Flooding the Market with Oakland Pride

1 Oct

Yesterday, I walked down to “Rockridge Out and About,” a street fair that closed off about six blocks of College from Claremont to well past the BART station.

The event was great. It was a beautiful, sunny and breezy afternoon. All three music stages were loud and lively. Cars were stuck trying to circumvent the major thoroughfare while pedestrians roamed freely. There were yummy samples of eight different kinds of local oil, and several kinds of cheeses. I even got to meet someone from ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Rockridge and Temescal Area) and got to ask about upcoming meetings.

But what struck me most was the multitude of vendors selling clothing and accessories featuring some expression of Oakland pride. For a while I’ve been meaning to write about this phenomenon, and now seems like the perfect time. First, I have to admit that I kind of have a problem when it comes to Oakland goods. I barely wear t-shirts anymore, except on the weekends, but I can’t help myself when I see a clever new Oakland design. Just take a look at mine and my girlfriend’s collection:

Oakland Gear

OK… now that we’re past my one weakness when it comes to shopping (alright, I do also have a weakness for local organic food), let’s take a closer look at some of what’s on the market.

There’s of course Oaklandish, which to my knowledge was one of the first groups of artists that started promoting the Oakland image through clothing (and other means, like movies and communal activities). From their website…


OAKLANDISH is a stealth multi-form public art & media campaign designed to illuminate the unique culture and history existing here in The Town. Since our first projects in 2K the now ubiquitous roots image has come to represent the strange luster and oddball spirit that is East Bay life.

Strangely, the Oaklandish truck was no where to be found at the Rockridge street fair yesterday…

The next artist I discovered was the man behind the now infamous Oakland cranes shirt, who runs The Girl and Rhino. He’s got lots of non-Oakland designs too, and I heard via his girlfriend that they might be retiring the crane design soon because they’re getting a bit tired of it. As you can see by our collection, my girlfriend and I are fans.

The Girl and Rhino

(It helps that the artist shows up to the Temescal Farmer’s Market every Sunday and we often chat.) Oh yeah – he has a newish bag that’s not up on his site: i 8 Oakland. You’ll have to find him at the market to snag one of these…

Yesterday, I stumbled upon some artists that have more recently embraced Oakland. The first was 35TH & MAC, who’s tagline is “Town Grown Flavor,” and they had some incredible designs, including these, that me and my girlfriend snagged:

Town Grown Flavor

They also had a nice design of the Oakland Tribune building. Unfortunately, their online store is not up and running yet, but I’m guessing I’ll see them again soon…

Like Minded People Oakland Citysape




Next was Like Minded People, whose designs I’ve seen in Fabric8, a great store in SF that features clothing from several talented Bay Area artists. Believe it or not, I managed not to buy anything from them, but I was tempted by this shirt featuring an old school downtown cityscape:


I hella heart Oakland


You still with me? I hope so because there’s a couple more jewels of East Bay gear I want to share. I really couldn’t write this post with at least mentioning the “I hella ❤ Oakland” shirts. If you haven’t seen these, well, I think you might be living in a cave, but I’ve included a picture just in case. More recently, someone has spun off this idea and created the “I Hella Bike Oakland” (with a picture of a bike). They’re sold at the Tip Top Bike Shop in Temescal, but I have no idea who makes them.

Upper Playground

OK, and here’s my last one (I promise). I was thrilled to find out that Upper Playground recently opened their first East Bay store, in Berkeley on Telegraph. And to celebrate this opening, they’ve released a new East Bay line. I was even more excited to find that one of their designs featured the bus I ride daily, old school orange and green AC Transit style.

Woo! That was tiring. Now that I’ve exhausted myself and anyone who’s still reading, I do have a couple thoughts on this phenomenon of wearing Oakland pride. First off, I think it’s pretty clear by now that I think it’s a good thing. I absolutely love wearing my Oakland pride, especially when I’m in SF or other cities. There’s still a large segment of the population that thinks of Oakland as just another run down city with a lot of crime. I’m happy to showcase the talented artists who make this city a bit brighter.

