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that my cup is full. It’s been full. And yet, I’ve spent my life – and my life’s work – scouring the earth for more friends and followers and customers. I am addicted to people. I collect them like baseball cards. But, this pursuit for more – it’s endless and insatiable. It can be exhausting. And two months of isolation have reminded me that what already sits before me is infinite – my loving people, my loved work. They are oceans in themselves and it would take a thousand lifetimes to reach the bottom. Why distract myself with other books when I’ve yet to finish these?
When Keyla told me about this project, I was struck by her boldness and ambition. Here we are, staring into the face of an opaque global virus, and yet she felt compelled to incite positive action amongst a circle of artists. The ripples echo wide. It took just one person to organize an effort that will affect thousands, millions.
Each one reach one. When I talk about my work, I say, “It’s not for everyone. It’s for someone.” Even I forget that sometimes. I was never interested in winning over the world. It was about speaking with one person at a time. It wasn’t about being popular amongst many. It was about diving deep into a curated few.
So, there are two things going on here.
One, the recognition of beautiful relationships existing, instead of being enchanted by the social frontier. From now on, may we pause to live in the castles we’ve already built.
Two, the power of the individual cry. We are each potent in our capacity to inspire, mentor, and create significant change. Like Keyla.
You can bid on my T-shirt for the next week here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Bobby-Hundreds/402261145058
This website is slowly just turning into an Itaewon Class fan page.
After Sinead O’Connor’s controversial SNL performance where she ripped the photo of the Pope, she next showed up at a Bob Dylan tribute. She got booed when she took the stage, so she cut her performance and shouted the song lyrics to WAR.
Then she was so overwhelmed when Kris Kristofferson embraced her afterwards, she threw up.
So brave and powerful. Good on Kris Kristofferson also. Here are the lyrics.
Until the philosophy,
Which holds one race superior
And another inferior,
Is finally and permanently
Discredited and abandoned,
Everywhere is war.
Until there is no longer first class
Or second class citizens of any nation.
Until the color of a man’s skin,
Is of no more significance than
The color of his eyes,
I’ve got to say “war”.
That until the basic human rights,
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race,
I’ll say “war”
Until that day the dream of lasting peace,
World-citizenship and the rule of
International morality will remain
Just a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never obtained.
And everywhere is war.
Until the ignoble and unhappy regime
Which holds all of us through,
Child-abuse, yeah, child-abuse yeah,
Sub-human bondage has been toppled,
Everywhere is war.
War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south,
There is war,
And the rumors of war.
Until that day,
There is no continent,
Which will know peace.
We find it necessary.
We know we will win.
We have confidence in the victory
Of good over evil
Fight the real enemy!
This is my favorite Sinead O’Connor song, “This is a Rebel Song.”
Yuval Noah Harari on Sam Harris.
Texting with my brothers. Zooming with old friends.
Itaewon Class on Netflix.
Opening windows to let the warm air in.
This month’s Death Sentences selection, Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein.
Listening to my children laugh with each other.
Dying and bleaching.
Social commerce and video games.
Reading Rilke like it’s the first time.
The Plot Against America on HBO.
It’s like the train just started moving again. With a jolt.
The world is coming alive, the colors incandescent.
Had so many promising meetings today, setting the tone for the next chapter of The Hundreds. Setting the pace for the others…
But, my starkest moment arrived earlier in the morning. I drew liberally. I listened to The Beatles at full volume. Alone in my office, at the end of the hall.
It’s May now.
The first iteration of Monologue – in the sense of photography, musings and poetry – was actually not The Hundreds’ blog, but my Tumblr, which I stopped updating almost 4 years ago to the day.
I transmitted from there between the years of 2011-2016. I shot this photo in 2012.
You can still read the entries here.
