In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

Albert Schweitzer



I sit here writing to you in the warm California sunshine. Ahhh California as I write to you now sitting at round table of a outdoor patio as college youth pass by. A white Lamborghini is accelerating at, “Hey look at me” speeds as I listen to Electric Guests song Waves on my laptop. An article caught my attention today. It was an interview of Bobby Hundreds done by Tom Kirby of Breaks Magazine. There is a Part 1 and a Part 2. It was Part 2 that caught my attention. In this section of the interview Bobby discusses The Hundreds Footwear.

One of the things that first impressed me about The Hundreds brand is that they made footwear. I learned that they were making shoes back in 2009. The fact that they would even attempt to dethrone the kings of footwear, to make their own lane in an industry that was (and still is) so dominated by the big names really spoke to me. Fast forward to today. The Hundreds Footwear is discontinued. I didn’t even know they weren’t making shoes anymore! When did that happen? Maybe I don’t pay as much attention as I like to give myself credit.

In the interview Bobby states, “In our immediate market, Nike takes like 97% of the space. How can a brand like The Hundreds compete with that? Nike’s marketing budget alone is over 100 times our company’s value. Let’s be real, if a guy’s got a hundred bucks to spend, is he gonna drop it on some canvas vulc sneakers by a brand no one’s heard of, or a pair of limited Lebrons constructed of spacesuit material from the future and buttressed with a global advertising campaign? I can’t blame them.” This line of the interview was so bizarre for me to read. Mainly because thoughts like this are the kind that make you not get into clothing at all. I feel this same argument could have been said about The Hundreds making t shirts. Yes t shirts are a different market, but you are going up against strong competition and monstrous sized advertising budgets as well. In this interview Bobby talks about things that he is not able to do. The best thing I’ve found about reading their blog over the years (There’s a picture of me on it as well, but it’s terrible, don’t click it) is that Bobby manned up to fight the giants. I thought we all got in this game because we believed we could do anything? He always had a reason why he could beat the corporations at their own game. It was very different hearing him talk in a defeated voice. It’s like listening to Batman saying why he couldn’t beat the joker, or Superman saying why he couldn’t save Metropolis. We are not used to our heroes talking about defeat. We want them to be invincible.

We guess wrong. I guess wrong all the time. I posted my first ever true blog post over to my brothers at Mintees and have gotten no response. I thought other creators and designers in the industry would embrace what I am saying, but they haven’t. According to Bobby The Hundreds guessed wrong with footwear. I don’t think he did. Through the trial and error of the whole process I gained the courage to try new things with my brand. Through their ad campaigns (like the one I show at the top of this article), and through their fight to make a stance in footwear I found my own courage to try to push past my limits. Am I childish? Too idealistic? Maybe I’m just a kid in his room, walls clad with illustrated heroes of fiction, clutching his battered box of comics normally stored under the bed. I still want to believe in my heroes. If my heroes can’t defeat any villain, thwart any scheme, conquer their adversity. What chance do I have?

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  • Integral

    I feel like you're asking: How long is a piece of string? I feel like I can relate to parts of your posts but the rant or whatever you call is so disjointed and jumbled it's hard to pin point what you are saying or asking.

    What I get from your posts is you want to be the new "IT" street Brand. To me it seems like you're following the footsteps and styles of brands that look unlike yours. I think step away from the net, the forums, and trying to PLEASE your customers and really take a look at what your goal is in the industry. It seems like you're competing for a finish line that is not there...
  • Vaughn de Heart

    Integral said:I feel like you're asking: How long is a piece of string? I feel like I can relate to parts of your posts but the rant or whatever you call is so disjointed and jumbled it's hard to pin point what you are saying or asking.

    What I get from your posts is you want to be the new "IT" street Brand. To me it seems like you're following the footsteps and styles of brands that look unlike yours. I think step away from the net, the forums, and trying to PLEASE your customers and really take a look at what your goal is in the industry. It seems like you're competing for a finish line that is not there...

    Thanks for commenting. My purpose for this article was to say that it is hard to hear your hero's talk about defeat. Especially when they normally sound so optimistic. However everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes down paths that are too difficult for them to traverse, our hero's are no different even though we may want them to be.

