You haven’t seen Rihanna or Jonah Hill wearing Humble, the New York-based brand that skateboarders Conor Prunty and Genesis Evans oversee and operate. But if you’re lucky and keep your grades up, your mother might bring you home one of their tees from Supreme’s storefront. “It’s interesting seeing who’s interested in it,” says Evans, who works full-time at the Lafayette St. location. “It’ll be next to Fucking Awesome shirts and all this other shit. And a mom will come through and say ‘Do you have this in a medium?’ And they don’t even know that it’s my shirt. They’re like, ‘I don’t want to get my son this shirt with guns and stuff, I want to get him this nice shirt — I love this shirt.’”
The partners are sipping Presidentes in a tiny pizza haunt in the Lower East Side, the neighborhood where Prunty and Evans first met. Hanging out, they make an easy pair. Prunty, 27, from Westchester, New York, is a natural spokes-dude, giving insight on the brand like Bugs Bunny breaking down how he keeps getting over on Elmer Fudd. Evans, 21, from Flatbush, Brooklyn, falls back behind his thin glasses and wiry braces, talking softly and scarcely until something makes him laugh or ticks him off. Together, the two have built one of the more easy-to-love labels among New York’s cluster of upstart skate companies, including hyped lines like Bronze 56K, Alltimers, and Call Me 917. The name bubbled up from an inside joke, about an imaginary skate team that bragged about their humility and didn’t let anyone in. (“It doesn’t make any sense,” Prunty says. “If you’re calling yourself humble, then you’re not humble.”) But in practice, the brand is an alternative to louder labels, delivering relaxed graphics, prices under $40, and the confidence that its creators are figuring it out just like you are.
Prunty and Evans are members of a rising generation of east coast skateboarders who have helped bring attention to the city’s budding stars, brands, and teams. By 2014, the two were popping up in homegrown videos and Instagram clips alongside peers like Ben Kadow, Stu Kirst, and Jason Byoun, keying in on cellar doors, manhole covers, and sidewalk curbs with a low-slung, loopy style. Their garments of choice — Chucks and shell-toes under cuffed chinos, beat-up beanies, pullover jackets, and loose blue denim, thin materials that might eventually rip but were comfy for the entire ride — gelled into a recognizable menswear silhouette that has extended outside skate circles into streetwear at large. Part of Humble’s appeal is in the authenticity of its owners: aligning with the brand is an endorsement of the duo and their friends, somewhere between buying your favorite athlete’s jersey and your favorite band’s merch. “Clothes matter in skateboarding. You have to look cool. You have to feel cool,” Prunty says as his partner cracks a smile. “It’s crazy,” Evans adds. “If I feel like I look wack, I’m gonna skate wack. If you’re dressed sick, you skate the best.”
One night in late 2015, Prunty drew a scraggly graphic of two hands holding a flower. He enlisted the help of screenprinter friends who taught him a few “tricks,” hand-printed a box of black shirts bearing the design, and gifted them to friends, without much explanation or fanfare. The feedback was encouraging. “I would see people wearing it around, and I was like, that looks fucking fresh. That actually looks like a thing. It looks good,” Prunty remembers.” I would wear it around and people would be asking me all these questions about it. So then we decided to keep it up.” Since that first shirt, they’ve offered up various tees in black, forest green, and burgundy, with prismatic hand-drawn logos that evoke arts-and-crafts time in elementary school.
One of their early triumphs was a black tee bearing a rising sun, boxed into a sherbet pink and green frame. The designs bear an honest, consistent hand. “With me, a lot of inspiration comes from childhood, cartoons. Like, Charlie Brown, the colors they used,” Evans says. “Even in the paintings that I make. We both try to incorporate the actual art that we do, so it’s more like an art piece. We both mess around with music too, and plan to incorporate that into stuff. And film.”
Even if you never get your hands on a Humble shirt, the brand’s scrappy marketing methods and sense of humor make it worth following from afar. In 2016, to announce a restock of their web store, the boys edited together a fake interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club morning show, where they trade hilarious awkward pauses and shirk questions from Charlamagne tha God, DJ Envy, and Angela Yee. Despite the intentionally shoddy job, some family and friends thought the clip was real. “I swear to God,” Prunty says with a laugh. “My sister yelled at me for being so disrespectful during that great opportunity.”
There’s also “Genny’s Day Out,” a black-and-white skate-short-turned-romance that strikes a more subdued tone, but still includes a send-up of an iPhone fashion editor searching for the next skateboarder style muse. The duo pride themselves on trying to go above and beyond standard streetwear hype fuel. “How many tired ass aspiring models wearing startup t-shirt brands can you handle every day?” Prunty asks, as he recounts a recent photo shoot he directed starring two pint-sized posers, one of whom was Evans’s little brother.
For now, the pair are still shuttling out new ideas slowly, balancing day-jobs and bigger ambitions. They hope to bring someone on to handle the business of shipping, inventory, and stockists, so that they can focus solely on the brand’s creative elements: designing more ambitious pieces and diving more extensively into film. Learning a business by trial-and-error, after all, demands a tolerance for starting new trials and making big errors. To them, spreading the message behind the brand is worth the trek uphill. “I love anything that’s showing a different side of not only skating, but males in general,” Evans explains. “Drifting toward the childhood and the feminine. It’s not always about masculinity, and drinking, and fucking skater guys… Everybody has that inner child or feminine side,” he adds. “It’s cool to embrace that.”
This article was originally published on April 10. Read the original piece at The FADER.