High school cliques in the ‘90s were fascinating because the youth were segmented along music tastes, interests, and attitudes. Subsequently, it was easier to identify people by their style of dress. You knew the ravers by their beaded bracelets and cartoon character necklaces. The skaters in their big colorful pants and bleached hair. There were the jocks in jerseys, the preps in plaid, the band geeks, the punks, the taggers… and I was the hummingbird, cross-pollinating. As a teenager, I was curious, if not obsessed, with teenage tribes (I dreamt of one day writing a book or movie about them). How friends would clump together and adopt badges and uniforms to express who they were… and who they were not. Why didn’t the b-boys play tennis? Why were there no gangbangers in theater groups or cheerleaders sporting mohawks? I was trying to explain this to my son this weekend while we watched the Travis Scott Fortnite concert together. “You know, you’re pretty lucky to grow up in this time, because kids who were into video games used to be considered nerds.” He was shocked. “Nerds? But, video games are the coolest thing! Everyone plays video games.” And he’s right. I mean, we were watching the biggest concert of the year on his Nintendo Switch.
These days, high school cliques are still very much a thing, but it’s gotten harder to tell who is who – not just ideology-wise, but by clothing. Maybe it’s due to the Internet or maybe people just aren’t as narrow-minded, but you can listen to whatever you want in 2020, without it pigeonholing you as belonging to a certain social group or lifestyle. You can be into social justice and MMA and cooking, and that’s totally acceptable. The fashion is just as universal, even across genders. You can dress like a hypebeast one day and an emo kid the next. Even better, just mix it all together, bending genres and crossing boundaries.
“Cliques” by The Hundreds and Puma is a discussion of high school cliques over the past couple generations. We modeled each sneaker and its corresponding outfit along three silos of ‘90s teenagers: “jocks,” “preps,” and an all-encompassing “party crew.” The fourth profile is the modern youth who is an aggregate of all subcultures and niche interests. He/she/they are a worldly figure, reflective of their ecosystems, openminded and inclusive. And beyond labels and classifications.
The Hundreds X Puma “Cliques” drops Thursday, April 30.
Almost 20 years ago, I bought my first painting for $100. I was at my friend Dave Kinsey’s new gallery, BLK/MRKT, in Culver City. Kinsey and I knew each other from our San Diego days, then we reunited in LA when he was one of the first to open in what would eventually become a big arts district. That evening, Tiffany Bozic was having a solo exhibition themed around hummingbirds. I was not only there to support her work, but to interview her for our new website, thehundreds.com.
At the time, I couldn’t afford most of the paintings (they were priced in the thousands), but she had this one series on the wall of a group (a flock? a gaggle?) of individual birds in squares. There were probably 50 of these, priced a hundred bucks each like I noted, and unsurprisingly, most were sold out. By that point in my life, hummingbirds had come to signify something very special regarding deceased family and friends. My dad had passed on his belief that birds carry spirits of loved ones and so when his father died, I was the first to see a bright rainbow hummingbird visit outside our window as we ate breakfast the following morning.
But a hundred bucks was a lot for me and as a struggling artist myself, I couldn’t justify spending that much cash on someone else’s artwork. In my self-centered head, I was like, “I could just paint that myself!” (Which, I eventually attempted. And failed miserably at!).
After hemming and hawing for the duration of the show, I ponied up and adopted this bird. There was a tinge of buyer’s remorse when I had to pay that month’s rent, but at that moment, I felt like a grown-up. I hung that wooden board proudly by my front door and studied it every day as I reached for my keys and wallet. Since then, I’ve moved three or four times – from a bigger studio apartment, to a 1-bedroom, to a house, then another filled with a family. And the hummingbird has always come with me.
Always by the door. Always heading out into the world.
Best hundred dollars I ever spent.
The writer – and one of my favorite people – Elizabeth Gilbert has another unique perspective on the hummingbird. She believes that some of us are “hummingbirds” – driven by our curiosities, which takes us from place to place, person to person. And it is through us, that ideas are cross-pollinated and “the culture is aerated.” Watch.