    As far as me wanting to be the next street brand. I don't think that is true of myself. I watch brands like The Hundreds and streetwear because there is so much entrepreneurial spirit that I see in them. They show much more of their hustle than other fashion brands I feel. My brand is very different from them, but I feel I can gain from their stories as well as stories from high fashion. It's just that stories from streetwear brands are more readily available to digest and I feel that they started out a lot like myself. A few boxes of shirts and a website.

    Sounds like you've been reading. I thank you for that. I hope this clarifies, but I'm so finicky tomorrow I could feel entirely different, haha.
  • disembodied head

    when it comes to running a successful brand you're at the mercy of free market competition and the economy. every Joe Blow wants to be the next Johnny Cupcakes but the failure rate among new start-ups is high. the fact is, not many people are willing to drop $30-50 on a brand tee anymore because there just isn't that much disposable income. the other thing to consider is trends. I can't speak for anyone else but I don't wear brands or graphic tees anymore. Once upon a time, as in 14 yrs ago, I was into this stuff but nowadays it's just not my cuppa tea. the only people I see wearing tee brands and graphic shirts are 12 yo's who hang out at the pizza joint. I really feel like there's a decline in t-shirt sales across the board, whether you're a established brand or a graphic tee site like Threadless. but this is all just my observation.
  • Vaughn de Heart

    disembodied head said:when it comes to running a successful brand you're at the mercy of free market competition and the economy. every Joe Blow wants to be the next Johnny Cupcakes but the failure rate among new start-ups is high. the fact is, not many people are willing to drop $30-50 on a brand tee anymore because there just isn't that much disposable income. the other thing to consider is trends. I can't speak for anyone else but I don't wear brands or graphic tees anymore. Once upon a time, as in 14 yrs ago, I was into this stuff but nowadays it's just not my cuppa tea. the only people I see wearing tee brands and graphic shirts are 12 yo's who hang out at the pizza joint. I really feel like there's a decline in t-shirt sales across the board, whether you're a established brand or a graphic tee site like Threadless. but this is all just my observation.

    This is very true. It seems like unbranded, non graphic shirts have found a strong foothold in the market currently. The weird thing is that it seems like the popularity of brands like Supreme is at an all time high. They barely sell any tees that are unbranded. How do you feel about this? The trends seem to be very contradicting.
  • Matt Borchert

    "Too idealistic?" - Yes.

    Numbers drive success or failure. That's just the way it is - either what you're doing gains an audience and it makes fiscal sense to push on, or it doesn't. Smart people kill off a dying business (the hundred's shoes) before continuing to chase a dream based on an ideal of how they think the world should work. Idealism doesn't pay the bills, and it rarely leads to the right choices for survival of a company. People can make excuses like Nike dominates the business (which it does), but in reality they were unable to come up with a unique selling point that allowed them to compete. People like Tom's shoes found that unique selling point and have carved out an impressive nitch for themselves that generates sizable income for them. The people who tried to copy the Toms model have largely failed. That niche has been served.

    Also the excuse that people don't have disposable income right now is a bit crazy to me. The economy is doing just fine, and in certain parts of the US it's growing at a ridiculous rate (to the point of being a potential bubble). There is plenty of money to be had if you're making a product that people want to buy.

    People like Johnny Cupcakes / Bobby Hundreds forged that industry and helped make it what it is today. Now there are flocks of people still trying to chase that carrot years later. Honestly it's too late now to go after that niche unless you do something innovative and amazing to re-vitalize it. The graphic tee boom of a few years ago is rapidly dying out (I predicated this almost 2 years ago) - and it's worth noting the height of that particular boom was when the economy in the US was the weakest it had been in decades.
  • disembodied head

    Matt Borchert said:

    Also the excuse that people don't have disposable income right now is a bit crazy to me. The economy is doing just fine, and in certain parts of the US it's growing at a ridiculous rate (to the point of being a potential bubble). There is plenty of money to be had if you're making a product that people want to buy.

    People like Johnny Cupcakes / Bobby Hundreds forged that industry and helped make it what it is today. Now there are flocks of people still trying to chase that carrot years later. Honestly it's too late now to go after that niche unless you do something innovative and amazing to re-vitalize it. The graphic tee boom of a few years ago is rapidly dying out (I predicated this almost 2 years ago) - and it's worth noting the height of that particular boom was when the economy in the US was the weakest it had been in decades.

