WWD Digital Daily
Bobby Hundreds Marks Streetwear Brand’s 20th Year, New Book
● The streetwear founder discusses being an early adopter of new technologies over the last two decades, from blogging to Web3.
According to Bobby Kim, best known as Bobby Hundreds, streetwear has “died a grisly death” multiple times in the 20 years since he founded his label The Hundreds.
“Streetwear is constantly dying and being reborn,” he said during a Zoom call, reflecting on his brand's 20th anniversary. “It's taken on many different lives and iterations. I like to say that the streetwear generation is about regeneration and that's what's always compelled me about it. It's constantly, perpetually challenging and questioning itself.”
Hundreds launched his label out of Los Angeles in 2003 at a time when streetwear was still considered a subculture. He stated that much of streetwear was broken up into skate fashion and urban culture, which he explained were code for “white clothing and Black clothing,” respectively. He chose to start his own label for people like himself who didn't fit either demographic, but were interested in subcultures.
Since the brand's inception, Hundreds has made it his brand's mission to democratize streetwear and build a community. He's done this by being an early adopter of new platforms and technologies to build a following.
When the brand was founded, Hundreds had already been blogging for several years, using the platform to share his punk rock zine. He continued to use his blog to talk about The Hundreds at a time before social media was mainstream and many of today's platforms had even launched.
“At the very beginning, the one distinction with us was that we were vocal,” he explained. “We were quite transparent, and I think that was disruptive. It was also a bit offensive to much of the subculture that had been very closed off, clandestine and intentionally secretive. And here we were, a couple of kids stepping in and saying, `This world has been very exclusive and the intention has been to keep people out.' You had to earn your way in. We were just such fans of everything that we were discovering and learning that we wanted to share it.”
Hundreds has continued this approach and affinity for new technologies into the present day, with the streetwear label being an early adopter of NFTs and Web3, which are topics of his upcoming book, “NFTs Are a Scam / NFTs Are the Future,” which is being released on Tuesday.
The cofounder explained his affinity for new technologies isn't a marketing ploy or to follow trends, but comes from his natural curiosity about new platforms and ways to connect with people.
Adopting NFTs into his business was another way for him to connect with his community, giving customers a way to own a part of the brand.
“It's always been this weird dynamic where companies go out and pedal their products to young people who spend their hard-earned savings to support these giant corporations,” he explained. “Out of the exchange, they get a little bit of clout, maybe a little bit of social value, but in terms of any type of real ownership or any types of financial success or growth, they don't see that. Meanwhile, the companies do. These brands and businesses seem to only get bigger, and consumers stay in the same place.”
Hundreds explained that he hopes the takeaway from his book is that people learn to be more open to learning about these technologies, rather than having a firm stance for or against them without fully understanding the mediums.
“The reality is we don't know about NFTs still,” he said. “It's only been about three to four years in. It's kind of like three to fours years into the internet if you were like, `What is this?' Like you would have never foreseen social media, eBay or Amazon.
You couldn't have understood like, oh I'm emailing letters back and forth with my friend. I can do that with physical mail — I don't need the internet to do this. And then [the internet] transformed communication and transformed global systems.”
For the next 20 years of the brand, Hundreds couldn't predict where the brand will be given the multiple industries he operates in, but he's committed to continuing his focus on community building.
“I don't like to pigeonhole myself or corner myself into `this is who I'm going to be,'” he said. “I tell people all the time that I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Like I would have never imagined that I would be this deep into tech three years ago. Tech and finance are two rooms that I was outside of and excluded from. Those were two languages that I was allergic to. Now they're in my daily conversations.”