Disclaimer: As it turns out, the scary and unsettling byproducts of pandemics aren’t just limited to unstoppable viruses and contagions. The movies conveniently leave out the parts about not being able to hug your grandparents or anti-Asian racism or that glaring bit about half the population losing their job, their purpose, and identities. Maybe these side effects just don’t compare to the umbra of grisly death, but portions of this feel like a living hell. So, let me preface this essay by remarking that Life and health are most valuable and worth fighting for. After that, the economy (which, is also a public health issue) must be salvaged and redefined. When human beings are being trampled by a merciless disease, streetwear is inconsequential. Yet, for many of us, streetwear is inextricable from life itself. It’s our livelihood and recreation. It’s our people and point of view. And so, the conversation must be had. How does streetwear continue and prosper in a pandemic?
Earlier this morning, we released a collaboration with Animaniacs, the irreverent ‘90s Warner Bros. cartoon. It’s looking like this will be the most successful drop in the 17-year history of our company, but we aren’t surprised for a couple reasons. For one, we’ve been down this road before. If you read my book, you’ll remember that we worked with Animaniacs on a smaller collection in the fall of 2017. The anecdote puts a bow on a series of trials The Hundreds survived as we re-established ourselves amongst a new generation of customers and competitors. And, like many businesses at the time, we were pivoting harder into our online sales over physical retail.
The afternoon of that first Animaniacs release, we broke the news to our San Francisco staff that we’d be closing our Union Square flagship after a decade. Mere hours later, Ben and I sat at the hotel bar and tugged at the Shopify app, refreshing the escalating Online Shop sales as The Hundreds X Animaniacs unleashed to the world. While one chapter was closing, another was unfurling into an open frontier. By ending my memoir with this story, I was not only memorializing a turning point for the brand but documenting what that digital segue meant for greater streetwear, the fashion marketplace, and the global economy. However, I was still convinced that while e-commerce would continue to eat up the majority of transactions, actual stores were necessary for introducing one’s product to niche markets, providing a face to the brand, and designating a grounds for culture to flourish. I refused to envision a world where retailers were absent (especially with the community-powered streetwear that I championed).
By February of 2020, I didn’t have to use my imagination. On the 17th, I half-jokingly tweeted: “If streetwear really dies this year, it’ll be because of the coronavirus.” Many businesses, like ours, who rely on overseas manufacturers, had already been dealing with the ramifications of COVID-19 since the New Year. With production stalled in Chinese factories and travel restrictions clamping down, there were brows furrowing across the industry. Would our Summer collections arrive on time? Can we get to Fashion Week? What most of us failed to foresee were the ensuing stay-at-home lockdowns, how they would shutter wholesale accounts worldwide and chill future seasonal bookings. Soon those questions unraveled into, “Will people ever shop in stores again? By the time there’s an appetite for it, which retailers will have survived?”
I’ve been sitting on this essay for weeks, waiting for the ground to stop shaking before I give an assessment on how streetwear best fits into the new normal. But, the tremors are relentless, the new normal is yet to be normalized, and it will be years – if not decades – before we have clarity and see this thing for what it is. Therefore, I’ll begin by addressing what streetwear was, then perhaps we can get to a place of what it is, before I make an attempt to hypothesize what it might be.
For the last couple decades, streetwear captured the imagination of youth culture, larger fashion, and the entrepreneurial generation for three reasons: authenticity, roots in community, and artistry. Streetwear’s recent, mainstream appeal foamed as a Veblen good – where scarcity and scrappiness collide with image and luxury. But, as I like to say, “Streetwear without culture is just fashion.” The special distinction – that X-factor – that separates Streetwear from anything else out there is the personalities involved. There’s a heritage to heed. An attitude to traffic in. It can’t be explained, it can hardly be earned. But these are the social nuances we picked up by hanging out at stores.
Although the digital forum has amplified streetwear, most of us can trace our formative beginnings to a specific shop (or shops). Even if we didn’t have access to a streetwear store, we were well versed in the language and politics of these underground spaces. Ben and I learned much of streetwear’s ins and outs by hanging out in the smoky backrooms of SSUR in New York or Brooklyn Projects on Melrose. We read A-ron’s GLOB on the aNYthing site. The generation prior to ours can tell you tales about Behind the Post Office in San Diego, Animal Farm in Miami, or Union NY. Kids today can speak on watching the Round Two show on YouTube or lining up at Supreme on Fairfax.