    I stand by my comment. what i'm seeing is these tee-a-day sites flourish, because they're selling graphic tees at $11/12 a pop. Threadless has also been pretty fierce about their $10 tee promotions. I can't think of the last time I paid full price for a graphic t-shirt, branded or not. I think brands like Supreme and the like are outliers because they cater to the hipster crowd with disposable incomes. On top of that, Supreme has been around for awhile and has carved out a niche for themselves among the Japanese streetwear crowd. I would argue that Johnny Cupcakes did not forge the industry. I remember back when he first started out hustling his shirts over at the Superfuture forum. he's doing what Bape, Supreme and all of the other successful streetwear brands are doing and that's doing the limited edition thing and as well as clever marketing, but to say JC forged the industry is a little disengenuous.
  • CoreyVillains

    I think part of the reason (outside of the marketing budget) the Hundreds shoes failed is because the designs weren't that great. The designs weren't terrible, but they weren't anything groundbreaking. Not many people are choosing those designs over Jordan's, Nike's, or even Vans; and rightfully so IMO. Also they were hard to find in stores. You normally want to try shoes on and get a feel for the fit. Its easier to take the sizing and comfort risk for an online purchase with t-shirts than shoes.
  • Vaughn de Heart

    CoreyVillains said:I think part of the reason (outside of the marketing budget) the Hundreds shoes failed is because the designs weren't that great. The designs weren't terrible, but they weren't anything groundbreaking. Not many people are choosing those designs over Jordan's, Nike's, or even Vans; and rightfully so IMO. Also they were hard to find in stores. You normally want to try shoes on and get a feel for the fit. Its easier to take the sizing and comfort risk for an online purchase with t-shirts than shoes.

    Good point. Maybe the whole limited availability marketing scheme worked well for the hundreds other products, but not so well for their shoes. I know that a limited distribution strategy is one that Bobby Hundreds mentions a lot.
  • Matt Borchert

    disembodied head said:
    Matt Borchert said:

    Also the excuse that people don't have disposable income right now is a bit crazy to me. The economy is doing just fine, and in certain parts of the US it's growing at a ridiculous rate (to the point of being a potential bubble). There is plenty of money to be had if you're making a product that people want to buy.

    People like Johnny Cupcakes / Bobby Hundreds forged that industry and helped make it what it is today. Now there are flocks of people still trying to chase that carrot years later. Honestly it's too late now to go after that niche unless you do something innovative and amazing to re-vitalize it. The graphic tee boom of a few years ago is rapidly dying out (I predicated this almost 2 years ago) - and it's worth noting the height of that particular boom was when the economy in the US was the weakest it had been in decades.

    I stand by my comment. what i'm seeing is these tee-a-day sites flourish, because they're selling graphic tees at $11/12 a pop. Threadless has also been pretty fierce about their $10 tee promotions. I can't think of the last time I paid full price for a graphic t-shirt, branded or not. I think brands like Supreme and the like are outliers because they cater to the hipster crowd with disposable incomes. On top of that, Supreme has been around for awhile and has carved out a niche for themselves among the Japanese streetwear crowd. I would argue that Johnny Cupcakes did not forge the industry. I remember back when he first started out hustling his shirts over at the Superfuture forum. he's doing what Bape, Supreme and all of the other successful streetwear brands are doing and that's doing the limited edition thing and as well as clever marketing, but to say JC forged the industry is a little disengenuous.

    Tee a day sites can do well because they assume very little risk due to their model, and the pricing is set up to cater to an impulse buy crowd. I referred to JC as forging an industry because he was the gold standard for many of the kids looking to start up their own clothing brand in the Emptees days. JC's story paved the way for countless other small indie brands who tried to emulate his success. JC's success has a whole lot to do with him as an individual being a fantastic marketer, and creating his product at the right time and presenting it to the right group of people. The large groups of people afterwords trying to copy that didn't have his skill sets, and didn't bring any innovation to the products they produced. They were doomed to fail from the beginning.

    The amount of disposable income people have is not the issue. The issue is that not as many people are buying graphic printed tees as they used to. Companies like Apple wouldn't be posting record profits year after year if people were short up on cash. Are some people short up on money and not willing to spend $20 - $30 on a t-shirt? Sure. The market as a whole, however, is strong and honestly if a person wants to buy a given t-shirt, they can likely afford to do so. Perhaps people are just choosing to dump their disposable income into different places now, or the audience for the graphic tee craze that was a few years ago has grown up and moved on (see this forum as an example - many prominent designers have moved on to new gigs and avenues).
  • miles to go

    Although it's not bad to be looking into another company's success story, the bottom line is that they all worked really hard to get there. I feel like I've been seeing less of the fake it til you make it crowd, although it's still a high number of brands. That approach to work is utter bullshit. Work hard until you make it.

