Photos by Tyler Andrew
Pants are to skateboarders what beaded bracelets are to ravers: a point of pride and a social identifier.
You can tell a lot about a skater by what they choose to wear, especially on their southern portion. Are their pants baggy or slim? Are they wearing jorts or do they have style? Finding the right pair of legwear can be a difficult task, and sometimes things don’t quite fit the way you’d like them to and the park locals make fun of your kit. You can’t even warm up because of all the jeering from the sidelines.
Pat Hoblin—founder/CEO/art director/head of marketing of Pat’s Pants—once felt that bitter frustration, and has since resolved to make stylish, handcrafted apparel for the active individual. A New York native and a staple of the city’s skateboarding and artistic communities, Hoblin has applied his understanding of an active skateboarder’s needs and lifestyle—as well as his eclectic artistic taste—to develop apparel that is consistently unique. Helped along by passionate endorsements from skaters and artists alike, Pat’s Pants is one of the most exciting apparel brands out there. With that in mind (and in the hopes of getting a free pair), we thought it couldn’t hurt to turn up at Pat’s place in Brooklyn and have a chat with him about the business of wearable art.
How’d all this come about?
Pat’s Pants started as a collaborative effort with my ex-wife that was based on our combined interests. My skating, her dyeing and both of our passions for fashion and style. Before Pat’s Pants, we were buying pairs of pants and modifying and customising them to the way we liked it. People kept asking what pants I was wearing and rather than saying, ‘this is so and so pants mixed with this and cut with that,’ we decided that we would make our own sample. People kept asking about it and we decided to make a limited run.
Is that where the name comes from?
Yeah, it started as a joke. It’s literally just from people always asking, ‘What pants are you wearing?’ ‘Oh, it’s Pat’s pants.’ It’s a really personal project to me for that reason, but it has grown to be sort of broad—it goes beyond just me as a person behind the brand. It’s become this whole big thing.
How long ago was that?
That was about five years ago. Actually, five years on the dot. We started up in July 2016. We still run that same original pattern of pants, too, just tweaked a little every time to improve. In that first run with that pattern, we did an Overcast dyed pant, a Purple Haze pant, a solid colour and a stripe pant. Those were our first.
What do you think is your most popular garment?
People love whenever I put out stripes, definitely. The first one was good but the second one, called the Static stripe, people still ask me about that. The dyed ones are also pretty big out here.
How do you view your brand moving forward?
I definitely see a lot of potential. Based on the growth I’ve seen in the last five years, I’m really happy with where we’re at and how things are going. I could definitely see it scaling up and getting in more places, adding more stockists. Realistically, what I’d love to do is have different tiers of the brand. I’d like to have exclusive pieces that are hand-dyed or hand-painted, patchwork stitching, but also having something like a ‘basics’ line. Pieces that are more accessible to people in terms of price point, style, function. I definitely want to keep making these exclusive pieces that are really unique and almost approach them like statement pieces or art pieces, but I want to make items that are more accessible to people who might want something cool to wear and accommodate their needs and price range.
Yeah, what do you do when you have a hand-painted piece? Are you doing it all alone, cutting and sewing in that room all day?
Yeah, pretty much. The first artist collab I did is with a buddy of mine named Sabio, where we did around 15 pieces and had this fashion show event/release party kind of thing. Some of the pieces were spray painted, some were bleach painted, it really depends on the item and the artist. I’ve drawn and painted on pieces as well, but no matter what, as of now, all the art aspects are added to the pant by hand. I just did a sick collab with an artist named Alex Garner where she painted one and hand embroidered the other.
Oh yeah, that’s the one that Kendall and Brooke wore, right? How hard is it to coordinate all of that?
Yeah, that’s the one. They came out great.
What goes into making all of these statement pieces and artist collabs happen?
