A Bathing Ape, aka BAPE, has been around long enough to leave a permanent mark on street fashion.
But there’s more to them than the camo prints and hypnotic colors that they’re known for. Here’s 5 things you should, but probably didn’t know about BAPE.
1) There’s more than just the ape
You’ll get about as far as the logo before encountering your first BAPE animal, but it’s not just the Planet of the Apes-inspired primate who embodies the fashion label’s spirit. BAPE is also known for its tiger motif, and shark motif. In fact, the two are often combined in the same item, so you get the tiger on one side and the shark on the other. Because why choose one when you can have both, right?
The tiger and shark motifs have been iconic of BAPE’s design for a long time. Which one’s king? There’s no right or wrong answer, although the shark seems to be more popular overall. More recently, BAPE have introduced a new addition: the panda, which is available in certain locations. The panda features on hoodies, canvas backpacks and more, so keep an eye out for it.
2) It’s a combination of cultures
You might already know where BAPE originated: Japan, back in the early 90s. What’s less widely known is how this specific time and place played a part in developing BAPE’s attitude and aesthetic. If you think about it, BAPE’s still got the 90s spirit (but, you know, the cool part). It’s character-driven, sure of itself and references a lot of fashion trends either popularised or revived in the 90s, such as camo print.
Japan’s taken an interest in America for a long time (and the feeling’s pretty mutual), but that interest was at one of its highest points back in the 90s, when the two cultures started to bleed together in various ways. From movies and music to video games and fashion, the Japan + USA combo made waves in all aspects of life.
BAPE is a great example of a successful cultural crossover. We’ve already mentioned that the original logo was inspired by Planet of the Apes, which is, of course, an American franchise. Even today, modern trends of both American and Japanese culture are embodied in BAPE’s aesthetic: the bold, off-beat animal designs of the East, and the cool, carefree attitudes of the West.
3) BAPE’s founder is close with Pharrell
BAPE founder Nigo and international superstar Pharrell Williams were introduced by a mutual acquaintance in the early 00s. Pharrell’s chill attitude and young-at-heart spirit was basically a perfect fit for everything BAPE represented. And when Pharrell noticed what BAPE was doing, so did everyone else. BAPE had undertones of hip-hop culture from the start, but its involvement with Pharrell and other figures from the scene definitely helped reinforce them.
In fact, Nigo no longer oversees BAPE. Shortly after the designer left, he teamed up with Pharrell to help launch another luxury fashion label: Billionaire Boys Club. This resulted in another successful collaboration that’s still in vogue today. So the relationship between Nigo and Pharrell has been pretty fortunate, for them and for fashion lovers all around the world.
4) There’s a story behind the name
BAPE. A Bathing Ape. And that logo. At first glance the whole “ape” angle might seem like a designer quirk that spiralled out of control, but that’s not the whole picture. “A Bathing Ape” is actually the first half of a Japanese phrase: “a bathing ape in lukewarm water.” The Japanese like their baths hot, so to bathe in “lukewarm water” means to be casual, carefree and maybe a little indulgent.
So the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to BAPE’s target audience when it was started. Japanese youth culture in the early 90s was very much casual, carefree and indulgent. It’s these characteristics that BAPE wanted to embody, then and even today. But that’s not to say that the name was intended as some grand statement on the way of the world. According to Nigo, it was mostly just something that felt right at the time. Which is a pretty casual, carefree way to look at it, too.
5) BAPE did it first
Although Supreme was created just one year after BAPE, the two labels were originally going for very different things. Supreme was more focused on tapping into skate culture, which influenced its style and the people most attracted to it. BAPE went for a broader audience: young people in general. Both capture the spirit of the street, but there’s always been differences between the two.
It’s BAPE that really started cultivating the exclusivity that surrounds the hottest streetwear brands today. BAPE had what’s known as the scarcity model figured out from the start. How it works is like this: don’t produce enough product, but instead produce not enough product. Then watch demand rocket sky-high. Before you know it, everyone’s hyped, and you’ve got one of the most talked-about streetwear brands on the planet. This is exactly what Supreme’s known for today – but BAPE beat them to the punch.
Did we get everything? Or do you know something about BAPE that we missed?
Let us know in the comments. And if you’re a fan of BAPE, then you already know about their steep prices – which probably explains why they’re hot on Hybe right now. With the Bape box and Bape Ultra, you’re guaranteed genuine BAPE apparel and accessories every single time. To check out the full range – fifty collections and counting – just click here.