    Why do so many new brands fail? They are copying another brands style and doing it poorly and they aren't in it for the long haul. In terms of the market disappearing, my online has been steady still and higher than last year and my stores I sell to went from 4 to over 70 in the past 7 months with a high re-order rate.

    These blog posts drive me a little nuts, partly because it feels like, hey! look at me, i'm trying to spread knowledge of others instead of being able to teach based off of your own experience. Your brand looks like its pushed forward a bit from a few years ago or whenever it was you started and you are getting a taste of retail a bit. Put your head down and work harder than everyone else. I'd find more honesty in blog posts describing hard ships you've faced instead of ones acting like the obstacles of another brand apply across the board and give guidance. Trial by fire is the real learning experience.
  • Matt Borchert

    miles to go said:Although it's not bad to be looking into another company's success story, the bottom line is that they all worked really hard to get there. I feel like I've been seeing less of the fake it til you make it crowd, although it's still a high number of brands. That approach to work is utter bullshit. Work hard until you make it.

    Why do so many new brands fail? They are copying another brands style and doing it poorly and they aren't in it for the long haul. In terms of the market disappearing, my online has been steady still and higher than last year and my stores I sell to went from 4 to over 70 in the past 7 months with a high re-order rate.

    These blog posts drive me a little nuts, partly because it feels like, hey! look at me, i'm trying to spread knowledge of others instead of being able to teach based off of your own experience. Your brand looks like its pushed forward a bit from a few years ago or whenever it was you started and you are getting a taste of retail a bit. Put your head down and work harder than everyone else. I'd find more honesty in blog posts describing hard ships you've faced instead of ones acting like the obstacles of another brand apply across the board and give guidance. Trial by fire is the real learning experience.

    Totally agree with this.
  • Vaughn de Heart

    Matt Borchert said:
    miles to go said:Although it's not bad to be looking into another company's success story, the bottom line is that they all worked really hard to get there. I feel like I've been seeing less of the fake it til you make it crowd, although it's still a high number of brands. That approach to work is utter bullshit. Work hard until you make it.

    Why do so many new brands fail? They are copying another brands style and doing it poorly and they aren't in it for the long haul. In terms of the market disappearing, my online has been steady still and higher than last year and my stores I sell to went from 4 to over 70 in the past 7 months with a high re-order rate.

    These blog posts drive me a little nuts, partly because it feels like, hey! look at me, i'm trying to spread knowledge of others instead of being able to teach based off of your own experience. Your brand looks like its pushed forward a bit from a few years ago or whenever it was you started and you are getting a taste of retail a bit. Put your head down and work harder than everyone else. I'd find more honesty in blog posts describing hard ships you've faced instead of ones acting like the obstacles of another brand apply across the board and give guidance. Trial by fire is the real learning experience.

    Totally agree with this.

    Well if you guys really want to know what's going on with my brand then maybe I should tell you. However from time to time I will still write about other stories, because that is another part of being in this industry that I really like. Paying attention to other brands. If I didn't have a brand, I would still read about all these other guys.

    I think it's a bit of fear why I hesitate a bit. I feel like people expect me to be doing better than I actually am. But if you want to hear about it, then I will write about it.

    @Matt Borchert
    @miles to go

    You two better be my biggest fans on here, haha. Thanks for the honest feedback. At first I wanted to fight it, but you two are giving me constructive criticism. I thank you for that.
  • Matt Borchert

    Well most of what I say is filtered through how I personally would handle something. My own focus is always on education over sheer entertainment value. Both things are equally valuable in different ways, and I would never discount the importance of either.

    So for example when someone asks me "is it easy to get a good job as a graphic designer" or something similar, I let them know that it's really freakin' hard. You have to produce a ton of great work to even be considered, you have to hustle to improve non-stop, and you have to be able to take constant criticism in a way that actually improves what you're doing. I don't want to discourage people from trying if that is what they really want to do, but I also don't want the people who think it will be all fun and games to spend $100k on school and never land a job (if you've ever had to look through people's resumes you see people all the time that just have no chance. It's actually rather sad that some school pushed them through).

