Bobby Hundreds: 80′s Icons to the Present

We catch up with Bobby Hundreds as he breaks down The Hundreds new collaboration with the DeLorean Motor Co. and how far the brand has come along in such a short period of time.

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If you’re a regular follower to The Hundreds website, you will have noticed a plethora of updates pertaining to Bobby Hundreds’ visit to the DeLorean Motor Co.’s headquarters. Through a myriad of stock-piled parts and pieces and deconstructed, life-less chassis; A rare look into the behind the scenes of an automotive icon was unveiled for all to see. The DeLorean and its lone model the DMC-12 never quite surmounted its on-screen success and the ability to venture through time like in the Back to the Future franchise, yet many years after the fact, the car’s ability to captivate still remains. Given the car’s relevancy in the 1980’s, the DMC-12 fits very much into the theme of The Hundreds. Yet how would one translate automotive design into graphic form for a t-shirt and New Era fitted cap? To offer a run-down of this most recent collaboration, Bobby Hundreds spoke with us regarding not only the project itself but some of his other thoughts regarding how far along The Hundreds has come in such a short period of time.

Interview: Eugene Kan
Photography: Bobby Kim

An Interview with Bobby Hundreds

Hey Bobby, what’s going on man? It’s been awhile since we last spoke… first things first, we’ve seen a comprehensive look into the DeLorean Motor Co. through your blog. Obviously a collection is on the way, what originally was the catalyst for this project?

Simple. I’m a DeLorean fanatic. I was hooked by the Back to the Future trilogy, but became obsessed with the DeLorean DMC-12 by the mythology surrounding the ingenious design, visionary founder John DeLorean and his public life, and resulting controversy that brought the company to its knees. The Hundreds finds much of its thematic elements in ’80s culture, and no automobile better represents the era than the DeLorean. We first reached out several years ago to partner with DeLorean on a project, and now you’re finally seeing the fruits of that labor.

If you strip the context of DeLorean’s appearance in the Back to the Future series, what is it about the car’s overall design that mesmerizes you? On a sidenote, do you know why the DeLorean was chosen as the go-to car for the Back to the Future franchise? 

If you’ve had the good fortune of seeing a DeLorean on the streets, you’re bound to notice a few details that offset the DMC-12 from the average vintage sportscar. First, the stainless steel exterior. I don’t think there’s ever been another production vehicle entirely decked in it, considering the exorbitant costs. Second, the gullwing doors, which are an automatic distinction. Third, how low and sleek the DeLorean is, this car was slammed without even being slammed. Personally, I was a fan of the boxy aesthetic of 80s car design. The Countach, the Testarossa, the Lotus even. Nothing encompasses this idea more than the DeLorean. That angular definition has manifested itself into a lot of our own creations under The Hundreds.

I’m not sure why Zemeckis and Gale chose the DeLorean but in the actual movie, Doc Brown says something about how «if you’re gonna time travel, you might as well do it in style.»

Would you say that you’re a fan of car design or simply design in general? And sort of touching back on what you mentioned in a previous response, despite the fact that your demographic of The Hundreds fans are so diverse, how did you manage to present the 80s into something relevant to them which they’ve sort of embodied despite not having experienced the era of the 80’s?

I’m just a fan of design. I am not a fan of car design by any means. And that’s not out of the ordinary for a typical DeLorean fanatic.  I couldn’t tell you anymore about car culture than the next guy, all I know is DeLorean culture, and that’s what you will ordinarily find with a DMC head.  

You’re right. Most of our customers probably weren’t around to experience the ‘80s, but it was the decade that Ben and I grew up in.  Although we recall most of the ‘80s with embarrassment, much of The Hundreds concept and aesthetic is inspired by the colors, subcultural phenomena, and nostalgia associated with this decade.  I think this DeLorean project re-packages that era effectively, because the car is truly timeless.  Yes, it’s immortalized in the movies, but there is truly something about this car that intrigues people and gets them excited.  I’m surprised, but also not, at the overwhelming response we’ve already received towards this project, and the vast majority are from The Hundreds fans who are less than 20 years old and never even saw the Back to the Future movies.  That’s a testament to lasting design. 

Traditionally, your previous collaborations have largely stayed within a certain realm and have some immediately identifiable relevance including artists and toys. Was the approach any different for this collection and what exactly will be released within the DeLorean x The Hundreds capsule? 