Regardless of generation and geography, streetwear stores are a breeding grounds for creative youth to gather and share ideas. They are clubhouses but also laboratories. If you’re a disaffected square-peg, it’s hard to dwell in these rooms without daydreaming about your own future brand. If the biggest labels and shops are architected by unpolished artists (not savvy businessmen), then “I can do it too.” Thus, shops are also incubators. Just some of the relevant figures who used to work in – or hang out at – our stores: Dillon Francis, designer Danielle Guizio, Luka Sabbat, artist Matt McCormick and Odd Future. Some went on to build their own brands like Quinn from The Good Company and Joshua Vides. Even if they weren’t associated with our brand, the shops gave the kids somewhere to go: to skate, to smoke, to make friends and make lives.
Streetwear was also founded on airtight branding principles. I can’t pinpoint where exactly this stems from, but perhaps it has to do with New York coolguy elitism, streetwear’s love affair with luxury, or Japan’s self-restraint. Regardless, the name of the game has forever been longevity. Discipline over dollars. Forsaking immediate gratitude for the promise and potential of a lasting legacy. We learned a lot by watching brands like Supreme and A Bathing Ape. They were meticulous about treating run-of-the-mill T-shirts as art pieces instead of disposable goods. This shit was meant to last forever. The distribution models reflected this degree of control and care. Limited wholesale, if any. Even tighter runs on production.
As soon as LA locked its doors in March, we went on sale. Most small businesses are sitting on enough cash reserves to last them a month or two (for restaurants, it’s half that). The Hundreds has no investors – it’s still just Ben and I – so there’s no pillow to catch our fall. We were already watching our European pre-books for The Hundreds’ end-of-the-year collections stutter and knew the worst wouldn’t hit us until this Fall or Winter. We had to shore up immediately, downshifting to conserve fuel anywhere we could in the business while making money to buy the most important commodity of all: time. The restrictions were changing as fast as developments around the virus. With the goalposts moving every morning, we knew the window of opportunity was shrinking. The staff started working from home, our sewers began making masks, and the warehouse moved at a glacial pace by following safety protocol. But at any moment, COVID-19 could shut us down entirely and so we went from planning for tomorrow to focusing on today.
Streetwear is all about brand-building, and brand-building is all about maintenance and endurance. But, what if you don’t have 50 years anymore – you have 50 days? You are suddenly unfettered by the usual creative restraints. You now have the latitude to say Yes without the fear of long-term repercussions. You can go on Sale, you can make the edition unlimited. And go ahead, lean into that guilty pleasure. This is a time of no judgment. Nobody is watching. Everyone is more concerned with shoveling water out of their own boat than laughing at your leak. So, take advantage of this rare moment to experiment, think freely, and stretch the limits of brand and business. How would you play your favorite game if you could re-write the rules in your favor? You now have the permission to do that.
Amongst business experts, there is one word that sits on the tip of everyone’s tongue: Survive. If you can tough it out, if you can be here this time next year, you will win by virtue of attrition. Even if it means making compromises or unnatural moves with the business. Nothing is natural anymore, relatively little makes sense. When you’re trying to outrun a tsunami, you’re not self-conscious of style points. You’ll dance once you’re on higher ground.
I have no idea what business will look like in a month, let alone a year. But, like every self-appointed expert these days, I can doodle some guesses. One thing is for certain: if you weren’t a DTC (direct-to-consumer) brand already, you are now. Perhaps we would’ve transitioned all commerce online at some point in the next five to ten years, but the coronavirus expedited this shift to a Ready Player One virtual existence literally overnight. ESPN is broadcasting e-sports, classes are held in grids onscreen, and live DJ battles are experienced together on our phones. Even if this isn’t a permanent change, we are getting a hard glimpse into what the future could be. And for many – like companies who are finding success with WFH and parents who see the fruits of homeschooling – this could be an awakening.
