|Interview. Bobby Hundreds for The Hundreds|
What's the story behind The Hundreds?
It's pretty simple actually. The Hundreds is a double-headed project: a clothing-line and online magazine. Because of our subculture-rich Southern California upbringing, we (Ben and I) have always been fascinated and obsessed with youth culture. From skateboarding to hip-hop, punk to graffiti. You know the saying, "You are what you eat" ? Well, our lifestyle diet's been chock full of boardsports, music, art, and fashion. So The Hundreds is our canvas, where we get to regurgitate everything we've learned and loved.
The fashion is inspired by early '80s and '90s California culture. L.A. has been the stomping grounds for T-shirt "streetwear" ever since Stussy, Fresh Jive, and XLarge ignited a firestorm when I was a kid. Our magazine content revolves around our "family," diverse personalities who we are fortunate to call our friends, and who have inspired not only The Hundreds, but modern youth subculture as a whole.
Another aspect of what we do is to bring the focus back to the West Coast, and what we call "Los Angeles Lifestyle / California Culture." Over the years, people have shifted their attention to Asia or New York to inspire trends, but L.A. has so much history, vibrance, and culture in this "industry." We have nothing but respect for this city, so we're raising awareness for the heads that don't know. With time, you're gonna see a lot of strength running through these streets, from the Undefeated/La Brea camp, the skateboarding world, and new L.A.-based clothing brands like AWOL
Why are independent publishing, free press, and the magazine format so important to culture?
The beauty of the internet is that everyone has a proper "voice." Whereas historically, information and opinion have been disseminated from the top-down, the web has opened communication from the bottom-up, or horizontally between social classes. In the past, the people have been fed with whatever the state, church, big business, and media conglomerates have determined as important or newsworthy.
For decades, punks and grassroots-minded young people have responded with 'zines (independently-published photocopied magazines). I've also utilized 'zines to express myself when I felt like no one was listening, or worse, no one could hear me. The internet just made it a lot easier. In essence, every website is its own 'zine, and now, everyone can claim their stake in the public space. I just read an article the other day that said within the next few years, internet speed is going to increase by 1600%. It's a little scary, but also empowering. Now, we're all on the same page, literally and figuratively.
Any plans on moving to print?
No definite timeframe, but it's coming up on our to-do list. At this point, it's just a financial barrier, but my background is in print publishing, and as cool as online magazines are, there's nothing like the feel and portability of an old-fashioned paper publication.
What are the pros/cons of keeping the magazine online?
As I said before, online publishing means accessibility and... freedom! Freedom for the publisher, freedom for the reader, and freedom of expression. However, the worst thing about having a magazine online is that you can't read it on the toilet. There's something to be said for being able to roll up your magazine and sticking it in your back pocket.
With all the new lines, artists, designers, companies out there, how do you decide who to feature in the magazine?
With our magazine, we're intent on featuring people, not just companies or faceless products. Behind every creative endeavor, someone's imagination is at work, and we try to give that exposure. The vast majority of the individuals we profile are close, personal friends of ours. We've kicked it with, or worked together, with these people for years, and we strongly believe in what they do. Just like you'd want to see your own brother or sister succeed, we feel the same about our friends.
Furthermore, these are also our heroes. The ones who go against the societal grain, and pave the way for companies such as ours. Let's face it, we're in the business of producing, marketing, and selling "Cool". And these are the ones who built the house of Cool!
Trends and (current) affairs
What are some current trends in our culture that you've been noticing?
"Nothing is new under the sun." The past few years have been awash in camouflage, limited-edition, minimalism, sneakers, and graffiti-turned-gallery art. The kids are getting bored, uninspired, and scrambling for something fresh to sink their teeth into. It's pretty exciting because we're at a really strange, grey, place in the underground. I mean, c'mon, Bape has a store in America, and a website? New York has about 35 sneaker/T-shirt boutiques within a 5-mile radius. The music scene is dead: Pop MTV, radio, and listener complacency have left us with a skeleton of what real music is. It's probably because we don't really have anything to respond to. Our children are fat, PSP'd out, and clueless as to what the government is up to. We're so fixated on our possessions, self-stimulation, and instant gratification, that we've lost all sense of community and progression.
Perhaps the most inescapable trend is the Internet. Like Jupiter said, "the internet is f**king things up". Beside taking all the fun out of our secret-handshake subculture by uprooting the underground and exposing it to the masses, the worst thing about the Internet Age is the loss of community. The one thing that unites all subculture and progressive trends is a solid community. I learned the art of building relationships through punk shows, skateboarding in abandoned parking lots, and hip-hop events. Nowadays, kids dork out behind computer monitors in cyberspace cliques. It's gonna be interesting to see where this takes us. With all the information, we may be getting smarter, but our social cohesiveness is facing darker days. To bring things full circle, The Hundreds is here to counter that. We're building a lifestyle here, not just a clothing line or magazine... taking things back to what's important, and what's real.
What's your take on the whole "lawsuit" (S2C vs. FJ)?
Haha. Well, we're kinda split because we've got friends on both sides, but from a purely objective point-of-view, it's somewhat discouraging to hear of the basis behind this lawsuit. Much of modern streetwear as we know it is built upon, and thriving on, parody T-shirt graphics.
To be blunt, that's where the money and popularity is at, because that's what the consumers are into. Perhaps it stems from hip-hop production, which relies on "sampling" other people's already recognized and established work, and re-appropriating it into a personalized creation. Or maybe it's simpler than that, and it's just an easy way out. Regardless, parody graphics are so crucial for all streetwear, whether it's young startup T-shirt lines or fully established companies. This lawsuit is important because if it turns against the usage of parody, it will have a chilling effect on others' rights and usage of parody graphics in their own line. But if the lawsuit goes the other way, it'll just open the floodgates for all kinds of parody commercial artwork.
We're pretty intrigued by the whole thing, but it's something that designers and consumers alike should watch closely.
Watch out for our THEBEINGHUNDREDS T-shirt coming in autumn.
Jörg Haas, July 2005
As this is a double-name interview go check The Hundreds now for the second part!
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