My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong to You
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Books

This Is Not a T-Shirt

9780374718350 fc
Hardcover, MCD × FSG, 2019
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200066249

Bobby Hundreds

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The story of The Hundreds and the precepts that made it an iconic streetwear brand by Bobby Hundreds himself

Streetwear occupies that rarefied space where genuine "cool" coexists with big business; where a star designer might work concurrently with Nike, a tattoo artist, Louis Vuitton, and a skateboard company. It’s the ubiquitous style of dress comprising hoodies, sneakers, and T-shirts. In the beginning, a few brands defined this style; fewer still survived as streetwear went mainstream. They are the OGs, the “heritage brands.” The Hundreds is one of those persevering companies, and Bobby Hundreds is at the center of it all.

The creative force behind the brand, Bobby Kim, a.k.a. Bobby Hundreds, has emerged as a prominent face and voice in streetwear. In telling the story of his formative years, he reminds us that The Hundreds was started by outsiders; and this is truly the story of streetwear culture.

In This Is Not a T-Shirt, Bobby Hundreds cements his spot as a champion of an industry he helped create and tells the story of The Hundreds—with anecdotes ranging from his Southern California, punk-DIY-tinged youth to the brand’s explosive success. Both an inspiring memoir and an expert assessment of the history and future of streetwear, this is the tale of Bobby’s commitment to his creative vision and to building a real community.

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An excerpt from This Is Not a T-Shirt

PROLOGUE


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.


  • "For anyone who wants to understand the explosive streetwear phenomenon disrupting the fashion business, as well as the community-driven engagement that lies at its core, Bobby Hundreds' This is Not A T-Shirt is an excellent place to start. One part entrepreneurship guide, one part fashion education and one part branding manual, Bobby tells fascinating stories and offers lessons that can be applied to anyone building a modern business anywhere. A must read."

    Imran Amed, The Business of Fashion
  • “Bobby Hundreds is an encyclopedia of American pop culture, from breakfast cereals and Saturday morning cartoons to hardcore, punk, and hip-hop. He's packed all of his cultural insights into This is Not a T-Shirt, a book about turning your hobbies into your passions, which he's done his entire life. Also, we went to high school together, he was way cooler than me then, and now he's written a book before I have, and that's extremely annoying.”

    Alan Yang, co-creator of Master of None
  • “Building a brand is about identifying and fulfilling a need in a way that no one else can. It takes vision, dedication, and attention to detail. The Hundreds is a prime example of what it looks like when you've combined all these elements along with tapping into a culture and community. This is Not a T-Shirt guides you through methods and tools you can apply to get you one step closer to fulfilling your dream.”

    Jessica Alba, founder of The Honest Company
  • “Simply put, Bobby Hundreds is a social beast. He knows how to tell a story, where to tell that story, and he's great at bringing people together. He's also crazy dedicated to his work and has the laser-focused attention to detail needed to not only build an everlasting globally relevant brand, but any successful business.”

    Gary Vaynerchuk, author of #AskGaryVee
  • “With This is Not a T-Shirt Bobby Hundreds has proven that he’s not just an incredible designer, but a literary force as well. The book is smart, funny, and gives some real insight into the ever-changing, ever-elusive Streetwear game. It’s a great reminder that art exists in many different forms and that a kid with a dream can be unstoppable.”

    Lena Waithe, creator of The Chi
  • This Is Not a T-Shirt is a story about the power of culture, the power of community, and the power of values and beliefs to shape and influence identity in ways that we sometimes overlook. It helps us understand both Bobby Hundreds and how streetwear has changed the way we think about ourselves and each other.”

    DeRay Mckesson
  • This is Not a T-Shirt tracks the history of surf and skate culture and their relationship to streetwear—from the Zephyr skate team of the 1970s to brands like Stüssy, Supreme, BAPE, and, of course, The Hundreds, which has managed to stay relevant for more than fifteen years in a fickle market. This book is an insider's guide to the prevailing trends in youth culture of the last few decades that highlights the importance of self-discipline and self-confidence; the same traits that made me fall in love with skateboarding at a young age.”

    Tony Hawk
  • “Bobby is the embodiment of the type of hustle that streetwear was built on. In This is Not a T-Shirt, he maps out how to start a brand and blow it up while maintaining a core community—it's like a streetwear bible slash history book.”

    Ronnie Fieg, founder of KITH