Honestly, a lot. A lot goes into making pants in the first place. It’s all worth it but producing in New York City is not cheap and not easy, and that difficulty is reflected in the price point. Realistically, I think that for what you’re really getting, the price isn’t unreasonably high. Everything is made here from the ground up. I’m not outsourcing anything. Everything from the fabric to the patterns to the designs… marketing, sales, everything is done by me. I have a team I work with at a factory in Midtown for production but aside from that, it’s all me. It’s crazy because the New York Garment District used to be such a pillar of the fashion industry, but now it’s sort of dwindling. All these factories are closing, productions are moving overseas or to LA. That has a lot to do with price and the capacity for production that these factories have, but that makes it pricey. People are making a pair of pants overseas for a couple dollars each, whereas I’m trying to keep it all in New York City.
What do you think your biggest challenge is at the moment?
Honestly, having the customer understand what is being made, how it’s being made, and why it costs so much. People compare Pat’s Pants to brands like Levi’s or Dickies, but you can’t compare a brand that’s been around for a hundred years to little old me who is just doing this thing for the love of it and keeping everything in the city. To that end, it’s also just a lot of leg work. A lot of back and forth with factories and fabric suppliers. To be fair, no matter where I produce, there’s going to be a lot of work and variables to address because pants are a very specific type of garment, which is why a lot of brands will avoid making them, or just not get it down. That’s why I feel so good when someone tries on my pants and says, ‘yo, this is perfect.’
Who do you think your main clientele is?
I mean, I guess it’s most known in skateboarding culture, or at least that’s who is appreciating it. At the same time, though, because of what I was saying about the cost of producing, it doesn’t really coincide with what skateboarding is like. Skaters don’t have a lot of money, and they’re worried about messing up their pants. The brand and the products are made with skateboarding in mind, and that’s definitely a big part of the clientele, but the other part of people who really understand it are people who are more knowledgeable of the industry, or people who appreciate skate culture but aren’t necessarily in the core of skating getting dirty out in the streets every day. I know that if I sold them for less, they might take off in skating.
But I can’t because of the cost of making them, especially the hand-made art collabs. I see those pieces as being a little more elevated, with more artistry behind them, and existing sort of above just pants to be active in.
What do you make of skateboarding’s recent fascination with pants culture?
Yeah, I don’t know what that’s about now. I think maybe we were a little ahead of the curve on that one. Pants have always been a big thing in skating, which is a big part of why we started making them. I could never find pants that really felt right to skate in. It was always like, ‘oh I want these mixed with these, with a little of this,’ so we just meshed our own. The only pant you need, that’s where the vision is.
Is that the slogan? It should be.
I can’t front like I made that up. My friend Mike Atwood that filmed some stuff with me, he always says that: ‘Pat’s Pants: the only pant you need.’
While you might not be Levi’s, Pat’s Pants is definitely known. I knew about Pat’s Pants before I moved to New York, you’ve got sort of a cult following at the moment. What do you make of that? What’s been weird about it?
One weird thing we noticed was that a little while after we made dyed pants in our style, other larger companies started doing it too. There was this one brand that made us feel like it was just a little too close to what we were doing to be a coincidence. Not to say that we were inventing the wheel by any means. Dyed pants were big in the 1980s. Shit comes in cycles like that. Just the extent of how we were doing it and the timing, that brand came a little too close. Even smaller details like their pocket design, their marketing, how they were wording things on their site, the way that they shot the photos, everything. A lot of people called them out on that and they never made anything like it again. Then again, that sort of thing happens in fashion all the time, where a lesser-known brand might get mimicked by a large one.
How does it feel to be a cult leader in this weird, protective fashion subculture (skating)?
It’s weird because it is small, but it’s also somehow not. It has a lot of tentacles; it branches into a lot of different things. Even you saying you knew Pat’s Pants before you knew me, that’s what I mean, and that also makes me feel good about the potential for growth. Right now, we are in a good place. I’m working on a few projects that I’m excited about and am extremely grateful for the love I’ve gotten from people supporting. I’m really happy with where Pat’s Pants is, and I’m proud of it. It’s a lot of work and I’m filling all the roles, but I’m excited to see where it’s going to go.
Get your hands on Pat’s Pants at patspants.co