Eddie Huang ’04
Shirting the Issues
By Ruth Jackson
Eddie Huang ’04 will sell you the shirt—the Hoodman shirt, that is—off his back. He’d just like you to talk about it afterwards. “I want the shirts to start social dialogue,” said Huang of his clothing line. “I want to raise consciousness using comedy and in-your-face design on quality material.”
The fashion iconoclast launched the Hoodman line with Ning Juang in 2006. His shirts, with their edgy slogans, have since achieved cult status and grace the backs of celebrities and politicians, as well as the man on the street.
Dialogue with the man on the street, and the train, was instrumental in raising Hoodman’s visibility. “Our first shirt was really goofy,” Huang said. “It had Sean Green’s head on a baseball background and read ‘Yom Kippur Clipper.’ We sold it to fans riding the trains to Mets games.”
Huang’s first appearance on Black Entertainment Network (BET) in 2007 occurred after BET staff stopped a man on the street wearing a Hoodman T-shirt and found Huang on MySpace. Huang and his designs return frequently to BET for the shows Rap City and 106 & Park. Magazines VIBE, Format, and XXL have interviewed the designer, as have Web sites ballerstatus.com and allhiphop.com. The interviewee is also an author, published in XXL and the Orlando Sentinel.
And that’s not all. The English major and film studies minor went on from Rollins to attend the Cardozo School of Law. There, he served as president of the Minority Law Students Association and vice president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. He also spent a year as a law clerk for The Innocence Project, a legal clinic that accepts only appeal cases in which it is believed DNA evidence will conclusively exonerate a client. Huang recently passed the New York Bar and currently is working in the corporate department at the firm of Chadbourne & Parke.
Legal, artistic, and cultural issues fuel the Hoodman line and Huang himself. “My parents were immigrants who raised me on Chinese culture, but hip hop was my biggest American influence,” Huang said. “Today, we address repeatedly the media’s selective storytelling and cultural imperialism.” Currently, his most popular shirt here and abroad is the “Obama ’08,” styled similarly to Michael Jordan’s rookie jersey. “We brought it out in late 2006 before Obama declared his candidacy,” Huang said. “Everyone comes here for the opportunities, but as a minority, you don’t always feel like you’re part of the society and culture on a political level. I felt Barack could do for government what Michael Jordan did for basketball … and it appears he has. This election brought out so many first-time voters.” First-time voters are a passion for Huang, who serves as communications director for Think Blue, a political organization that supports Democratic candidates and involves young voters in the political process.
Does the designer who calls his line “the Cotton CNN” see himself as candidate material? Asked if he might run for office one day, Huang replied, “I’d love to!” No word if he’ll announce an election bid on a Hoodman shirt.