The Wild Wild Web: The Chronicles of the HYPEBEAST Forums
Despite its anonymity, spam, trolling, harassment, and widespread obsession with virality and fame, the Internet can actually be a source of valuable information — particularly within the HYPEBEAST Forums. Nowadays we have the ability to connect with people from opposite ends of the Earth, a pretty incredible concept if you can make it through the initial assault of caps-locked libel and visually assaulting images. As demonstrated in the Off-Topic section of your local interweb forum, a variety of interesting things tend to happen when hundreds of bored and creative individuals are forced to interact remotely.
I’d have to say the era between 2006-2009 was some of the greatest times to interact and be involved on the HYPEBEAST Forums. Back then, they were extremely entertaining (in a manner not always conducive to personal growth) yet helpful and informative when necessary. Whether a kid needed a list of stores to visit in the SF area, or help sizing his Samurai 710s, an answer could always be found. It was such a smaller and tight-knit community in the earlier days, which kept the roast sessions in the Shoutbox and ‘WDYWT Thread’ fairly friendly. The daily content was still so original, whereas now most images, memes and forum gags are all reposts of triple-bootlegged quality.
Since taking the helm of the Forum Administrator, I’ve learned a great deal through its unique perspective. One important thing I’ve learned is the difference between consumers, and those that aspire to create and contribute to this industry. We recently questioned a few of these innovators to hear their thoughts on the dynamics of the internet including Joshua Kissi of Street Etiquette, photographer Julian Berman, Kiya Babzani of Selfedge, Mega of Black Scale, Neek and Phil Annand of The Madbury Club. In addition, I felt it fitting to create the following illustrations that best represented each respective person’s style evolution.
What was your username and can you elaborate on its meaning?
Joshua Kissi: My username was Jkissi7, it’s pretty simple with my full name being Joshua Kissi, and 7 being my favorite number. Eventually I changed it to just ‘JKISSI,’ I guess it was my “becoming” to the internet world, hah.
Julian Berman: julian. Simple and to the point.
Neek: I got kicked out of several Skate Message Boards and got banned. When a moderator told me to take my trolling to NikeTalk for posting about Nike’s, I took his advice. My screen name was NEEKSUPREME, I woke up one day in 2003 I was about 15 years old & signed up. It has no meaning but turned into what everyone calls me now. It’s more than a screen name, it’s a whole new life to me. Someone made a tee with my WDYWT photo with a Supreme-esque logo, that’s when the power of the internet really struck me. Now I see many brands using the internet as their whole concept. Hahaha.
Phillip Annand: My username was ‘LOCHNESS.’ “Just remember all caps when you spell the man’s name.” Like any good username I don’t think there was any genius to this choice. I was obsessed with the Loch Ness Monster when I was a younger kid. In a race for things I wanted to be real it went: 1) Loch Ness Monster 2) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and 3) A package of Sour Straws that refilled itself, so yeah, that’s pretty much the story there.
Kiya Babzani: Kiya. It’s not very inventive, it’s merely my first name.
Mega: Meg@geM, means Mega forward and Mega backwards
What was your join date? At the time did you join for any specific reason?
JK: I believe my join date was July 2006. I joined because I felt like at the time the aesthetic that the HYPEBEAST Forums had going on at the time fit something I wanted to express at the time. Let’s be honest though: it was summer out of school, no employment, and a whole bunch of time to burn researching on the Internet was available.
JB: Joined March 2008. I had lurked for a little bit as ISS [Sole Collector Forums] were slowly dying and made the transition, which seemed to be the case for many at the time.
N: I was bored. I don’t remember joining the HYPEBEAST Forums until later on around 2007. I joined the NikeTalk Forums in 2003, which was pre-HYPEBEAST and where all the latest & greatest news of shoes & streetwear would come from. The General section is where the ORIGINAL HYPEBEAST blogs started. People would talk about their lives, stores, girls, cars, almost anything you can think of – a birthplace of the things we see online now. I remember when someone drew the first HYPEBEAST cartoon, which sparked HYPEBEAST.com.
PA: I have no idea what the join date was. Fairly certain it was in 2006 and probably lurking around for a bit before then. I was a high school kid who liked wearing belligerent clothing and got bored often in class. I had a BlackBerry at that point in the age of flip phones and Sidekicks which meant I could go on the internet in class. Used to read interviews, articles, and the forums whenever possible and eventually started posting. I was on a couple other random forums even before that, like Uptowns and some graffiti forums so I wasn’t new to the format. I’d imagine the shit was probably an excellent distraction at some point after soccer or basketball practice and before homework. I was 16 though, I have no idea what I was doing back then.
KB: My join date on superfuture is 2005, HYPEBEAST is 2006.
M: I joined in August of 2007.
With so much anonymous internet heckling, did you ever find yourself in any memorable e-beef?
