Hook-Ups, the extreme sports fashion brand that made its name with big-eyed busty anime girls – what, you don’t remember Hook-Ups? Too many extreme concussions while snowboarding, drinking clear Pepsi and eating your Arch Deluxe at Lollapalooza? Well, it was kind of a 90s thing, vaguely anime-style sexy gal stickers you could put on your skateboard so that it looked cool while you were carrying it to and from places. What, ride that thing? Are you nuts? From a distance we’d see the decals and think we were seeing an actual anime character, and then realize it was a Hook-Ups sticker, appropriating the Japanese animation aesthetic for its own edgy, Thrasher Magazine-reading purposes.
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The general aesthetic wasn’t the only thing that got appropriated, though. Lots of Hook-Ups art went beyond merely “working in the anime style” and right into using the actual production art of actual Japanese animation productions. We’re not talking a Roy Lichtenstein giant-canvas reworking either, we’re talking full on, don’t care, cut and paste stealin’.
|Bubblegum Crisis and Gatchaman get the treatment|
Brought to my attention recently on a message board, the extent of Hook-Ups’ cribbing is a thing of wonder. Properties both obscure and world-renowned found themselves repurposed as branded merchandise in wholesale image theft on a scale usually only present in flea markets and swap meets.
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Hook-Ups wasn’t alone in their anime pilfering. It was the 90s, everybody from album cover designers to comic-con video pirates knew Japanese cartoons would never get any sort of legitimate release, nobody’s using it here, why not take it? None of us figured Sailor Moon and Pokemon would take “anime” up from underground and into the mass media world of Happy Meals and Toys “R” Us.
|just put your own name on it, no one will know the difference|
Unfortunately for the subcultural tastemakers, Japanese animation eventually went mainstream in a big way and lost every bit of counter-culture cache it might have had. The big-eyed anime gal became a staple of Blockbuster and Fox Kids, hardly emblematic of the underground skater mindset.
Like other 90s icons AOL and Bill Clinton, Hook-Ups is still around, currently mining a supercute Junko Mizuno-esque motif. Why waste money on original designs when so much artwork is out there free for the asking? See also: Hot Topic.
Special thanks to “Usamimi” for locating these images.