No other menswear tribe has dominated fashion in the 21st century quite like streetwear. It’s seen many victories in the past decade, from the biggest fish in its ocean, Supreme, getting valued at $1 billion, to Virgil Abloh, founder of Off-White becoming the king of fashion at Louis Vuitton, and all while the genre dominates the reselling market, led by the fastest growing retailer in the game, StockX.
But back before the big bucks and mainstream spotlight – back in 2003 – there was The Hundreds, a Los Angeles streetwear label founded by illustrator and face of the brand Bobby Kim (aka Bobby Hundreds), and the financial brains behind the operation, Ben Shenassafar.
To understand The Hundreds you have to understand the history of streetwear. Part of the second wave of streetwear brands, The Hundreds came just after the big-hitters of the ’90s – New York’s Supreme, Tokyo’s A Bathing Ape and Laguna Beach’s Stüssy. These brands had yet to become the billion-dollar enterprises they eventually turned in to. No one was getting into it for the money. “Everyone we admired was broke,” laughs Kim.
A DIY culture persisted.
“We were limited to what we had the means and capabilities to do in the early ’00s. Printing graphic T-shirts was very accessible. Everyone knew where to find a silk screen printer in their neighbourhood. We went to a kid who did it in his back yard. There was a very low barrier to entry which is why it’s so youth-driven. We started with just 300 dollars.
“When I think of what streetwear is I’m really thinking of that kid who is building a brand in his garage and has no money, printing three shirts at a time and selling them to his friends. He’s participating in the culture, he’s researching the history, he’s collaborating with other designers. There is constantly a wave of that. That’s never died. Even as streetwear has elevated and high fashion has come in and people are making big money, there’s always been that foundation of what streetwear is.”
Name: Bobby Hundreds
Occupation: Illustrator and designer
Based: Los Angeles, US
Known For: Helping make the graphic tee an essential part of streetwear style
Style Heroes: ’90s skateboarders Rick Howard and Mike Carroll, Alyasha Owerka-Moore (“my design mentor”) and Jules Gayton, an OG member of streetwear collective, Stüssy Tribe.
The graphic tee became the brand’s – and subsequently Bobby’s – signature, backed by its ‘Adam Bomb’ logo – a whimsical, anthropomorphic black bomb. To own a graphic tee from The Hundreds is to be a part of an exclusive, ‘in-the-know’ club – Jonah Hill has been known to hang out at its LA store, while ‘it’ boy, Luka Sabbatt interned there.
The colour black also became a staple for the label with the brand cladding one half of its apparel out in the shade, while the other half is all about “wild” colours. The reasoning behind this split comes from Bobby’s Los Angeles background.
“The ‘80s in LA was all about black. You had the Oakland Raiders, N.W.A., Guns N’Roses, Sunset Strip, Black Flag. And then the ‘90s were all about rave and independent skatewear brands and that’s when colour exploded. And we grew up through both of those generations, so half of what we do is black and the other half, a kaleidoscope of colour.”
Bobby himself sticks to the darker side. As a man pushing 40, sticking to predominantly black clothing is one way of pulling off the streetwear look he’s always called his own, without looking like he’s trying too hard.
The fit is loose and oversized – from his tees to his cargo trousers and jeans – topped off with matching cap and sneakers. Neat, uniform and effortless.
“I like wearing my clothes big. I dress this way because I feel comfortable and confident in it. Sometimes I have to wear a suit for a wedding, and I just don’t feel confident in it. It’s just not me.”
Style Signature: The Graphic T-Shirt
Another way to pull off the streetwear look past the age of 30 is to make sure there’s meaning behind the clothes you’re wearing. For Bobby it’s important all his clothes tell a story, which is especially true of the graphic tees he always wears.
The one he’s wearing when we meet him just before the London launch of his new book, ‘This Is Not A T-Shirt’, is a title of the fourth section in his book written out in a script from his own hand.
“It says ‘people over product’. That has been the overarching theme behind the brand since we started. We’re community-minded and orientated. We’ve always been about telling people stories, more than design. I don’t like to design things just because it’s trending. I challenge every designer to start every design with a story, and what that says to me is that the best design has reason behind it. Why that colour? Why that artwork? Why that fit? There’s got to be a reason for all of it.”
Bobby Hundreds’ 5 Essential Style Tips
Making A Statement With Camo
“From Maharishi to BAPE, camo has been a recurring tone in the history of streetwear. I think it’s because it’s the original all-over print. It’s really loud and aggressive while at the same time being completely neutral and subtle. And that’s every streetwear guy. They want to be tough and stand-out, but they’re also very passive-aggressive and don’t want to be fully out there to the point of being corny.”
Streetwear Works For All Shapes And Sizes
“I grew up shopping in swap meets in south California. We didn’t go to the malls. It was very cheap and it was Dickies pants and these [Alstyle] AAA blank T-shirts – boxy, stiff, rugged, not meant to fall apart, not meant to flatter the body in any way.
It was a uniform. You’d wear these boxes whether you were a boy or girl and that is a whole element of streetwear that’s not talked about. The way it fits is the most inclusive clothing can get. A guy or girl can wear it, different body sizes, height, shapes – everyone can wear it and everyone can look the same and feel comfortable in those clothes.”
Choose Your Sneakers Wisely
“I’m picky about my sneakers. I only have ten pairs of sneakers at a time and half of them are just black, so easy to pair with everything. Plain Vans, plain Chucks, a black pair of Nikes. I’m not into super outlandish sneakers. I don’t usually wear Air Max 90s, but they saved me this pair, a collaboration with Maharishi, and they kind of look like army fatigues which go with my camo trousers.”
Stand Out With All-Black
“For our generation of LA streetwear guys, it was always black. I remember doing selling tours of Europe, and all the Europeans would be like “You LA guys and your black. Why do you do that when you live in such a colourful place?” and that’s exactly why right there. When everyone else is wearing everything bright and fluorescent we wanted to stand-out and look cool by differentiating ourselves from all that, and we did that by wearing all-black.”
Keep The Headwear Simple
“This hat is an Undercover cap. It came with a patch but I removed it because I like blank hats. Don’t mess with what’s going on with your tee.”
This Is Not A T-Shirt by Bobby Hundreds is out now.