Besides spreading the word about how great Oakland is, I think wearing and buying Oakland goods in general does something else important -it supports Oakland artists and entrepreneurs. It’s difficult to make it as an artist. That’s why I have a day job and write in my free time. These artists are truly talented, and if Oaklanders are going to support them, who is?

For the three readers that have made it this far, what are your thoughts on this flood of Oakland goods hitting the market? Does it raise any concerns for you? Do you fully embrace it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


18 Responses to “Flooding the Market with Oakland Pride”

  1. ScottPark October 2, 2007 at 4:00 pm #

    Thank you for the article and for tackling an issue that’s been on my mind lately: this so-called “Oakland pride” thing. I generally don’t think it’s a great idea and I think it points to a number of insecurities and obsessions that, frankly, white folks have when living anywhere in any city.

    First, let me say that when I say “white folks,” I mean generally that this phenomenon is a white cultural phenomenon. Plenty of people of all colors design and wear the stuff, but the whole “everyone has to know where I live/where I live is so freakin cool” trend is a white one. It’s not like Lawrence Welk, but it is a white thing.

    The whole “urban pride” thing is not at all limited to Oakland. It seems that whit hipster culture simply must have clothes that say their city, or, better yet, their neighborhood. Everyone simply must know how clued-in you are and how in the forefront you seem to be. From Park Slope, to the Mission and now Oakland, hipster culture somehow thrives on this weird contradiction: I want to be down with the super secret, unique and authentic thing, but I must also commodify it and let everyone know. It’s like those assholes in the New York Times style section of something, who point out how cool their favorite burger stand or bar or something is to millions of readers because “nobody goes there.” not for long

    This is also part and parcel of the real estate mania this region indulges in, and the completely theoretized geography of neighborhoods and identity. Suburban kids who move to the city just need to feel so URBAN, don’t they? and they need to do it quickly and in a way they understand: namely, buying and wearing something. What they don’t get is that you become Oakland not by wearing a shirt that says so, but by living here and contributing to the community. These are not mutually exclusive, but I also know that there simply aren;t enough community activists for every single Oaklandish shirt purchaser to really be doing it.

    Also, why is it so important for people to know where you live? Or, more importantly, why is it so important for you to get some sort of validation from where you choose to live? Who the fuck cares if you live in Oakland? What folks really need to focus on is whether they’re happy here themselves–not because Oakland is cool, or the “step sister” to San Francisco, or an underdog with a working class flavor, but whether they actually like it.

    I’ve lived in enough hipster enclaves to know that nobody really cares whether you stay or go. This is the question I would really like answered: why is it so important to “represent” Oakland on your shirts, cars, and all that. Oakland’s awesome whether you have the shirt or not.

    Hopefully, we won;t turn into Boston, where it seems every resident is issued a Red Sox hat or shirt and required to wear it at least once a week. However, I don’t have a single piece of clothing that says Oakland, and I try not to be too in your face about Oakland. With housing affordability and gentrification fears, I see no reason to promote Oakland among the very groups that are the vanguard of these fears: hipsters and artists.

    We all know the O is gold, quiet as kept. That works for me

    • Chuck June 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      i agree 100 percent

  2. m October 3, 2007 at 5:20 am #

    I think it’s pretty simple–overall I think most people probably buy and wear such clothing because they like the place they live in, and having an image of something one likes on one’s clothing or other possession can be a perfectly natural extension of one’s pride and contentment.

    In most cases, I’d guess people are not trying to impress anyone or assuage any of their own issues or insecurities with their choice of tee shirt, but are simply trying to celebrate a place they love and feel attached to.

    I think most people have no problem being able to identify whether or not they genuinely like a place or not. I think anyone can be part of and contribute to the place they live in without being an actual community activist. There are so many ways to add to and be part of a community, just as there are many ways to love a city.

    In fact, I think wearing “pride” shirts does promote a certain level of goodwill and fosters a positive atmosphere that any city can benefit from, and why shouldn’t Oakland be one such city?

    While I don’t go for those shirts myself, I am all for supporting the arts and local artists, and for showing pride in Oakland or wherever one is happy to call home.