Collaborating with DeLorean was tricky, for obvious reasons.  Most of the time, you’ll see brands collaborate with an artist or another designer who can incorporate a signature style within the project.  How do you collaborate with a car?  So the bulk of the project revolves around graphic t-shirts that employ a relevant illustration that touches on both DeLorean nostalgia and The Hundreds style.  How do we go about infusing The Hundreds’ look?  The Hundreds is based on California Culture / Los Angeles Lifestyle, so most of the graphics are themed around different L.A. car culture tees.  For example, the traditional auto show tee, car club tee, hot-rod-style art, the lowrider t-shirt you’d find at the local swap meet.  One of the t-shirts is a full-body print of the actual car, straight up and to the point.  I did this because I feel that the design of the DMC-12 is so unique and beautiful, that it can stand on its own legs as an impactful graphic. 

There is also a New Era 59/50 fitted baseball cap for the project. Not only does the hat integrate both brands, but it is inspired by the DMC-12’s popular features. The “DMC” grill is replaced with 3 stainless steel Adam Bomb marks.  The undervisor pattern is a nod to DeLorean’s back taillights.  I’ve always wanted to use metal effectively on a New Era cap, and this was the appropriate opportunity to do so.

How long did the whole conceptualization take for this project? Personally, I find something involving DeLorean immediately interesting as it combines two totally incongruent factors from very different backgrounds. Do you feel there’s been a certain mis-guided approach to collaboration as everything remains too close and associated with one another (i.e. two fashion brands collaborating)?

Not too long.  Most of the hours were put into building a relationship with Steven Wynne, owner of DeLorean Motor Company, and his team.  It’s their first time embarking on a project like this, so getting them familiarized with The Hundreds and our process was half the battle. 

I completely agree with you, but I wouldn’t say the traditional path to collaborations has been a misguided approach.  It certainly makes the most sense and works out organically for both partners.  But, as most of you know, collaborations are a dime a dozen these days between apparel brands and other labels, or designers, or an artist project.  As the Creative Director for our brand, sometimes it can be frustrating that the only places to turn for an interesting collaboration have already been picked through, whether it be my favorite artists or bands or labels.  On the other hand, it provides an interesting challenge and opportunity, to seek collaborative partners outside the traditional streetwear context.  That’s why, in the past, I’ve chosen to work with artists who may be under-the-radar compared to the usual suspects, but their influence is profound, their history is intertwined with The Hundreds’ story, and their significance is evident from a cultural context in other ways.  

At first, DeLorean seemed an unorthodox choice for a collaboration, but once we flipped it on its head, it opened up a range of creative possibilities.  And in the end, we made the impossible possible.  I think we successfully managed to fulfill a creative partnership between a street apparel brand and an iconic ‘80s automobile, in a capacity that made sense for everyone involved.

I think over many instances, you’ve accomplished your goal of bringing to light artists and creatives which may have traditionally been unknown to your audience. I respect the educational aspect this brings as well it answers a question I had previously the intention of asking. However in the future, would you or have you considered the opportunity to collaborate on something that’s mostly unfamiliar to you for example, not a piece of fashion.

Sure, why not? Also, we already have.  We’ve made snowboards, BMX bicycles, vinyl toys… I have some great ideas for furniture and houseware that we’d like to get into.  But outside of making product, I’ve always intended to get into collaborating from a writing perspective.  Anything from working on a screenplay or a popular TV show, to doing comedy or ghost-writing.  I think people know I have a background in writing, but I also have a history and interest in writing for stand-up.  So that would be interesting and perhaps unexpected. Eventually, Ben and I will continue to work within music and publishing as well. The Hundreds was originated as a lifestyle project, a very diluted concept today.  But the idea was that it went beyond fashion or material goods, and was more of a creative umbrella that encompassed our interests.

Do you think your ability to communicate will pay dividends in the future in terms of the growth for The Hundreds? How important is international growth for you relative to maintaining or growing domestically?

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this question! But.. I’ll just flip it into a question I can answer.

Communication is key in The Hundreds’ DNA.  I can proudly say that as far as daily blog communication and interactivity between brand and customer, we’ve had that covered since day one.  It was always important for us to maintain that relationship with our customers, to provide them with the insight behind our product, and the people behind it. It trickled down from growing up in a punk DIY community that emphasized equivalence and breakdown of social hierarchy. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine building a brand without that platform, but it has always been in our ethos.

International growth is vastly important to maintaining relevance and brand awareness.  Globalization has evolved from economic theory to hard reality. Borders, literally and figuratively, are being broken worldwide, and we’d be ignorant if we didn’t embrace all the opportunities this opens up.  There was a time when the world revolved around American culture and trends.  But that time is not now!

Sort of tying into the whole notion of globalization, how do you view those who are slow to adopt the latest in Internet brand presence, do you feel it’s a big detriment to development? Do you genuinely find new social media platforms beneficial like Twitter and the like? 

