“We like the Hundreds...They talk down to us.”
The Hundreds Elitism, Growing Pains, and Corporate Independence Words: Marcus Arman Photos: Andy J. Scott
ix months ago, when Complex Magazine decided to put together a list of the 50 Greatest Streetwear, they enlisted the services of Bobby Hundreds. The choice was brilliant. Not only does he run arguably today’s most successful streetwear brand, he also revolutionized the way brands interact with their audience. By launching the Hundreds as a lifestyle brand close to eight years ago, Bobby, along with partner and longtime buddy Ben Shenassafar, utilized a blog format to stir a personal connection with fans. It was an unprecedented move in fashion, specifically, street fashion. And we all know what happened next – this same format became the blueprint for streetwear brands hoping to build similar empires. But he couldn’t have done any of this without being a polished writer – something he’s all too aware of.
Whereas most established brand owners shy away from self-marketing, Bobby revels in it. From week to week, you can expect to see blogposts on anything from warehouse activities to behind-the-scenes collaboration brainstorming to artists that all the cool kids should be listening too. The key word, of course, being “cool.” As a purveyor of nonconformity, Bobby’s distinct voice has helped breed a new cool hinged on brand-indulgent elitism meant to attract new and returning audiences. In simpler terms, the Hundreds’ appeal is rooted in elitist tastes and viewpoints. Before going any further, a few things must be said. In recent years, this entire culture has grown into a show of one-upmanship. It all seems based around elitist points of view and the act of scoffing. You got the Retros, they’re not even OG. You got your denim at the mall? Mighty Healthy only made 24 of these. We crave exclusivity, hype and cultural acceptance – which typically translate into mainstream rejection until the rest of the world catches up. The entire culture is smug; from producers to consumers to the blogs covering and introducing brands to this ever-growing niche market. Bobby acknowledges this in his piece for Complex, so without question, the Hundreds are not alone in this attitude. However, they are the most successful and blatant beneficiaries of holding their nose up high. We like the Hundreds for the same reason we like Presidential candidates and fitness trainers: They talk down to us. They remind us that we’re not quite as cool as we’d like to think – but buying an Adam bomb cap might change that. But it doesn’t work to just sell products but promote the entire “lifestyle” as well. In a December 8th posting, Bobby wrote, “I know to most of our readers, there’s not much music outside of OF or Mac Miller…” before introducing the Hundreds audience to sultry soul singer Lana Del Ray. This mockery isn’t an overwhelming insult, as it is a subtle condescension. It’s the cultural equivalent of We know most of you kids still play with Legos, but we play computer games. He knows his brand is “it.” He knows his shops’ locations are on the “it” streets in the “it” cities. And he knows the “it” things to recommend and share. As such, the Hundreds’ is able to maintain its fringe acceptance while appealing to the masses.
Ironically, streetwear was birthed as a medium to include not exclude. By combining various aesthetic inspirations – skate, surf, hip hop and art – streetwear presented itself as a relatable, all-encompassing style. But over the course of its three major waves - as Bobby coined these cultural phases, something was lost. The sense of community was replaced with a looming sense of corporate interest. The world discovered there was money in streetwear, so an “independent” brand could never hold the same connotation. Just like the internet blurred the lines between “underground” and mainstream music, the same has occurred in street fashion. You might not see the Hundreds stocked in your local mall, but you’ll see dozens of kids wearing the Hundreds in that same mall. The Hundreds are like most other successful streetwear brands in that they place a premium on exclusivity – specifically with collaborations – and quality. However, their blog sets them apart from most, not due to the concept, but because of the content. It’s a great read – informative, insightful, occasionally funny and always relevant. But it also vocalizes the elitist characteristics of those behind the Hundreds while alluding to the whole culture’s outlook. You’re only as cool as your last tee, tweet or travel. And if it happened last week, who cares. As a brand, the Hundreds are solid. They speak directly (down) to their audience to promote their increasingly better-cut garments. But they also run the risk of turning out young audiences on the verge of saying this is no culture for old men. Bobby began his Complex writings with his hypothesis that the fourth wave of streetwear is slowly forming. And I’m inclined to agree with him. It can’t be much longer until the kids are fed up with corporations masked by cool cosigns and cultural roots. Streetwear wasn’t founded in posh Clubs, but in backyards and garages. Some brands need to be reminded of this as owners Instagram their luxury sedans and celebrity BFFs.
And other brands need nothing more than to fall off