    A good example is found on a lot of the forums I visit for work that are the general tech support and opinion forums for people who use e-commerce CMS solutions (think Shopify, although I don't frequent that forum). There is a select handful of people who seem to spend their entire day complaining about how the software isn't meeting their expectations, and therefore their business isn't doing well. Could this be accurate? Sure. It's a definite possibility that they're being held back by the software they use. These people, however, are also wasting a ton of time complaining about things they can't control instead of busting their ass to make sales. Things that actually generate them money.

    I think there is real value in any brand owner who honestly talks about both the success and failures they encounter as it gives people a more realistic expectation of what goes into the product's they love. When you buy a product you don't always think about how someone may have spent a considerable part of their life making that thing happen - to most people it may just be a thing they enjoyed so they purchased it on an impulse. So I think it's really cool that you're sharing your thoughts and ambitions for your brand - it's an interesting insight. It would also be really cool if you were to talk about something (for example) that you really struggled to make happen, and how you overcame that. Or how you're still working to overcome it. Those sorts of insights give people a better understanding about what it takes to actually make products happen, because it sure isn't an easy thing to do (or perhaps better stated as keep doing =)
  • miles to go

    As Matt and I have both mentioned, hearing about your own hardships has more value than coming onto forums and blasting out things that happened to other people. Reading a book about music doesn't make you a musician. The blog post I've had the most reposts, emails, etc about over time was one I did about attending the Pool Tradeshow after getting home because I realized how few people who were even there had any idea what was going on or what they should have prepared for or expected. It outlined the truth about some scenarios, big retail, small shops, average order numbers and such that I came across. Was I bragging about my success there? No, I was trying to educate others about what really goes on and it was intended for other brand owners. Articles that provide some kind of information or learning experience are much more valuable than reposting an interview is for other brand owners. You have to earn that respect by standing out among the crowd, but the only way to get there is to work harder than everyone else.

    I say it often when asked and it's true for my own brand that most of us when we start out release some terrible stuff. The people who are passionate stick it out, learn and make changes. Hell, look at vampire fur(aka venus fallen). I can't speak for his sales, but he had a strong growth from day one til now in the appearance of his brand. If I recall, Kyle even put out a shirt with gold foil in season one of Electric Zombie. We all start at the same place and how many of us are still here since the emptees days? Maybe 5-6 brands.
  • Vaughn de Heart

    miles to go said:As Matt and I have both mentioned, hearing about your own hardships has more value than coming onto forums and blasting out things that happened to other people. Reading a book about music doesn't make you a musician. The blog post I've had the most reposts, emails, etc about over time was one I did about attending the Pool Tradeshow after getting home because I realized how few people who were even there had any idea what was going on or what they should have prepared for or expected. It outlined the truth about some scenarios, big retail, small shops, average order numbers and such that I came across. Was I bragging about my success there? No, I was trying to educate others about what really goes on and it was intended for other brand owners. Articles that provide some kind of information or learning experience are much more valuable than reposting an interview is for other brand owners. You have to earn that respect by standing out among the crowd, but the only way to get there is to work harder than everyone else.

    I say it often when asked and it's true for my own brand that most of us when we start out release some terrible stuff. The people who are passionate stick it out, learn and make changes. Hell, look at vampire fur(aka venus fallen). I can't speak for his sales, but he had a strong growth from day one til now in the appearance of his brand. If I recall, Kyle even put out a shirt with gold foil in season one of Electric Zombie. We all start at the same place and how many of us are still here since the emptees days? Maybe 5-6 brands.

    Believe it or not, but I actually started back in the emptees days as well. Does that mean I'm some sort of relic? They kept rejecting all of my designs for submission back then though, haha, it's just as well.
  • disembodied head

    Matt Borchert said:
    disembodied head said:
    Matt Borchert said:

    Perhaps people are just choosing to dump their disposable income into different places now, or the audience for the graphic tee craze that was a few years ago has grown up and moved on (see this forum as an example - many prominent designers have moved on to new gigs and avenues).

    I would agree with this. i've stopped buying graphic tees altogether and only wear them at home or if i'm going to bed. that isn't to say that I dislike graphic tees, it's just that i'm 42 and i've moved past tees in favor of more conservative dress. I'd rather spend money on dress clothing/shoes that won't necessarily go out of style in 5 or 10 yrs (eg. Gustin, selvedge denim, Alden shoes, etc).

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