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Just Don’t Buy It – The Questionable Response with 100 Thieves Apparel

Nadeshot

100 Thieves is an excellent apparel company. It isn’t a knock on their impact in the esports and the content creation world. It’s a compliment.

Since breaking away from the OpTic Gaming umbrella back in 2017, Matthew Haag has built a powerhouse organization, slowly becoming one of the most recognized esports brands in North America. Taking influence from organizations like FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming, Haag and company have defined a vision around their brand, constantly looking to do what is best for said brand. Whether it is who they partner with from a business perspective, who they partner with from a content perspective and what esport titles they enter, they’re selective.

And it has worked.

The team announced their partnership with the luxury fashion brand Gucci, releasing a luxury backpack priced at $2,500 last week. While the partnership clearly brings value, the second half of that sentence has been problematic for fans.

An organization that has continued to break the image of what is possible with esports apparel has come under fire in recent months with their approach. Limited drops and their prices have created a rift. It begs the question of if 100 Thieves are doing the right thing with apparel?

It’s Priced Pretty Well…Just Not With Esports

That’s where we should start — it isn’t outrageously priced. 100 Thieves released their ‘Foundations’ line in early July. It is their first attempt at permanent apparel – meant to always be available. Here’s their product breakdown:

Anorak – $135

Windbreaker -$125

Nylon pants – $85

Short sleeve T-Shirt – $35

Nylon shorts – $68

Hoodie – $90

Crewneck – $85

Fleece pants – $75

Fleece shorts – $65

Socks – $14

Hats – $35

If 100 Thieves didn’t have the connection to the gaming industry, these price points wouldn’t be out of the blue for a premium young adult-focused apparel company. Cloud9 — who have a business relationship with the company PUMA — offer cheaper apparel with some apparel being specifically for women. While they offer a lot more and differentiate, here are some basic product numbers:

Short sleeve T-Shirt –  $30 – $35

Hoodie – $60 – $80

Crewneck – $70

Socks – $7

Hats – $20-25

It is something to chew on. While 100 Thieves can argue that they’re pricing at market price — with their margins likely being between 10%-30% — the esports consumer knows otherwise when it comes to their version of the market. We’re touching on all of these points with the understanding that 100 Thieves haven’t had issues in selling out. While it isn’t out of the ordinary for some apparel companies to ‘fake’ the sell-out when it comes to drops, there is genuine interest in the product 100 Thieves are putting out there.

It is a streetwear take on apparel from an esports company and 100 Thieves are pricing it as such.

How 100 Thieves Have Responded

100 Thieves have stood by their pricing. Haag would respond to an unhappy fan who spoke out regarding the pricing of ‘Foundations’ items on Twitter:

That’s a $135 Anorak, not a hoodie. We are an apparel brand, not a merch company. We hire the best designers, we work with the best manufacturers, and we use the best materials.  From our custom YKK zipper pulls, custom metal aglets, and water-resistant nylon.

Haag is making it very clear that they’re not really contesting against the Cloud9s or the TSMs — they’re fighting against the Supremes, the Off-Whites of the world.

Is that really a good idea?

Could be.

A perspective some fans may have is that 100 Thieves was originally producing clothing that esports fans would want to wear. It wasn’t necessarily directed towards the ‘uniformed’ consumer. This has become a common trend with individual content creators — who began to realize that wearing a clustered shirt related to something on stream wasn’t a good look.

But they aren’t necessarily marketing towards the streetwear consumer. They’re marketing towards the viewer of Twitch and YouTube content.

The Whole “Esports Organization” Side of Things

This is somewhat where the identity crisis issue comes into place.

Realistically speaking, a fan of an esports organization is likely going to buy apparel of the organization they support. A fan of the Washington Nationals likely won’t be the merchandise of the San Diego Padres — even if they have incredible jerseys and a unique color scheme. 100 Thieves is trying to break that mold by being something all fans of esports want to acquire but have to be understanding of the ‘fan connection’ dilemma.

It is why being able to connect to your supporters is incredibly important. 100 Thieves’ potentially pricing above the market creates a strain in the relationship.

An easy comparison is to take a look at the change with the Golden State Warriors within the past two decades. An organization that was primarily supported by the low-to-middle class fan base in Oakland changed direction. With the success of the team and Silicon Valley’s continued rise, the team would favor the deeper pockets available in San Francisco. While this could be seen as an upgrade, a lot of the concern regarding the move is the general ‘bandwagon effect’ of said Silicon Valley fans.

What happens if the Golden State Warriors lose Curry and suddenly no one cares about them? 

100 Thieves aren’t really trying to find a way to meet the cries of certain fans. These cries aren’t really being received well. And it is understandable that these fans have issues as a result.

Lost in Communication

The conversation that has caught the attention of Twitter about the pricing appears to be lost. Here’s the simple breakdown:

Prior to the announcement of the ‘Foundations’ line, a percentage of fans were upset that they were not able to secure apparel during the drop. Because of the limited release, fans would become upset that they wouldn’t be able to secure basic apparel. Pricing would be a tad bit aggressive due to the limited aspect of things — as well as covering the costs of production — but fans were hopeful for a future permanent line.

100 Thieves would announce their ‘Foundations’ line as such:

With quality, fit, and style in mind, 100 Thieves presents the ‘Foundations’ collection. We created this product with the intent to provide something foundational for anyone, every day.

This would be misread by a percentage of fans as more ‘cost friendly’ apparel. 100 Thieves would continue with roughly the same pricing they were offering through the drops however the line would be always available (outside of selling out).

Understandably, this doesn’t sit well with said percentage of fans that simply wouldn’t be able to afford the product. They would speak out regarding it once again.

And Why the Gucci Drop Didn’t Help

100 Thieves partnering with a brand like Gucci is incredible for the esports space — we think. That’s kind of the problem of things.

We think that this will continue to open up opportunities for the esports space but in reality, this is a great thing for 100 Thieves. Its another step in a positive direction for the apparel brand.

Yet it continues to aid in the rift between 100 Thieves and their low-income fans. Seeing an exclusive drop with a luxury brand can be off-putting.

“They’re partnering with Gucci. It’s going to be expensive and limited.” That’s not the point people are making.

The esports and content creation space remains on the younger side. Even with a clear change in what is being consumed by young professionals in America — with esports and content creators becoming household names –, not everyone in high school can afford some of the products being offered. What 100 Thieves continue to thrive off of is the image of being cool and they look to continue to be the ‘cool’ apparel and esports company.

The Need to Define the Relationship

100 Thieves needs to make it clear where they stand rather than somewhat blurring the line. Are they an esports company? Are they an apparel company? What market should they be pricing against? Where do they seem themselves in five years? Do they still consider themselves fully invested into the esports space given the success of their apparel?

Fans need to know whether they can develop that long-term relationship with the company or if 100 Thieves really isn’t the team for them.

‘Foundations’ feels like it set the tone for what 100 Thieves fans and consumers should expect but then again, we won’t really know until the next project from them. Because that’s when we’ll learn the real story about the company — what the numbers look like, what the interest looks like, what 100 Thieves sees as their next step.

Until then, we simply should be applauding what 100 Thieves are doing. They’re continuing to branch out as a company and are gaining success as a result of it. While their approach may be question and may be ruffling some feathers, if the money is still coming in, respect to them.


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