    Besides, I’ve got my own ways of feeling close to things and places I love through souvenirs and possessions (and do I think this is a natural human instinct, to want to use objects to help us feel more in touch with and mindful of places, things, and people we love). I have a small and slowly growing collection of books and artwork about my favorite places. I’ve got books (cookbooks, novels, zines, history books, art books, etc.) that are set in or are written about California, the Bay Area (with an emphasis on Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco), and New York.

    I think my collection, and the Oakland tee shirts, are much like the souvenirs we buy when we go on vacation. They are physical symbols of places we want to keep in mind, remember, stay close to, and feel a part of. We meet the need for those desires by engaging in or with the place or object we care about, but also by assigning significance/meaning to objects that we associate with those things and places.

    We are simply buying souvenirs from cities we love when we buy Oakland or Park Slope or wherever tee shirts. The only difference from other souvenirs is that these shirt just happen to be not from some far off destination but from home. A home we happen to love, at that. And I can think of not one thing that isn’t good about that.

  3. Dogtown October 3, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    ^^^Scott Park is crazy. It’s a shirt, man. Only white folk wear shirts proclaiming where they live? N’ah, it’s human nature – let’s not assign it to one race. You can look at NWA or Too short when they came out… I rather have all these white people wear shirts that say Oakland than rock Hollister.

    • Chuck June 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

      yea but NWA and too Short wore those shirts because they were actually from those cities. Meaning they grew up there- and experienced the good,bad, and ugly of growing up in that type of environment. White hipsters are different in that, i most cases, they grew up in better environments and moved to the inner-city once they were grown. Then they try and “relate” and be apart of the inner-city.

  4. scottpark October 3, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    Sure, sure sure: yes, everything is nice, and it’s nice to have something that reminds you or something nice and isn’t that nice? there’s nothing wrong with perhaps thinking a little more critically about it, is there?

    For example, what does this, yes, trend, yes, white trend, of comodifying and selling physical locations to you through a shirt say about our relationship to place? indeed, it is not at all human nature to want these things, because for the overwhelming majority of the time humans have been on earth, they’ve never ventured past the horizon they saw when they emerged from their mother’s womb. This whole living in Lafayette or Santa Rosa, moving to the O and getting the t-shirt is newer than new.

    Or, how does this phenomenon relate to the white comodification of hip hop? For true, whites didn’t “represent” shit until the South, South Bronx and Straight Out of Compton. Is there anything to stealing the shouting out and representing clear out from under African American culture and then selling it back to them…in OAKLAND, of all places?

    And this isn;t like collecting things when you’re going on vacation because you’re NOT on vacation–you live here? Why do you need a souvenir about where you live?

    I don’t think a single white hipster does a single thing without forethought and intention. So, some 24 year old transplant buying a shirt with an old AC Transit bus that they could not possibly have been old enough to ride on does not say “creativity” to me, it says:

    “I want to own Oakland through nothing more than buying a shirt. I have not been here; I have not lived through any of this history, but I want to get all the benefit of being nostalgic about it. I want to be recognized by others for being Down with a rough and tumble past a played no role in.”

    If you love Oakland so much, get a shirt that has the new Ask Jeeves building and a new AC Transit bus on it. What’s with the forced nostalgia?

    It’s just pathetic egoism, if you ask me. And sooooooo White Privilege I can’t begin to talk about it. Seemingly strangely, I seem to be taking culture more seriously than others who think this is all great because it’s cultural. Oh well.

  5. Becks October 4, 2007 at 10:40 am #

    I’m kind of surprised that this has turned out to be such a controversial post.

    Scott – I understand where you’re coming from, but I think you’re over-generalizing and stereotyping an extremely large and varied group of people that wear Oakland shirts.

    To say that a 24 year old couldn’t have been old enough to ride on an old AC Transit bus is absurd. I just rode an orange and green bus on Tuesday. Also, if that shirt at Upper Playground had featured a newer looking AC Transit bus, I would have been just as likely to buy it.

