ON THE MORNING I wrapped my proposal for this book, I sat in the pews of a Baptist church east of downtown Los Angeles. I wore my black suit and kept my head above the stagnant air. The 10 freeway reverberated overhead, doling out the yammer of a jittery city. Even on a Saturday morning, L.A. had no time to pause for young Jimmy Briggs, who lay flat and motionless in the casket at the pulpit. His dad, the charismatic preacher Bishop Campbell, stood over him. He called on God to sort out this misunderstanding. The congregants, although taken by his heartache, were callous to the circumstances of Jimmy’s death. A couple of Black Panthers stood and called for vindication. A mother wept. Here lay another young black man, gunned down at twenty-one while running away from the cops.
I watched Jimmy grow up on my shop’s doorstep. He was a dark-skinned, handsome kid always wearing baggy pants and a flashy smile. He loved skateboarding, and he loved The Hundreds. So, we put him onto the program: keep skating and we’ll keep you dressed. The funeral attendees see this arrangement play out in Jimmy’s slideshow. He’s wearing our brand across his back in almost every photograph—even on the program’s cover. The photocopier’s ink coagulates around this portrait of Jimmy crouching down, proudly sporting one of our tees.
For Jimmy, and for so many others around the world like him, our brand has stood for more than T-shirts, stylish caps, and warm jackets. Fashion revolves around art, design, and trends, while clothing is rooted in sales, marketing, and necessity. The Hundreds, however, is powered by culture and community. We like to say, “People over Product.” It’s like your favorite music artist: you download the album, go to the show, and take home the tour merch to identify yourself with the musician’s art and attitude. With us, you visit our shop, you fraternize with our followers, and you wear our logos to profess that you’re down with the lifestyle. It’s bigger and deeper than a gang. The Hundreds is backed by a global army. That’s why we’re “The Hundreds,” as in strength in numbers.
It used to weird me out that kids would tattoo our logos and designs on their bodies. I felt responsible, pressured to not let them down. Prominent rappers like YG and Travis Scott have the Adam Bomb mascot drilled into their arms. Why? I’ve never met these people; our lives are worlds apart. But our brand is a reflection of our lifestyle, and our lifestyle is why we’ve flourished. Our customers feel a sense of ownership with The Hundreds, and if they believe we’ve sold out or feel we’re making off-brand moves, the backlash can be sharp and unforgiving. The Hundreds has come to represent chapters in young people’s lives. For some, it’s the entire story. Those tattoos signify milestones. Those clothes are war medals.
Jimmy appreciated this. “I’m a good kid,” he told me one afternoon after another of his long stints in jail. “I just get caught up sometimes with the wrong crowd.” The Hundreds’ Los Angeles flagship store on Rosewood Avenue was his haven, a respite from the clamor of life in South Central. Everyone called him RSWD Jimmy, and I like to think he adopted our Rosewood crew, not the other way around. We didn’t have a vote in the matter.
I owe this book to Jimmy and to everyone who’s loved and lived our brand along the way. As much as it is my story, it is inextricably theirs as well. We’re all in this together.