100 Thieves continues to lead in esports branding, fashion

A sample from the Numbers Collection. Provided by 100 Thieves

At 9:30 a.m. PT on Feb. 29, drone camera footage was posted to Matthew "Nadeshot" Haag's Twitter with the message "I'm blown away." A line of people dressed in red, black and white stretched past the sleek 100 Thieves compound and well beyond its closest Los Angeles neighbor, the fading blue awning of J.B. French Dry Cleaners.

It was a half-hour before 100 Thieves' first retail storefront opened alongside the launch of its latest apparel line: the Numbers Collection.

The Cash App Compound itself cleverly forces you to name its sponsor nearly every time you mention it. It houses a black storefront with red tinted windows that could easily belong on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, or on Rodeo Drive next to Zadig & Voltaire, Balenciaga (another esports favorite) or the series of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings.

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At its current location, the black monolith stands out -- odd, stylized architecture next to a dry cleaner and across from a spillway. While the easiest comparison to make is between 100 Thieves and James Jebbia's default streetwear brand Supreme, Nadeshot's 100 Thieves is a bit sleeker. An indoor reimagining of the open Supreme-style store layout with clothes for professional esports athletes rather than skaters -- the same esports athletes who sport Balenciaga or Louis Vuitton footwear.

According to former Call of Duty pro player Nadeshot, the name of his brand was inspired by the hard work he saw his parents put in to raise him and his siblings, working nonstop in what he describes as "blue-collar jobs."

"From their work ethic alone I've just seen that you have to put 100 percent of yourself into everything that you do if you want to be successful, if you want to go out and get the things that you want in life," Nadeshot said when describing what "100 Thieves" means to him.

"And then 'thief' is to just go out and take what's not given to you. I've said this before, but most people are not going to have an easy life," Nadeshot said.

100 Thieves president and chief operating officer John Robinson credited Nadeshot for the brand's near-instant popularity. Nadeshot leveraged his own popularity from his Call of Duty days into a successful YouTube career while building 100 Thieves as not only an esports organization but also a lifestyle and apparel brand. The merchandising strategy was again reminiscent of Supreme, with limited drops of specific apparel until the lines sold out.

"Matt has a better sense for his fans and the gaming community than anyone I've ever met. Before he started 100 Thieves he saw how brands like Jordan came from the basketball community, OVO came from the hip-hop community, and Supreme came from the skate community -- and asked himself why wasn't there something similar from gaming," Robinson said.

Robinson describes his role as a complement to Nadeshot's, and since his hiring in late 2017 has focused on bringing a world-class apparel team to 100 Thieves from a variety of other sports, streetwear and designer fashion brands. In a world where esports -- or at the very least video games -- are mainstream, 100 Thieves occupies the nebulous space between.

"He had the simple but powerful idea that they might want something unique, something a bit more premium," Robinson said. "Something that they would be proud to wear with these other brands they supported."

Although Nadeshot and 100 Thieves are no longer in his signature game of Call of Duty, as late as the most recent Call of Duty League event in Los Angeles, Call of Duty fans sported immediately recognizable 100 Thieves gear in the Shrine Auditorium crowd. The 100 Thieves brand lives on in the esport through the apparel, some of which was from 2018 drops, while other pieces were from its most recent line: the Numbers Collection.

The Numbers Collection is another testament to the strength of 100 Thieves' branding and name within the gaming and streetwear communities. Everything in the collection is a simple, bare-bones aesthetic, with "100" or "THIEVES" in Helvetica type. It was such a paring-down of traditional 100 Thieves designs that the pieces were nearly universally panned on social media for being ugly, lazy or both.

Come release day, the line extended down the street and the collection sold out.

"The whole Numbers Collections week, especially with the crowd that came to the Cash App Compound for our retail opening, I think we were blown away by how passionate our community is about our drops," Robinson said. "We had five staff on the floor when doors opened but needed 15 to get through the entire line, so it was cool to see our marketing and esports and content people jump in to help. On the design itself, we were going for something clean and modern, which was a bit different from our previous collections. It was our largest and most successful drop we've ever done, but we also heard the feedback, so there was a lot we could take away from that drop as we planned for future collections."

Latest release: the 2020 Alternate Jersey

On Saturday, 100 Thieves will release its black and grey 2020 alternate jerseys.

Black on black (or dark grey foil in this case) is a risky move, although I'll jump in here briefly to say that the jerseys look much better in person than they do in photographs. The 100 Thieves design team sampled over two dozen different color combinations for the alternate jerseys, but this was the color scheme the players liked best.

"The League, CS and Fortnite players immediately loved the black on black so we wanted to put it right at the top of the year," Robinson said. "[Martin "MrSavage" Foss Andersen] won Dreamhack Anaheim wearing it so we're excited to see our League team wear it for playoffs this month as well."

The 100 Thieves League of Legends team will sport them Saturday as it faces off against top-seeded Cloud 9 in the North American League of Legends Championship Series spring playoffs, although the players won't be walking onto a stage. Due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, these matches will all be played remotely online. All of the profits from sales of alternate jerseys will be donated to support coronavirus relief.

"Esports has been one of the few bright spots in a really tough month. We know everyone is feeling the impact of COVID-19 so we wanted to give our fans an opportunity to effectively give to charity while also getting something cool in return," Robinson said. "We're fortunate to be in a very stable financial situation at 100 Thieves, so it's times like these we should be giving back."