    And though you might consider me a white hipster transplant (I moved here 7 years ago from LA), I don’t see why I don’t have the right to represent Oakland, just because I didn’t grow up here. This is where I intend to live for several years and hopefully for the rest of my life. What’s the problem with me expressing that through what I wear?

  6. scottpark October 4, 2007 at 2:17 pm #

    As if what we’re talking about here isn’t relevent, San Francisco magazine has a 30 page spread on how cool Oakland has “become.”

    Who was it that said that the tragedy of America and technology will be that one half of the world will be starving and the other half will watch it on television?

    Well, check out the photo in SF Magazine of the white (yes, he is) hipster at Mama Buzz purusing photographs about gentrification in West Oakland. Talk about cause and effect! So, are we now saying that gentrification is great because it gives outlets to local artists to photograph its victims?

    The best thing to do is not to raise awareness among hipster artists about gentrification, it’s to decrease their awareness about Oakland!!

    And that’s how it wraps around again to the shirts, but not just the shirts, but the whole “Oaktown Pride” thing: it’s making economic and artistic hay about a nostalgic past that it itself is helping to destroy. I just think it’s so weird, the constant self-referencing and need for validation.

    I stand corrected on the bus shirt. I was thinking of one of the OTHER hipster/nostalgia oakland tshirts, that, indeed, has an Oakland skyline with an old style GMC AC Transit bus. The one above, however, is clearly of a model that is definitely in service. Mistake acknowledged. It won’t be the last time.

    But, Becks (and everyone else), what does the verb “to represent” even mean? Perhaps that’s what I don’t understand. Clearly, people who don’t live in Oakland know that people live in Oakland. What is the function of their caring that we live in Oakland? Why should we care what they think? What do they get out of it? What do we get out of it? Do we want them to be jealous of us? Do we want them to be happy for us? Do we want them to live here, or want to live here? Does it make us feel better to walk around and see that other people like living here? I’m honestly asking the question, because I’ve never really gotten it.

    Maybe that’s what I’m missing

  7. dto510 October 4, 2007 at 3:09 pm #

    Thanks for all the pictures of local gear! I’ve already got a shopping list in my head. Big thanks for the heads-up that the Girl and The Rhino’s design will be off the market soon.

    I definitely agree that a big part of local pride comes from dumped on by the media. SF is renowned worldwide for its beauty, but I think many Oaklanders would agree that we’re the real gem. We have so much architectural and cultural diversity, but the ironic element to the city’s beauty gives Oakland a very modern appeal. By irony I mean the unexpected juxtapositions we see every day: gleaming container cranes behind nineteenth-century warehouses, the sharp contrast between crowded neighborhoods and expansive parks, and the everyday jumble of architectural styles, odd land uses, and various states of repair that characterize almost every arterial street.

    That’s my take – our ironic beauty inspires artists, and works perfectly for fashion (nobody would wear a Victorian houses tee). I’m also pleased that our flourishing and more-independent economy can support products made for the local market.

  8. dto510 October 4, 2007 at 3:25 pm #

    Whoops – I missed that whole debate, I had the post open for days meaning to comment.

    Scott, I think you’re being too xenophobic. I see your connection between “commodifying” a place through art and through real estate development and that fearsome word, gentrification. But of course real estate development, just like art, isn’t done only by white people. Oakland has suffered from decades of population exodus and disinvestment, and new people moving to town represent a reversal of the trends that left us with substandard housing, poor educational outcomes, and limited job opportunities.

    I do think that Oakland’s very contemporary aesthetic appeal, combined with our regular trashing in the media, make Oakland tees fashionable. Certainly transplants as well as natives like myself feel a great deal of pride in the city, and an attempt to appreciate, and connect with, local history is one way to engage in and be part of local culture.

    Another way is to start a blog in order to draw attention to important issues, and express a younger, more welcoming view of Oakland than the one popular with some politicians.

    PS: Nobody cares about SF Magazine, and nobody is moving here because of it. But there’s nothing wrong with drawing some Hills types to a nice dinner in Old Oakland.

  9. oakland fan October 9, 2007 at 11:18 am #

    You forgot to mention the classic “Red Star Oakland” t-shirts. They are the shirts that say “OAKLAND” in block letters with a red star underneath. They sell them at Greetings from Oakland on Piedmont and 41st.