JK: Aha! I think I remember some memorable e-beef, it’s sort of what you had to go through in the forums to prove your ranks/position on the forums as corny as it sounds now. Now HYPEBEAST as a platform is known for the most comical/outrageous comments you can find on the internet, maybe only beat out by reddit and 4chan.
JB: There was plenty of heckling back then, but it seemed all in good fun. This was sort of in the pre-meme ironic Tumblr GIF era, a roast or e-beef required some hard digging… some real execution. I cannot really remember much, but I know sportsfreak was a big deal… He was awesome. The best e-beef of all time though was hands DOWN the ‘westside’ Photoshop thread, but that was superfuture and basically irrelevant… but can you give a gist of the internet superpowers of the time. Some real creative work going down. Now, it’s just pathetic, annoying and embarrassing… but oh well.
N: Trolling is more the name. I had people making post of how tight my jeans were on NikeTalk that lasted over 100 pages. Actually, there would be many threads about my jeans. I think it’s funny how everyone wears tight jeans now. What comes around goes around. Baggy jeans for 2015.
PA: Don’t think I ever got into any beef. I definitely posted some terrible outfits that were more than deserving of any and all the flaming they got, but that’s sort of par for the course. I’m a peace-loving dude. I just remember laughing at the “This is my style this is me” kid. What a complete genius.
KB: Yes, quite a few times actually. You really put yourself out there when you own retail stores across the country and you’re still on the forums posting about personal things, your shops, hobbies, etc… And people love picking on a person that is known, so I’ve always been a pretty easy target. Normally when you get to the level Self Edge is at you don’t see the founder still posting across 10 message boards, but I can’t get away – I actually like being on message boards.
M: I can’t recall any famous internet beef because most of the time it’s just bitching, little kids bitching about nothing so it’s entertained for a few then it’s ignored. You have to have fun with these kids because in the end of the day it should be fun. People tend to take the forum world too seriously but most haters are the ones buying your brand. They love your brand so much they get disappointed. The funny part about the beef on the internet are boutiques that buy from you, some of them really are into the internet and start judging the brand from the comments that are posted on the forums and the front page post of HYPEBEAST. They forget about why they fell in love with the brand and let the kids of the forum judge the way they buy. Most of those boutiques should close down because they are in it for the wrong reasons. Growing up in this industry working retail buying for boutiques, we loved the brands we bought for the stores and we knew to push the brands in our stores and not just let it sit there expecting the customers to just buy it. You have to educate the customers especially now because it’s so many brands coming out; everyone has a different story. Fuck internet beef because it’s easy to just tell someone fuck off because most 99% of the time isn’t reality, it’s someone who sits behind a computer typing words to get a reaction from you. Those same people get a boner from that, they live off that. Look at your most recent post on HYPEBEAST, it’s the same critics talking shit – makes me wonder if it’s a room full of interns doing that on purpose to drive the comments section. But if it’s not then you know those people have no lives because they are on HYPEBEAST everyday on every post.
Did you learn anything important while posting and reading threads on the forum?
JK: What the forums did was build community through the topic of predominantly style, but also touched on music, and our personal lives at the time. It was sort of like its own high school. Everyone wanted to fit in, but be different; this was expressed through style choices and music interest. The most important thing I learned while on the forums was that even with the anonymity of it, everyone’s opinion mattered.
JB: These forums were incredible at the time. Streetwear was booming, but only within our weird little subculture. It was nowhere near as widespread, instead it was a community. Did I learn anything IMPORTANT? Probably not. I was exposed to some great brands, and some talented and wholehearted individuals, many of whom I still keep in contact with today. It was fun. Very fun.
N: Yes, a lot of perception. The internet is all about perception making things seem cooler than what it is in real life.
PA: Literally probably learned more about clothing and sneakers on those forums than anywhere else. Learned more about denim than any high school kid had business knowing about. Watched brands get built from the ground floor up. Watched kids get ripped apart in the pre-troll-trolling era. Watched a couple of kids come up that I’m now friends with. Learned very quickly about supply and demand. From a purely aesthetic level there were older folks on the forums who definitely accelerated my appreciation of certain material things. There’s probably pictures on there of me wearing visivm FBTs in 2007/2008. As just another kid running around in New Jersey I really had no business knowing about brands like that, or wondering how I was going to make five hundred dollars to buy washed Dior jeans. So there was certainly a whole hell of a lot of questionably useful knowledge digested amongst threads about grilled cheese and underage girls.
KB: Adults act like children far quicker on a message board than they do in person.
M: Yes everyday it’s different. From the days on NikeTalk to HYPEBEAST’s Forum you get to interact with your true supporters as well as your haters. The difference now is it’s so many new forum users, the real information gets lost and it isn’t as special as it was once. So many users are trolling to get feedback and it ends up fucking shit up for the real supporters that are there wanting to be a part of that brand’s forum page.