The World According to Eddie Huang
The World According to Eddie Huang
- Words Lawrence Schlossman
- Date August 29, 2017
Is there anything Eddie Huang can’t do? The TV host and best-selling author—who you probably know from his book, Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir, or his Viceland show, Huang’s World—is truly a modern day renaissance man with a unique vision of the world we live in. Easily one of the smartest and most thoughtful guys I've had the pleasure of knowing, Eddie recently sat down with Grailed for a wide-ranging conversation covering a variety of topics, from what he believes is the golden era of New York City street fashion to the threads that tie all of humanity together. Read our chat below and then shop a curated selection of the clothing you’ve seen him wearing on Huang’s World.
Photography by Larry Dennison.
Why do you think that so many immigrant kids are drawn to streetwear?
Well, I think the thing is that streetwear has always been counter-cultural. And it's a bit irreverent.
Or that's at least what they're selling because now that shit is very mainstream, to an extent.
I mean, streetwear is 10 years behind the hip-hop curve, but whatever happens to hip-hop is probably gonna happen to streetwear as well. But I remember listening to hip-hop in the '90s and then you just rocked Polo, Tommy, Nautica, and then you started to see FUBU, Enyce, Pelle Pelle, Rocawear, and so we started rockin' all of that, and my favorite era in fashion is around 2001, 2002.
Almost peak Cam'ron era...
Yeah. It's Killa Cam. It's downtown New York and it's Nike SB. You know what I mean? Though I'm not a SB dude. I do not really like Nike Dunks.
Did you ever skate?
No. I didn't skate. I don't really like the Dunk, but the culture and the fashion that was created around the Nike SB Dunk program is my favorite fashion.
So are we talking that big, baggy Japanese denim?
Well, when the Stackhouse store was opened on Lafayette. You had Clientele and Supreme. Union was my favorite store of all time.
Are you going to Nom de Guerre at that time?
I didn't like them. It was too
fashion for me.
Was it intimidating or just not your vibe?
Nom de Guerre felt a little too earthy, like downtown New York vampire shit to me. But I respect it. I just stuck to Union. I'm like a one or two store dude. I'm not the type that's gonna hit tons of stores. A lot of people are like,
Hey, yo, come to this store. I work here. Whatever, whatever. Man, in the early 2000s, I just shopped at Union. I would go see Procell at Coat of Arms once they opened and then I would go to Stackhouse. That was kind of like my rotation.
What were you wearing back then? Do you remember the brands?
Lemar & Dauley was my favorite brand because I used to collect basketball cards and Lemar & Dauley put out a lot of shirts with graphics like AI with diamonds. They looked just like the 1991 Skybox set, the graphics were very similar.
Was it expensive?
Nah, but it was very limited. It was like they were selling through just boutiques in New York. They were local kids. The reason why it was my favorite era in fashion was because it was an underserved, under-recognized community creating things for themselves. And there was a convergence of Japanese style, hip-hop, black culture, street culture, and New York downtown culture all coming together to create this stuff.
Was it this specific melting pot within the streetwear world informed how you think about culture in general now?
Absolutely. The three streets that I would always post up were Eldridge Street, 'cause you had Bob, and you had Nort, and you had Recon. Then you had Rivington that had Alife, and then you had Lafayette that had Supreme, Clientele and Stackhouse. Everyone that worked on those stores is still in the game, whether they're in branded agencies, ad agencies, whatever. I think that was the golden era of street fashion.
Do you think that's gone now? And if so, do you think it could come back?
Well, what really fucked it up was the economic crash of 2009, and so that's one of those reminders. I always tell young kids when I talk at colleges or whatever,
Watch for the hook, read books and pay attention to economics and politics because you may think that music and fashion are recession-proof, or that you can just love who you love, but you need to be aware of everything going on. I've been telling people for a while, you vote with the way you spend your money. The only online retailer that I would buy streetwear from was Digital Gravel at the time 'cause Digital Gravel supported the culture, and Digital Gravel would put on younger artists like no-name companies who just had weird graphics and they were like,
I don't care if I take an L on this brand, I'm gonna try this.
They were voting with their dollars.
Exactly, they were voting with their dollar to stock this stuff, to support these artists. They cared about creating a platform and a movement. But then Karmaloop came about and Karmaloop just smashed everyone out of the game because they only cherry-picked the best brands that were selling through. At the time, it was Crooks & Castles.
10 Deep, LRG, The Hundreds, Diamond.
At best, those are mall brands now. What do you think about Supreme?
I mean, look, every single person who is in some sort of industry has tried to be the Supreme of their industry.
You think they're actively trying to be that?
Oh, I think they actively try it. You go to so many meetings and it's very funny because people come into pitches for whether it's television shows or restaurants or whatever, and they're like,
We're the Supreme of this, and I'm like,
You think you're the only one? The two things that people say the most in pitches are:
We're gonna be the Supreme of this, and
I'd like to pitch you the Curb Your Enthusiasm show. Those are the two standard-bearers. Everyone wants to be that irreverent, dominant, innovative artist or brand or force in their industry, and I think what's funny about Supreme is people have tried to copy the look. People have tried to copy the steps they made business-wise, but what they can't copy is the DNA.
You can't recreate that.
You can't teach someone to just think they're better than everyone else. You cannot teach that. You just have to believe it and know it.
