You would be hard-pressed to find a brand quite as influential as Bape. A Bathing Ape, or Bape, has had its grasp on the streetwear game for generations, dating back to the early 90s. Rappers like Kanye West and Pharell have been rocking the label since before most of us reading this were even born.
Founded in 1993 by Tomoaki Nagao, or Nigo, Bape was the brainchild devised by Nigo while working alongside another Japanese design legend. In 1993, Nigo and Jun Takahashi opened a streetwear store called “Unknown.” While Takahashi was working on Undercover, Nigo began pensively designing Bape’s ethos.
Nigo went with the eventual brand name because of a Japanese phrase that, when translated to English, means “A bathing ape in lukewarm water.” The phrase is used to describe people who are complacently indulgent and opt to bask in opulence lazily. In Japan, people often bathe in water that exceeds 40 degrees celsius. So allowing the water to become lukewarm, means that they’ve overstayed their welcome. He found humour in this, as his customer base was typically made up of those who enjoy overindulging in hobbies like fashion or toy collection. However, today’s Bape customers range from old hands recalling the good ol’ days, to young kids who are looking to get into the streetwear world. For the latter, we’ve drawn up a list of six introductory items to help you further understand just how important Bape is to fashion, and get you in the loop.
Initially released in 2004, the Shark Hoodie is one of the most popular Bape items to date. The hoodie can be seen evolving over the years, beginning with simple colour blocking, and eventually turning into statement pieces. The hoodie features a full-length zip, which, when closed all the way, covers the wearer’s face entirely and essentially turns them into a shark. Nigo has attempted to show the hoodie in a different light with each passing season. Some hoodies are one solid colour with the shark details exposed on the hood. While others feature their famous ape camouflage covering the hoodie in its entirety.
Bape X Kaws 1st Camo “XX” Trucker Hat
In Spring/Summer 2005, Kaws and Bape decided to drop the most fire accessory of the year, combining the two brands’ most infamous design cues. First and foremost, the Bape trucker hats were created, designed and manufactured for those who are hat lovers. The quality of the pieces has always been top-notch, and the designs which have been added on are on-brand, unique, and for a lack of better words, don’t miss. For this piece, Kaws added their famous XX logo, which can be seen in the eyes of all of his dolls, drawings and collaborative designs.
This cap features an olive green mesh backing which is stitched onto an ape head camouflage upper, finished off with the Bendy character from Kaws and the XXs on the panels.
College Dropout Bapesta
There is so much to unpack with this sneaker, I don’t even know where to start. The silhouette itself is called the Bapesta. If you think it looks awfully close to a Nike Air Force 1, then don’t stress yourself out. They’re practically identical. Except for a few key differences. Released in the early 2000s, Bapesta’s stirred up loads of controversy as they were near one-to-one replicas of Nike’s golden child. However, the Bapesta received a Bape branded makeover, with one essential addition, which sent the Bapesta over the top.
The sneaker was often released in a patent leather upper, a material never before seen on the Air Force 1. Now, add Nigo’s insane colour blocking choices, and you have one of the dopest, easiest-to-wear sneakers ever to exist. The College Dropout Bapesta is influential as it was the first sneaker designed by Kanye West that people could buy in-store. It featured the bear from Ye’s College Dropout album, painted alongside an animalistic brown and creme combo. Unfortunately, the College Dropout Bapesta is more than just hard to come by. The sneakers resell for a few months of rent in a Central London flat. Never mind the fact that the 15-year-old sneaker is nearly impossible to find in good condition.
Ape Head T-shirt
The Bape head is easily the most recognisable logo from Bape’s journey. The ape head pays homage to the brand name and is meant to mimic the aesthetic of those who purchase from the label.
Bape T-shirts have seen countless iterations, but the most intriguing has been the Bape head T’s. Printed on a solid T-shirt is Bape’s ape head logo, which is usually tinkered with to do something unique on each and every piece. Some feature the head straight up, with others designed with Bape’s legendary ape camouflage wrapped inside of the head outline. I’ve had my eyes on 3m Bape heads, multi-colour camouflage Bape heads and even collaborative designs.
The brand has done releases with brands like Marvel, Kaws and Mastermind, with each adding their personal touch to the infamous logo. Bape head T-shirts are a great entry point to the brand, as basic designs are incredibly attainable. However, the game can get addictive, and the cost can add up fast. Start looking at pieces from the early 2000s, and you’ll see what I mean.
Supreme Box Logo T-shirt
Yes, you read that right. In 2000, New York-based fashion brand Supreme did a collaboration with a young and flourishing Bape. Supreme releases box logo apparel in most of their drops. However, the pieces quickly became hot commodities, selling out almost instantly with each coming release. This Bogo is like many others. The plain white T-shirt is spiced up with a box logo in the middle of the chest. The white font reads Supreme, while Bape’s infamous ape camouflage floats between and around the letters. Sitting on the left sleeve is the ape head tag which can be found on the majority of Bape garments.
This shirt represents the coming together of two major players in the streetwear industry. Supreme and Bape have been pitted against each other since they both entered the fashion spotlight. And although their popularity has fluctuated, both brands have maintained a vital role in the game.
Casio G-shock Collaboration
Bape was truly a pioneer in this collaboration. Casio’s G-shock has been making waves in the watch game since its conception in 1981. Casio engineer Kikuo Ibe came up with the G-shock when he dropped a pocket watch which was gifted to him by his father. The watch inevitably broke, sending Ibe into an experiment frenzy until he created the perfect watch. After some trials and tribulations, the G-shock was released, rated for “triple 10” resistance. This meant the watch had a 10-year battery life and could be submerged in up to 10 bar, or 334 feet, of water. Most importantly, it could withstand a drop from 10 feet.
So in 1998, the imaginative Nigo and Bape put its branding on a black G-shock. The watch features the G-shock logo painted in the staple rainbow colour scheme, which has grown to become synonymous with Bape. As well, the watch has small design cues removed and replaced by Bape brand phrases or logos. Since their collaboration, brands have been itching to collaborate with the invincible watch. Some have done it, but not to the same level of spectacularity as Bape.
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