You have probably been living under a rock if you have never heard of BAPE. In the modern age today, where streetwear has become mainstream and everything can be found online – it is easy to find out what the hyped items are and how to cop them.
This brand is an icon in the streetwear world and was an early trendsetter in the hip-hop fashion scene, they practically started the whole hype phenomenon.
If you are interested in learning more about this brand or reading about it for the first time, here is everything you need to know about BAPE.
Table of Contents
what is BAPE?
A Bathing Ape, also known as BAPE, is a Japanese fashion brand that focuses on streetwear styles. They offer men’s, women’s, and even kids’ fashion selections, specializing in their own unique branded hoodies, hats, sneakers, and more.
Eventually, it has also developed into a lifestyle brand with BAPE items like fishing gear, dolls, and even condoms.
who started BAPE?
Bape is founded by Tomoaki Nagao in 1993, who was later known as Nigo (which directly means number 2 in Japanese – referencing his facial similarity with fashion guru and a founding father of streetwear – Hiroshi Fujiwara, and how he was always behind him as he later became his assistant).
Nigo grew up in a working-class family. As a way of entertaining himself while his parents worked long hours, he was enveloped by the ‘70s rise of American culture and entertainment.
This eventually led to his interest in hip-hop, which propagated his passion for fashion. It started in the Ura Harajuku scene, where is it now popularly the location of many designers and streetwear brands.
Back in the 90s, this hidden Harajuku area was heavily influenced by American culture.
Before A Bathing Ape, Nigo opened his shop with his good friend Jun Takahashi of Undercover, and called it “Nowhere.”
Nigo noticed that Takahashi’s side of the store was more popular than his and he needed people to be interested in streetwear.
He had help from Sk8thing, an in-demand graphic designer, that eventually helped him come up with this brand concept of BAPE, which later became one of the most sought-out streetwear brands in the market.
When BAPE’s popularity declined due to the decreasing demand, counterfeiting, and dated designs, it was in financial combat.
In 2011, the brand was sold to Hong Kong fashion conglomerate I.T for around $2.8 million. He was contracted to stay as a principal designer for a few years and later on, opened his next label “Human Made.”
what does the BAPE logo mean?
The BAPE logo has double meanings. Nigo has been a fan of American pop culture and media since he was young. He had been a big fan of the classic 1968 movie: “Planet of the Apes.”
The first meaning is a homage to a movie he grew up watching. Second, there is a Japanese proverb, “A bathing monkey in lukewarm water.” This phrase describes lavishness, overindulging, and excess.
For example, if a person stays in a bath even if the water is not even hot anymore.
It references the lifestyle of the upper-class Japanese youngsters and their hyperconsumerism attitude, which has become the foundation for the brand’s audience and marketing tactics.
why is BAPE popular?
BAPE steadily grew its popularity in Japan over time. This brand, along with Nowhere, had defined the Underground Harajuku style in the ‘90s.
It started with a low profile before it went off into partnering with big names and brands. It was a best-kept secret and only had word of mouth as a form of spreading it in other countries.
Its Stocks were kept low (with financial causes being a big reason for this) but eventually turned out into a positive effect bringing exclusivity to BAPE. Its scarcity of products led to increased demand, creating streetwear’s queueing culture we know of today.
Everyone wanted a BAPE product and the move of closing their 40 locations across Japan to open a flagship store in Tokyo, agitated a massive wanting for the brand.
Its partnership with the brand Pepsi helped pull them to the spotlight in Japan. You can say that this brand was one of the pioneers of streetwear fashion in the world.
In 2003, its popularity traveled all the way to America thanks to the friendship formed by Nigo and Pharell Williams. They collaborated in introducing BAPE to the United States as Pharell brought home several BAPE products with him flying back home.
This was how BAPE was introduced in America’s hip-hop scene as rappers like The Notorious B.I.G. wore his clothes and when Soulja Boy wore a pair of Bapestas in his music video for “Crank Dat.”
A Bathing Ape became an instant success and skyrocketed in popularity until eventually meeting its peak and declining hype.
is BAPE considered designer?