There will be lesser stores in the future and even fewer of those being streetwear boutiques. In many ways, the American economy never fully recovered from the 2008 recession and any veteran physical retailer can attest to that. So, the ones who do bloom post-pandemic will need to prove themselves as marketing vehicles above all else, which in itself will make leases a luxury for larger companies. Once shoppers and shopkeepers are accustomed to the convenience of buying specialty pieces online, it will be hard to unring that bell. It’ll be an uphill battle to motivate customers to IRL shop again, so shops must be re-imagined as communal spaces, art galleries, or lounges. Just like how restaurants have transformed into grocery stores (with some making more money selling produce than they did serving dinner), maybe clothing stores will also be where you dry clean your clothes, source the materials to produce your own, or re-sell them. Sometimes, we are so tunnel-visioned as to product and purpose. We allow a brand to be classified as one thing or a store to sell one type of way. What if it we didn’t look at it as a streetwear store, but as a black box theater? A gaming café? A workspace or day care center? What if it were all those things?
This is where streetwear excels, because for most streetwear boutiques, it was always about the culture over the clothing. Looping around to a point I made earlier, these stores were essentially clubhouses, so why not take it literally? Shops can survive by turning into social houses with memberships. Once you’re admitted, you have access to workstations to print shirts for your own brand, attend speaking events, or skate the ramp out back. Oh, and maybe you’ll be inclined to buy a shirt or two while you’re there.
Or not. Why relegate streetwear to, well, streetwear? Streetwear’s advantage is that the lifestyle comes first, so you can sell any genre of product against it. The kids just need somewhere to go and something to congregate around. For all of those headscratchers wondering why a high-schooler would sleep on the sidewalk to re-sell some sneakers, they don’t see the relational bonds that come from that experience or the social badges that come from being a player in the game. It can be Nikes or hoodies but streetwear can also be bananas and computer parts. Streetwear is the most adaptive and responsive industry out there. Yes, we sell T-shirts, but we can also sell you a brick.
And we can sell it to you online, over Twitch, through our app, or a text. Direct-to-consumer doesn’t just stop with sales. It encompasses marketing, cultivating trust, and most importantly, community building. Lockdowns may not last forever but society may be hesitant to re-enter the outside world anytime soon. That means designers and brands will have to meet their customers through technology, and I’m not just talking about an intrusive IG Live or a 40-minute Zoom session. Travis Scott is doing a live performance on Fortnite as I write this. Faze Clan is ruling YouTube, e-sports, and NTWRK drops. For those of you who have been texting my personal number (323) 310-2844 since December, you may have noticed more personalities telling you to save their contact. The next generation of SMS marketing is being beta-tested by a few different apps and will change the social conversation by the end of 2020. It’s the anti-algorithm – less mass and more personalized. Ideal for a generation exhausted by targeted ads and disingenuous influencers.
If you recall from the start of my essay, I was saying that we weren’t surprised by the success of our Animaniacs collab for two reasons. The second reason we expected this project to sell through is that outside of wholesale stoppage, our online business has been weathering the storm. At first, we thought it was a fluke. Maybe buying patterns would change once customers lost jobs. Yet, they continue to hold steady. It reminds me once more of the 2008 recession and how our business was largely insulated from the crash. In fact, it wasn’t until 2-3 years later that we saw sales slump (and I’m not sure if that had as much to do with the economy as it did with brand fatigue). At the time, we assumed that if it weren’t for the economic downturn, we could have gotten even bigger (but in hindsight, we were peaking at our max, with or without a recession). My theory remains, whether back then or a decade later, that our young clientele are generally unrattled by world events in comparison to their parents, and their shopping patterns are evidence. Not that they’re sociopathic or ignorant. They just see the problem from a different angle.
