Case Study: A Comparison of HUF and Obey

Case Study: A Comparison of HUF and Obey

HUF and Obey are two brands that blew up within the same streetwear culture around the same time. They have a lot of similarities particularly because they cater to the same streetwear lifestyle demographics. They’ve even had a collaboration together called the HUF x Obey Blood Brothers capsule collection. These two brands are at the top of the streetwear scene, so let’s dive into their similarities and differences.

Introduction on HUF

HUF was founded by Kieth Hufnagel who grew up in New York City skateboarding and later moved to San Francisco, California to become a professional skateboarder. Hufnagel opened the first HUF boutique in San Francisco in 2002, selling the most respected skate, streetwear, and sneaker brands that were hard to come by. HUF quickly became the Bay area’s store for rare items like supreme clothes, sneakers, and other boutique fashion houses. As it grew, Hufnagel ended up launching his own brand of what he felt embodied the spirit of skateboarding and street culture.

Introduction on Obey

Obey was founded by Shepard Fairey in 2001 in Irvine, California.  Fairey was a street artist and started Obey as an extension of his work in activism. Obey Is known for using themes and images from the John Carpenter film, They Live, in their clothing. Their signature is a wrestler’s face, Andre the Giant, but redesigned due to copyright issues, this became the icon of Obey’s clothing. Although Obey itself doesn’t have real meaning, Obey is supposed to be reflective of the customer’s personality and sensibilities. Obey is about questioning the purpose and your surroundings.

Similarities and their collaboration

With Obey coming from graffiti culture, and HUF coming from skateboarding culture, they both truly have street culture embedded in them. They both cater to a young demographic being between high school and young adults, focusing on skate and graffiti culture. They both have accessories ranging from about $8 to more expensive pieces like hoodies ranging at about $195. At similar price points, both have risen to the top of streetwear brands coming from their skateboard scene. They both have had collaborations with various other artists, and are both known for their high-quality, provocative designs.

In 2016, they came out with a HUF x Obey collaboration that featured HUF’s triple triangle with Obey’s icon, Andre the Giant in the middle of all their pieces. This collaboration had pins, stickers, t-shirts, hoodies, beanies, shoes, socks, hats, and jackets. The most expensive piece of this collection is the skate shoes at $79.95, and the cheapest being the pins and stickers priced at $9.95 respectively.

Differences

The first simple difference is that Obey does not have brick and mortar stores like HUF does, you have to shop through their website, or stores like Eden Wear, Val Surf, and Brooklyn projects. On the other hand, HUF has seven physical stores between Los Angeles and Japan, with another one coming soon in Brooklyn, New York.  

HUF is known for its clean aesthetic, quality, and provocative designs. HUF does a really good job at driving their cool nonchalant vibe which is the heart of skate culture. With Skateboarding being a huge part of their brand’s identity, they’ve made sure to embed this in their pieces. Their clothes, sneakers, and accessories are made to withstand the mishaps of skateboarding.

In 2017, HUF was sold to TSI Holdings, and in September of 2020, Kieth Hufnagel passed of brain cancer. Hufnagel’s legacy continues to live on as HUF’s designs continue to stay true to their streetwear roots and skateboard culture. On the other hand, Obey is still owned by Shepard Fairey.

Obey Blends military looks and workwear basics with a politically provocative philosophy. A huge part of Obey’s culture is standing up for what they believe is right. For example, in 2004 Fairey made antiwar and anti-Bush posters; garnering attention for their bluntness. This shows that Fairey is okay with questioning political figures and their propaganda. Also in 2008, one of  Obey’s most popular designs was created, the “Obama” hope poster that was also used in Obama’s presidential campaign.

Obey also really pays attention to today’s social climate by following movements and helping campaign for them. For example in 2018 Obey’s Fairey created special school posters for students protesting gun violence in the US. In the same year, Obey teamed up with Adidas to create the limited edition Samba ADV skate shoe for Beyond the Streets, with a portion of their profits going to Homeboy industries; a nonprofit organization aimed at helping former gang-involved individuals.

Obey is very open about controversial, social, and political topics, often donating and creating art to promote awareness of the social issues along with contributing to them directly. In 2017 Fairey launched his largest solo exhibition to date titled, Damage. The exhibition was held at the Library Street Collective Gallery in Los Angeles, which aims to raise awareness on political issues, human rights, and the environment. Obey is also a sponsor of Day of the Shred which is an event focused on skateboarding, arts, and music.

While Obey is known for politically, and socially provocative designs, it seems like in recent years they have shifted their focus from politics to just creating street art.

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Case Study: A Comparison of HUF and Obey In this post, we're comparing some of the similarities and differences between streetwear brands HUF and Obey.
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