    There is also “THE TOWN” t-shirts. It’s a rip-off of “The City” throwback uniforms that the Golden State Warriors sometimes wear. It has a Port of Oakland crane with a circle around it, along with “The Town” above the circle. They can be found on by vendors on the BART bridge before and after A’s games.

    We shouldn’t forget about all the A’s jerseys, shirts and jackets with “OAKLAND” that have surfaced and re-surfaced within the past four years or so. The old mid-1980s green A’s jackets with OAKLAND across the top in white have been reproduced by MLB are pretty popular. Also, I see a lot of teens and A’s fans wearing the old 1985 gold (“OAKLAND” in block green) jerseys.

  10. freeform October 20, 2007 at 9:55 pm #

    awh yeah baby!
    Oaktown in the house.
    Feel the love.

  11. feelthelove December 9, 2007 at 8:49 pm #

    i see scott is a major hater. dont worry scott. theres still hope for your own t-shirt! and thanks for bringing race into the mix to show what a true real moron you really are. dont hater the player scott. hate the game. hater.

  12. Devin December 20, 2007 at 11:46 pm #

    As someone who doesn’t live in Oakland but is often in the neighborhood, I think that Scott has offered insight into a real social phenomenon, but he puts far too negative (and condescending) a spin on it. What’s wrong with (gasp–white!) hipsters liking Oakland a little too much? So what if they want to buy a cool-looking T-shirt as a way of showing off to their snobby SF friends and bonding with their fellow Oaklanders? Community pride inevitably contains an element of chauvinism, but it is just such an irrational pride that makes people want to invest their time and energy into improving the area where they live instead of moving somewhere else. And let me tell you, as cool as Oakland is, parts of it could definitely use some investment. As dto410 points out, despite the problems with gentrification, it isn’t nearly so bad as its opposite: depopulation and disinvestment.

  13. Charlotte March 11, 2008 at 9:04 pm #


    Just a quick post, with a little info on the Hella Bike Oakland T’s. They are designed by the team at Tip Top Bike Shop. There are also stickers and newly added Hecka Trike Oakland for the smaller person in your life.

  14. mobber July 20, 2008 at 2:23 pm #

    Not to mention Oakland is Proud, Born in Oakland, Transplant and so on!

  15. Alexis December 19, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Why get bend out of shape because people wear Oakland T-shirts?

    Sure, some people aren’t from here. But the smart ones see the love and life we have. I’ll never leave Oakland and I’ve been here my whole life.

    When we step out of Oakland there is negativity associated with it and an all around idea that everyone is in a gang and we all rob eachother everyday.

    The shirts are a way to “fight back” and show our pride in our home town.

    (granted the shirts are sported at yuppy farmers markets with a high regularity)

    But, embrace the new and respect the old.

    • Chuck June 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

      what do you mean pride in our hometown? I like to show pride in being from oakland because i grew up in a tough environment, in a drug/crime filled community; i have survived and made it to college. I take pride in that because of the notion of “rising above” harsh circumstances. So, for white hipsters that did not grow up in this environment, and do not have to worry about getting messed with by police or shot in the hood-what do you have to be proud about?- you didnt overcome any harsh realities. In terms of the gangs and the robbing, that does happen very often. Its just that it rarely affects the small white hipster population…those situations affect the majority black community. Born and raised in West oakland so i know the real, unlike you guys who just moved to West Oakland, or did not grow up here. Hipsters have no role in building the community in West Oakland. It almost seems if they are invisible to the black(the majority community) in West Oakland. They are either on their bikes or walking their dogs to and from their location. I rarely see any interaction between the hipsters and the normal west oakland community. West oakland is the Black Mecca of the bay area, most of the pride, culture, of west oakland comes form the black community. So in order for hipsters to have and acceptance or authenticity with their “pride” shirts or whatever, they must have the approval from the black community. (approval meaning that blacks support your shirts and everything else). but white hipsters do not have that approval- most of their supporters are other artist and hipsters …sorry about the typos

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