June 2, 2013

How did OBEY go from an anti-corporate anti-Man street un-brand to Made in China fratboy wear?

Obey vs. Obey Clothing.

“I’ve been hearing some cries of “SELLOUT!” over the various products for sale. I put all the profits back into more stickers and posters for the street, because that is my love, not money. People have different reasons for liking GIANT and I can understand people not wanting to see it leave the underground niche it has enjoyed for so many years. All I can say is that even in the commercial applications of OBEY/GIANT I am attempting to retain the rebellious spirit of the street project.” ~ Shepard Fairey

For more on his prolific “selling out,” click here.


I used to live in Boston, and OBEY stuff was everywhere…but it was anti-croproate, anti-The-Man stickerage, street art, illegal.

Now it’s big business. Now it’s made in China, sold in Urban Outfitters and worn (and marketed by) the YOLO D-bag set. Still, it’s backed loosely by good-guy Shepard Fairey, and it supports some good things.

So I was curious, and watched some videos (at bottom) and read up on some word on the street (via Reddit comments) as to how we got from underground to sell-out. ~ ed.

The below quotes come via OBEY fans on Reddit:

“…[in buying the tee shirts I’m] supporting one of my favorite artists. Obey can be dated back to 1989 starting with the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” (http://imgur.com/UdiwZ) campaign started by a street artist named Shepard Fairey. Basically he put it everywhere and it blew up and led that into this: http://imgur.com/lSpNT. That is pretty much all he did to get known was put that shit literally anywhere and everywhere as an “experiment in phenomenology” Well it blew up over time, more so in the past 5-6 years, its expanded exponentially with all the “hipster” teens and party kids hence all the hatred in this thread.

“The clothes aren’t that great anymore. They used to be made in America but now it’s done overseas, so therefore the quality is super shitty now. He pretty much just licensed the name to a group of 4 guys who control the fashion half while he just does his ‘art.'”

“…why he used the name “OBEY”. He got it from an 1988 film called “They Live”(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096256/?ref_=sr_2) If you haven’t seen it, watch it. It’s entertaining and honestly quite true. The story behind this film is the theme he chose for his art. Also Shepard Fairey doesn’t really have a whole lot of input when it comes to the clothing, never really did, he just focuses on OBEY GIANT, which does all the prints. Watch a documentary called “Exit Through the Gift Shop” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1587707/) this talks about him some but mainly Mr. Brainwash (who is a talentless ass) and Banksy.”

“…I love the layers and textures he creates when stenciling and I love the symbols he uses and repeats like the sort of bandanna patterns and he often does such things as displaying a woman in distress and a star which is kind of a hidden easter egg like in a lot of movies you’ll notice a twinkling star above a damsel in distress etc. (Ex: http://imgur.com/6idFc) He also does illuminati-esque works that just portray a higher power. All things that interest me. I’m a huge fan of street art in general whether it be Banksy, Shepard Fairey, or a nobody such as ZuZu Gold that wheat pastes poetry up here in LA.”

“…Shepard Fairey doesn’t have a “statement” that he stands by. He does his works based on current events mostly and will always gladly give his opinion on anything political or foreign events w/e. He also does lots of art to support foundations to support breast cancer reasearch (Save A Breast) and feeding the less fortunate (Feeding America) to name a few. He is also the face behind the infamous Obama hope blue/red face…”

“…it’s a little ironic that Obey was founded on the idea that you can brainwash people into almost anything with advertising, and now the company has blown up, and now feeds into the consumerism that it was originally was against…”

“More info on how/why Obey was started can be seen in this documentary.”

“Obey is worn by young people who are most likely to be using such slang words as ‘Swag’ and ‘Yolo.'”


“This film is based on the true story of Shepard Fairey’s first act of street art during his time at Rhode Island School of Design from 1989-1992.”

OBEY THE GIANT – The Shepard Fairey Story from Julian Marshall on Vimeo.

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