The first couple weeks of stay-at-home in Los Angeles, I was texting my followers about how they felt regarding the coronavirus. I have thousands of contacts but only a handful expressed alarm over the virus ravaging Italy at the time. I’m not sure if it’s because they considered it (errantly) an “old person’s disease” or because of lack of awareness, but most of my fans were instead fixated on when the Blue the Great collaboration was dropping or if I could critique their brand. This didn’t sync up with what I was experiencing in my immediate world as the news spun out of control and my neighbors drew their curtains shut. It was another two weeks before I saw a rise in texts on the subject matter of COVID-19, but even then, the dialogue was less distressed as it was with my peers.
One of my customers Terrence confided, “I lost my job today, so to make myself feel better, I bought some clothes.”
“Oh no, I’m sorry to hear that man,” I texted back. “I appreciate your support, but you need to take care of yourself right now.”
“Thanks Bobby, I understand where you’re coming from. But, this is how I take care of myself. I love The Hundreds.”
I was reminded of how old I am and how I’d lost sight of what it means to be 19, spirited, and invincible. Although COVID-19 can infect anyone’s health, regardless of age, it really can be an “old person’s disease” when it comes to mindset. As I get older, I’m more attuned to my body’s aches and pains. I am constantly fretting about my children’s well-being. I stress about the news like Kevin’s dad at the breakfast table in The Wonder Years, except I do it all day long. And I compare notes and anxieties with other responsible grown-ups. All of these serve as daily reminders of mortality and finiteness. Terrence, meanwhile, is infinite.
The reason why streetwear will prevail is because its fate is in the hands of young survivors. This generation was born in the fire, and so this new chaos is another puzzle to solve. So far, these kids have outlasted the recession, school shootings, devastating climate change, and a polarized nation. Now they are ripped from their schools and friendships in the most formative years. They are watching their grandparents die from afar. Yet, this generation is also the bravest, the most inspired and impassioned, because they know nothing else but disillusionment and struggle. While my childhood was wrapped in Happy Meals and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, these kids were born on 9/11. Streetwear is their playground, their blank canvas to throw paint at. Streetwear isn’t inconsequential, but for them, the problems associated with it are. They’ll be the first ones to get back in line to support the retailers. They’ll build brands ABOUT this. Like I said in my last essay, the Streetwear generation is about regeneration. Pivoting and adaptation are what we do.
Finally, what about design? After the last recession, streetwear toned down its flamboyance. There was a short hiccup where Americana menswear took center stage in streetwear retailers. Basic chambrays and selvedge denim silenced heavy logos and fleece. We couldn’t sell a graphic T-shirt for the life of us. It was all about neutrals, blanks, and miminalism. I’ll argue, however, that you won’t see the same trends emerge this time around because the same gatekeepers aren’t dictating what’s getting made.
In the early 2010s, e-commerce and DTC were still not commonplace and so brands were dependent on retailers to carry their goods. Store buyers ultimately – and confusingly – called the shots on what got designed and produced in the marketplace. Since they theoretically knew their customer best, they bought according to their insight and the brands either catered to that or forewent the dollars. So when the recession struck, shop owners transferred that fear onto the brands. They declared that It wasn’t the appropriate time to experiment with design. The buyers played it safe by curating conservative stock. The designers tempered their artistic expression with universally appealing collections.
In the new world, the consumers are in control. There is no middleman who determines what’s best for the brand or the customer. As long as the customer feels adventurous, adventurous design will be supported. Likewise, if the customer gets scared, design will play it safe. For the time being – and I can only speak for today – the customer is still active and engaged. How that sustains is contingent on how this virus manifests and how the leaders in charge respond.
But, we’ll take it for now.
That’s the overarching thesis here. Nobody knows what’s happening now, let alone where this is headed next. Most experts didn’t see a pandemic coming. They are just as speculative as to where it’s going. Accordingly, my essay might be moot if a vaccine is discovered tomorrow or COVID-19 is found to be most transmissible through Jordans or a meteor hits our planet. All I do know is that until now, we managed our best to live under the illusion of structure and predictability when life has proven to be anything but. This time, it’s just different because we all got up-ended by the same thing at the same time. But life was never a straight line – there are car crashes and heartbreaks and bad sushi that can upset our night, our months, our entire lives. Yet, somehow, we adapt to the circumstances, say goodbye to yesterday and accept the morning. Every single day.