There’s the disconnect. A lot of people believe it, but it's not true. So you see yourself in a way that no one else sees you, and you fail. The crazy thing about Supreme is they believe it and so does everybody else.
My EP who I've known for five years, Dave—and I actually had lunch with him today—he’s one of my best friends, and he said to me today,
Eddie, since 2012 when I met you on a bench in StuyTown, you told me we were gonna smash everybody out of the game. I think that's my job as a younger person, to look at the older generation and be like,
I'm gonna get you.
That's one of the most common narratives in history. Here’s the younger, hungrier guy…
Lancelot and King Arthur. You have to want to chase down the best. You have to want to get that fight, and the thing is, Dave was like,
I always thought you were arrogant and crazy, but you believed and you willed it to happen and you had this vision. And you didn't always have the team around you. You didn't always have the budget. You didn't always have the corporate support, but when you finally got it this year, you did it.
You're talking about season two specifically?
Yeah, season two of Huang's World. I would put pretty much every episode we did this season up against any episode anyone's ever done in that space.
You're this crazy, multi-hyphenate: a talking head, chef, author, host, human panda, all this stuff. How do you even describe what you do at this point?
I just use every tool in my toolkit to tell a story, and my goal is to create greater multi-cultural, racial solidarity, and for humans to realize we're a lot more similar than we are different. That is my goal in life.
And you do this through entertainment?
I do it through entertainment, whether it's TV, movies, writing, food. It's about bringing people together because I think that's one thing we just need to understand and accept so that we can move on and deal with the global issues we have.
Which are myriad.
Yes, but we beef with each other. We're interspecies fighting, and I'm just like,
You guys know we're like the same, right?” I'm not into countries. The more I travel, the more I feel like we all work for a Google. Look at the way all these big companies run. They have campuses, you know? They have daycare. They have services. Well, the government has some services for us too. We just work for companies. Look, these companies are all pretty much whatever. If we’re gonna work for a company, let's just work for one great, global, federal company. Then let's have a lot more autonomy and freedom on a local level. But anyway, that's a weird global federalist theory that I have. I'm into countries and race, culturally. I don't like it when you're like,My country's better than yours,” or,
My race is better than yours, and because I'm this race, then I'm this. Dawg, expand your mind a little bit. This is the thing. I'm really into the idea of salary caps on individual, salary caps on countries, and then revenue sharing around the world because we're all using the world's resources. We're all human beings, and this would take people in America or China, rich people in Dubai, whatever, to be like, "I'll relinquish some of what I have.” We will not survive with the inequality gap the way that it is. Also, is it really necessary for some cats to just ball this hard, this fast, out of control? I don't need to be stunning so hard over everybody else. I'm down to wear a general release everything.
Eddie Huang, the GR Gawd. When you’re traveling all over the world, have you seen anyone where you're like,
Damn, they're doing it right? Cause you've been everywhere.
America still does it the best. New York absolutely does it the best. I think New York is the closest, but it's funny about New York, because of the idea that New York's being watered down. You have a lot of transplants coming in.
People coming in and fucking up the game?
Yeah, centrists, centrist-conservatives. You have people that came from suburbs and want their kind of suburban way of life, and I'm like,
Dude, the key to the world and urban planning is urban density. The person that I think is the urban policy genius, that is closer to cracking the code than anyone ever, is Jane Jacobs. Jane Jacobs was an absolute genius and I think that people really need to read her, pay attention to what she had to say. I really am into guaranteed minimum wage, guaranteed minimum income. Like, there doesn't actually need to be homeless people in this world. If you look at how much money there is in circulation and how much of it is literally held in investments in banks. This cash is doing nothing in some guy's bank account except making that guy more money. And they have more cash than they will ever need. I don't think Abramovich needs that boat. I just don’t. People may hate me for this, but I'm into guaranteed basic income. I'm into a salary cap on people, and I would cap it at 50 to 100 million. You're not gonna spend all that anyway. Let's really examine how much money people actually need. People are like,
Oh, I do this for my children and grandchildren. I've not seen giving money to your kids really benefit.
Has that ever really worked out well? That’s how you get more Trumps, dude.
Nepotism kinda sucks. I mean, I'm into parents saving for their kid’s car, first house, college. Thats cool. If your parents got that for you, cool, but you gotta fight for shit. People gotta grind and get their own.
You think that's a requirement of the human condition?
Yeah. But even if you were to let people have a salary cap of a hundred mil then guarantee the basic income for everyone else, like eliminate the homelessness problem, I genuinely think people have a desire to be productive in this world. I think you will get more innovation.
Well, I think that's the main argument, though, right? Would that build complacency, or would it build innovation?
I think it builds innovation. I don't meet people that are like,
I want to be a piece of shit. I want to do nothing. You know? Once somebody has their basic needs taken care of, they usually get after it a little bit. And if not, alright, fine. At least I was the good guy and you're the bad guy, but at least we did our part as a society to make it humanly possible for you to try to do something. You meet a lot of kids from low-income neighborhoods and the stress they have to go through at home, the stress their parents go through just to make ends meet for them to just get even into their clothes and onto the bus and then go to school is insane. And I see my privilege. You probably have privilege.
I would never deny that I do.
A lot of us all have some sort of privilege. Even low-income kids that somehow made it into college, they have some privilege, you know? We need a better revenue-sharing program. So those are the things that I've looked at and it's just to say, global salary cap, guaranteed minimum income, revenue-sharing, and then to tackle the environmental issues together as a global community.