It depends!  For the majority of brands and businesses out there, you’re in the dinosaur ages if you haven’t dedicated a significant amount of attention towards your internet presence.  BUT it’s certainly not for everyone.  With some brands, any proactive internet exposure goes against the very fabric of their ideology.  Yet, they still make the mistake of sparking up a blog or Twitter profile because they assume it’s what they’re supposed to do, although the forced nature is detrimental to their overall branding development.  Follow the natural course of your brand.  

For us, the open platform has always made sense, because it’s the core of our branding strategy.  The very notion of The Hundreds was to be on the same level as our customers, and be as open as possible about our process and day-to-day.  Logically, the blog and eventual online interaction plugged into that equation.  So yes, our customer is looking for a The Hundreds Twitter page, and for Ben and I to be a finger-click away.  And ultimately, it enhances their overall understanding of our brand, and reinforces our DNA. 

I’ve had my Twitter account open for a couple years now, and tried to shut it down a few months ago. It’s such a gross exercise in narcissism, I didn’t see any benefit to my personal life.  But when I looked at our webstats, I realized that the vast amount of traffic to our site now comes via our Twitter accounts.  So now I update mine regularly with bad jokes and quips (anything to NOT talk about my personal life or product news), although it’s more for business purposes.

In terms of creating an open platform, is there a particular reason why you don’t open up comments on your blog? It would seem like it would be a great opportunity for discourse. But your note about the aspect of Twitter being narcissistic can be true but I think for many of your fans out there, you’re offering an opportunity to communicate with them on a more personal level, something the Internet will continually try to the bridge.

Call me crazy, but I really don’t understand the point of user comments on websites.  I think they’re put in place to facilitate customer/fan interaction, but all it really does is open the floodgates for a few bored idiots to ruin it for everybody.  I think readers come to The Hundreds’ website to read about The Hundreds, not some 13-year-old hater in Des Moines complaining about how streetwear is dead.  There is a time and place for that though, just not on our website.  I am open to discussing with everyone, I just choose to do it in a different venue, which just so happens to be the HYPEBEAST Forum (I’ll make visits once or twice a month to answer questions). 

You bring up an interesting point about Twitter.  But it begs the question, do we really want that? Sometimes I fear that all this sharing and divulging will bite us in the ass (Is blogging the embarrassing fashion trend of the ‘00s?).  Again, it makes sense for The Hundreds’ brand to do so, but do I really want to be hearing about what my favorite musician is eating for lunch right now?  What happened to the mystique and reverie of NOT knowing?  I think so much of that distance, and the unknown, contributed to the branding and characterization of many of my own cultural idols.  Now, that idea is lost.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career thus far, it’s that you never really want to meet your heroes or know too much about their personal life.  Trust me, not only will you be disappointed, it’s anti-climactic.  

Many people think that because I’ve run a daily blog almost everyday for a decade that they know everything about me.  The truth is they only see what I choose to show them, and if you only know me by what you see on the blog, you barely know me at all. I never discuss my personal life, my family, my closest friends never make it on there.  I don’t discuss my views on religion or politics, although those issues are big in my life.  And I certainly don’t tell them about how I read books under a lamp at night, instead of hitting up streetwear parties to compare sneakers.  I think some things are meant to be sacred, and maybe I’m the least likely candidate to propose that.  Perhaps the last one who fights for it, as well.

I appreciate your thoughts and insights into keeping certain things offline. At the end of the day and just sort of further extending on the point you began, the Internet is as we know a constant curation of content. If Bobby Hundreds doesn’t talk about the aforementioned topics, nobody will know about it cause nobody will report it. But I guess it just comes down to personalities, I myself really enjoy reading the insights of other peers, I find the discourse refreshing and brings forth a more rounded dynamic to our industry… showing there is more than just t-shirts and what not. But getting back on track… how has the move to create a whole new footwear line for The Hundreds been? I imagine there are some difficulties designing minimalistic skate shoes in an arena that is so heavily dominated by many well-established players. How do you view footwear versus apparel/accessories design? 

After going through four seasons of The Hundreds Footware, it’s been working out well. I’d say surprisingly so, but it’s not really a shock.  Our customers are dedicated to the brand, and are very lenient and accepting of new avenues we decide to pursue.  Again, shoes were always a part of the equation, we just didn’t have the resources to get into it until a year ago.  Ben and I have been very adamant that Footware stands on its own feet (pun intended) as a brand, so we’ve devoted separate Sales, accounts, and design towards that end of The Hundreds.  

