Growing up in an ultra competitive family – the kind of family where wars begin over a game of checkers or monopoly – I was taught, “First place is the only place.” after I became familiar with Fourth is King and their mission, I was forced to reconsider.
FIRST IS THE WORST
SECOND IS THE BEST
THIRD IS THE ONE WITH THE TREASURE CHEST
FOURTH IS KING
My first sighting and encounter with chicago urban streetwear brand – Fourth is King – was at the renegade craft fair in wicker park on a rainy afternoon in the summertime. As I was walking along the yellow lines of the closed down division street I caught the outline of a cartoonish character with a monkey face and a big afro and quickly shuffled towards it. Initially I was attracted to their mascot, “amigo” because his hair resemebled my boyfriend’s mane in high school but I lingered around for the simple aesthetic and comfortable feel that the urban streetwear brand encapsulated. There, I met Jay Byrnes, founder of Fourth is King. Shortly after, a lengthy conversation and stream of consciousness about creating, variation, fashion, and the underdog ensued.
Fourth Is King: Comfortably Creative
CHM: The brand name Fourth is King, which you explained derives from an old school rhyme, suggests that you may be an advocate for the underdog. Where did you come up with the name? was that your intention?
FIK: when I came across the line “Fourth is King in a rhyme there was something about it that jumped out at me. And it had a nice flow when I said the words aloud. I was also searching for a name that had a subtle personal meaning. My full name is james w byrnes iv, so the “fourth” made perfect sense. If you break down the words I think what our name suggests is that you don’t have to come in first or even second or third place to succeed. So yes, the idea of the underdog is definitely a part of our identity. Fourth is King loves the cinderella team. We believe in the person that everyone has discounted, the person that fights against all odds to win.
CHM: When did you start Fourth is King? who did you start it with?
FIK: I have been working on Fourth is King for about 6 years, but it came together formally in 2010. It was started by myself, jay byrnes. My brother, danny, is also very much involved in what I do. He is the business man and finance guy while I am the creative force behind the brand.
CHM: Do you have a fashion or design background?
FIK: My background is in graphic design and art. I have been drawing ever since I can remember. Nowadays, my time is split between designing websites, logos and annual reports on the computer with making graffiti influenced mixed media artwork with running Fourth is King.
FIK: When I begin designing a new piece or collection for Fourth is King I typically begin by finding inspiration. Then I start sketching. I make a lot of lists, come up with ideas for tees, sweatshirts, hats or other accessories, skatedecks, etc. From there, it’s a filtering process. Refining, editing down until things are just right.
CHM: Now, I purchased one of your shirts with the mascot, “amigo” on the front. The material feels incredible – it’s soft and the cut is flattering. What is your vision for Fourth is King?
FIK: Thanks. That has really been our mission from the beginning: to make comfortable clothes with a sense of simplicity in the design. We want our customers to feel like they can wear our clothes while out for a friday night on the town or lounging around the house on a sunday afternoon. My vision for the fik brand is really open at this point, the sky is the limit… I want to continue to grow and begin selling our products in boutiques. I would also like to get into doing more project collaborations. Our first of these artist series collabs was with woodcut artist bryan nash gill. These are great because we can introduce our audience to something new and they get this original limited piece of wearable art. I would like the opportunity to team up with larger companies that I admire like nike sportswear, oakley and burton.
FIK: My personal style is reflected very clearly in fik. As a brand, we don’t want to be defined by one thing. It’s a blend of classic, street, skate, prep and vintage. That’s what makes us different from other brands.
CHM: How would you describe your personal style?
FIK: Of course. The environment, food, sports teams and the people of chicago all influence our designs. We are not the high fashion business person from nyc and we are not the layed back surfer from la. We are the midwest. We are chicago.
FIK: Fourth is King designs premium goods focused on comfort and simplicity.
CHM: Where do you get your inspiration?
FIK: Our inspiration comes from music, living in chicago, skateboarding, traveling, art and design, grafitti, photography, sneakers, vinyl toys, family and friends.
CHM: Do you consider yourself an “artist”?
FIK: Definitely. I am an artist. I paint. I think what you are getting at is that I consider creating clothes for fik an art form. My art is in this case is something people wear. Being an artist is tough. It can be a blessing and a curse. It requires a balance of paying attention to every detail but not overworking or overdesigning your products. Because you want the things you are creating to be beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, but also be strong conceptually.
CHM: How does Fourth is King define “hustle”?
I would define “hustle” as working very very hard at something you are passionate about. There is a certain level of struggle involved in hustling. It requires a “do whatever it takes” attitude. And being relentless in pursuing your dream.-Fourth is King.
Written by Jordhan Briggs
Photography by: Zachary James