It’s funny. In some ways, streetwear is a virus in itself. It’s novel and innovative. It needs a receptive host to share it with a community. It’s infectious and resilient and mutates over generations. And although it comes and goes in waves, no matter what the world throws at it, it’s almost impossible to extinguish. It survives.
As you may know, we have a collaboration with the ’90s cartoon Animaniacs releasing later this week. This is the second time we’ve worked with this property. Our first project together released in November of 2017 and was chronicled in my book, This Is Not a T-shirt. The night of the debut coincided with our breaking the bad news to our The Hundreds San Francisco staff that we’d be closing the shop. As Ben and I sat at the Clift bar at midnight, refreshing the Shopify app and corresponding with our Digital Director back in LA, we saw a new future for our brand opening up before our eyes. We had worked hard to get business back on track after a series of trials. The phenomenal success of the Animaniacs drop signified a third or fourth beginning. A new generation of The Hundreds followers were arising. Plus, this confirmed what we’d been anticipating – the promise of direct-to-consumer business. Three years later, as wholesale is paused, we are grateful for the head start with our online commerce.
Fast forward to 2020, our DTC operation is a well-oiled machine. Yet, here we are in a pandemic, as limited as ever on resources. It reminds me of the early days of the company. I’m not only doing photo shoots again myself, but I’m having to find creative ways to execute ideas since I don’t have access to models, elaborate production, or a crew to assist me.
So, I asked (forced) my sons to participate in the lookbook shoot for The Hundreds X Animaniacs. They conveniently serve as the brothers Yakko and Wakko. Our next door neighbor’s daughter was playing in the front yard; she was excited to play the role of Dot.
I’ve never put my boys on the Internet before, but I felt comfortable doing it this time because they’re COVID-disguised anyway. One of the oddest and unshakable parts of the pandemic experience is watching young children riding scooters and bikes in the neighborhood behind medical masks. So dystopian… Well, I wanted to memorialize this dark episode, while also playing up the contrast from the last photoshoot I did around Animaniacs (which, was fun and irreverent). Hopefully in three years, we get to revisit Animaniacs once again. I’ll be able to refer back to this entry and note how far I’ve – we’ve – progressed. Fingers crossed.
Somehow, I get to have a job where I create something new and different every day. Even if it’s the same task, there are nuances within. I’ve been doing this for 17 years and I’m still learning, growing, having so much fun.. I’m grateful.
Just making it up as I go along. One train track at a time.
In this room, exists
A mirage of Better.
An incessant reminder
that I’m not invited
In this room exists
Everyone I hate
Even if they aren’t in this room, their odor is pungent
I am one degree away from being told
of their terribleness
We will always share this room.
In this room, I lust
For places that aren’t here
For success that isn’t mine
For bodies that belong to others.
A lust like a cancer.
In this room,
I stumble in the dark.
I am misguided and misled
I indulge in half truths
My imagination fills in the blanks
with all the worst answers.
What about this room
A room that is mine
A room that is enviable.
With unsung corners
Free of secrets
Well-lit with adventures
A room where I’m fed
and can feed those whom I trust
In this room
In this room
I exist in this room.
The week that LA initiated lockdown, I was Facetiming my friend Ellen Bennett.
You know Ellen. She owns Hedley & Bennett, which makes aprons and kitchen workwear right down the street from us in Vernon. We’ve done a couple collaborations with her before and I also interviewed her for my podcast last year.
But on this morning a month ago, Ellen called to ask how I was personally managing the shock of the Coronavirus and how The Hundreds was bracing for impact. We broke down our options as business owners facing a mysterious and threatening pandemic. Ellen’s husband Casey was off-camera, saying Hi over boiling water. He unpackaged a ream of fresh pasta and we admired the box design together. I told Ellen that as far as her offering