As far as Design and Creative Direction goes, there have been interesting challenges.  Our shoes are not complicated, if anything they complement our line to a T (again, pun intended).  The aesthetic is casual, California-based uppers with vulcanized soles.  Over the next year, we’ll be introducing a cupsole and a high-top as well.  The first few styles we’ve offered, the Johnson Mid and Low, and the Valenzuela, are what I like to call “gateway” sneakers into The Hundreds Footware brand.  I didn’t want to get too crazy or weird with it, I just wanted our customers to get comfortable with the idea of having The Hundreds on their feet.  So the designs are very non-offensive and easy, anyone can pull them off.  The next chapter’s a bit more difficult, as I begin to implement our own signature look within the silhouette and detailing, and I plan to do that with unique materials and shapes, and minimal but effective branding.  

Designing shoes is a tricky thing in our world, if you’re not Nike, Vans or the other players who’ve been around for generations.  The customer has become so accustomed with those guys’ silhouettes that anything new and innovative is considered ugly.  The customer doesn’t realize that the reason why they don’t like it is because it doesn’t fit into their preconceived notion of what a shoe should be (the Nike sneaker they’ve been wearing and looking at for decades).  But if you try to make a sneaker that looks good and sells, you gotta keep it really simple, and/or based off of an existing Nike or Vans, etc., and that’s when the customer complains that it’s unoriginal and just a carbon copy.  

So it’s a fine line that I hope to walk.  Wow, so many terrible puns.

Judging by the waves caused by many of your releases and sales, The Hundreds customer is among the most loyal in the business. Case in point the recent Black Friday sales including a video of a guy that broke his finger for a free hat (was it legit?!)? Without coming off as a pretentious dick which you’re far from haha, how calculated and foreseeable was the current state of The Hundreds? Was it in the plans anyways to be where you are now? 

Haha, I’m not sure if that was legit, but if it wasn’t, that dude put on a great show.  It was 3:30am and those kids were losing their minds.  As far as the growth, Ben and I have followed the blueprint we envisioned from the start.  Even when it was nothing but a few graphic t-shirts and a website, we were already planning out retail stores, footwear, music publishing, print magazines.  So I could say that this was all foreseeable.  However, it’s not about the destination as it is the journey.  The experiences, knowledge, and relationships we’ve gained on our path were Unforeseeable, incalculable, and much more valuable and important to us than any brick-and-mortar shop.   

The everyday The Hundreds blog has an obvious emphasis on photography from your vantage point. To what degree do you view photography as part of your life… and how do you feel spawning a new generation of kids that are permanently attached to their DSLRs at the hip.

You know what, photography was just always a hobby of mine, and somehow it became another facet of my career. The same can be said for writing.  Most people who know of my work because of what we’ve done with The Hundreds apparel are probably only familiar with my art and design contributions. But we live in an age where I could combine my passions for art, photography, and writing all in a singular project through blogging.  And that is just something serendipitous, at no other place in time could I have found a way to do that.  

I started shooting skate and band photography when I was 14 years old.  My friend Zach Cordner, who is now an established photographer, taught me how to use my dad’s dusty SLR.  The learning curve was so slow back then, because it was all film. Plus, expensive.  But I always liked how I could chronicle the best experiences of my life through photography.  I have photos of my friends and I at 16 snowboarding at 2am in the forest.  Photos of riot cops spraying me (and my camera) with mace after a punk show.  Photos of Brad from Sublime performing to a crowd that barely cared 2 months before he passed.  

I’ve never looked at myself as a serious photographer or thought of the medium as a career base, so that’s why I think I enjoy it so much.  Every night when I’m uploading my day’s work, it’s like opening Christmas presents.  I wouldn’t say I spawned a new generation of kids to get into the DSLR game, but I do think it’s pretty awesome that so many young people have found an active interest in photography.  I always tell people that they should pick up the art because anyone can do it, and it changes how you see the world and the beauty within it.  It certainly makes everyday life just a tad more enjoyable.  

As you put it so nicely, these days most creatives are decidedly much more diverse and multi-platform based. Maybe it’s by virtue of how accessible everything is for better or worse, but I personally seeing the act of creativity unfold for people beyond their primary or most notable skill. Like you mentioned, you’re perhaps better known for your graphic design yet seeing how your creativity manifests itself in other mediums creates this interesting inter-connected web of art and communication. As we round things off, do you have any last things you want to add or say? 

It’s been a while since I’ve granted an online interview and this was one of the most insightful to date, so thanks to Eugene and HYPEBEAST.  The Hundreds has got some big things planned for the new decade, 2010 is gonna be monumental for us as a brand.  Thanks to all our dedicated clientele who’ve been down since the start, and all the new jacks that have just found out about TH and think it’s only about the bomb.  You’ll learn!  I hope you all enjoy the DeLorean project, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to try new creative things.  The Hundreds is Huge.

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