Brand Origins

Translated from initial publication by Kevin Bernat on 14 December, 2016 in Autre


Every brand has a story, but often times we ignore it.

What is the common denominator between the video game ‘Metal Gear’ and the clothing brand ‘OBEY’?

At first glance, there’s no common denominator, except one… both brands were influenced by two films with the same director: John Carpenter.

The Master of Horror and Science Fiction

John Carpenter is an American director born on January 16th, 1948 in Carthage in New York state.

Over the course of his career, he tackles themes like extra-terrestrial invasions, confinement and anti-heroes, but it was in 1978 that John Carpenter marked his success with the slasher “Halloween”.

Across all his works, John Carpenter openly criticizes American capitalism and its elites. Paradoxically “Invasion Los Angeles” (1988) and “New York 1997” (1981) are two of his most engaging works but also two films that inspired big consumer brands.

invasion_los_angeles               new_york_1997

Kurt Russel Inspires Hideo Kojima

Hideo Kojima is a Japanese video game creator born August 24, 1963 in Setagaya. He is best known for his Metal Gear video game series; an action infiltration game released in 1987. The license was a universal success (Metal Gear Solid V sold $179 million on its release day).

Beyond the infiltration aspect, it’s the two heroes that unite the works. In Carpenter’s work, Kurt Russel portrays an old soldier, Snake Plissken, who has 24 hours to find the president of the United States, who has been captured by prison inmates after Air Force One crashes.

In Hideo Kojima’s work, the hero’s code name is SNAKE, and also uses the pseudonym Pliskin. A wink which carries through to the appearance and style of the heroes; a lone hero tormented by demons.

new-york-1997-1981-07-g            solid-snake

OBEY, A Critique of Consumer Society

Ironic? Yes and no.

It is in knowing the hidden story behind “OBEY” that we can really appreciate and understand the scope of the message conveyed by the brand!

The brand was born of a street art movement launched in 1989 by Frank Shepard Fairey; an artist that is known worldwide today for his works, like Banksey. The name of the movement was replaced by the name Obey Giant in 1998.

The term ‘OBEY’ was not chosen at random. In fact, it creates a paradox between the message transcribed by the logo and the underlying message the artist wanted. For his OBEY series, Shepard Fairey was inspired by John Carpenter’s film ‘Invasion Los Angeles’. The film takes us to a place where aliens have taken control of the United States and tend towards social and economic conformism for total control of the masses.

We can see it as a satire of American society driven by consumerism, with slogans such as OBEY, CONSUME and BUY.

141091-jpg-c_300_300_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx        invasion-los-angeles

Today, the brand OBEY is very trendy among the youth, and is available in all the big stores in the world. It reflects a contradictory consumerist society where protest values have become the standard of a capitalist system.



Tendayi Chirawu

Community Manager

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