BAPE is not necessarily Designer as designer brands are usually named after their namesake. Designers also usually produce runway shows and go together with other designers when found in department stores and such.
Though the brand is not necessarily a designer, it still ranks above average mall fashion and it can be considered high-end luxury streetwear.
It still poses an expensive retail price and has several counterfeit products on the market.
what is the BAPE shark?
The BAPE Shark is a type of hoodie that the brand created and had made a mark in the world of streetwear. It was first released in 2004, a golden era for the brand, as it was rapidly gaining popularity overseas.
The hoodie’s main feature is the enormous shark mouth on the front hood. It is a highly popular item by many streetwear enthusiasts because of its unique design and the impact it has made on the styles back then.
The shark design was inspired by military artwork of sharks that were on the nose of fighter planes and battleships. It shows the brand’s ability to combine its style aesthetics with fun gimmicks and turned the BAPE Shark into a head-turning statement piece.
It started with a solid block-color design and later transformed into different versions adding in the famous BAPE camo print and beyond. The BAPE Shark hoodie was one of those items where you know what it is at first glance.
It retails for over $300 and it was a symbol of wealth and style for many people in the streetwear community. You just would not be able to find any piece like it back then.
popular BAPE products
These were first introduced in the early ‘00s and have become the brand’s iconic silhouette, which also looks very similar to Nike’s Air Force 1’s which came before it.
It is designed with an eye-catching lightning star logo with the word “BAPE” or “APE” on the midsole. The kicks are usually made of full patent leather and come in the most flashy and fun color schemes that helped define the brand’s fun aesthetics.
Some iconic BAPESTA designs include:
Kanye West Bapesta
The Kaney West Bapesta was the first sneaker that Kanye designed that could be bought in-store back in 2007.
It features the cartoon bear from Kanye’s College Dropout and Late Registration albums on the heel and was not made from the usual patent leather, making this a very distinct and arguably the most popular Bapesta pair in existence.
Spongebob Squarepants Bapesta
As Nigo was a fan of American pop culture and media, the Spongebob Squarepants Bapesta collaboration made a lot of sense.
Released in 2008, this pair was made of full yellow patent leather and had Spongebob’s face on the heel. This easily sold out as well with the hype on BAPE and the popularity of Spongebob Squarepants at the time.
BAPE SHARK Hoodie
As previously mentioned, the BAPE Shark hoodie is an iconic design that is easily identified by many people all over the world. It features a shark mouth on the front hood and comes in eye-catching colors and prints.
After this hoodie dropped, many other brands started dropping full zip hoodies with their own designs as well. What used to be a limited item with a surplus demand, is now a common design in the hands of Hong Kong’s I.T. company.
Color Camo Full Zip Hoodie
When you think of BAPE, you instantly think of its iconic camouflage pattern, inspired by military garments. The color camo design features bright colors and cloud-like shapes that also reference the cartoonish kawaii culture in Japan. The Color Camo Full Zip Hoodie was the BAPE piece everyone wanted, long before the shark hoodie existed.
What happens when two icons in the streetwear world work together? Magic happens. In 2005, Kaws hoodies, Kaws Bendy 1st camo XX trucker hats, and “Chomper” Bapestas were born. With BAPE’s classic designs and silhouette combined with Kaws’ iconic “XX” – it was a match made in heaven and an instant sell-out.
In conclusion, BAPE is here to stay. Though it had already reached its peak in the early ‘00s under Nigo, it remains a classic and iconic staple in the streetwear world.
Its unique designs and quirky brand personality allow this brand to go down in history as one of the pioneers of streetwear style. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for BAPE fans – this brand goes beyond clothing.
It has become a personal identifier and brings emotional nostalgia. Remember their name – A Bathing Ape – because they are a part of something monumental that has snowflaked its way to today’s streetwear styles and practices.
Kathleen, more commonly called Kaye, is a fashion designer and creative. She graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Clothing Technology from the University of the Philippines. Kaye is a fashion enthusiast interested in styling, content writing, and illustration. She has worked with several local and international brands and is currently in the pursuit of beginning her Master’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising in New York.