An absolute labor of love, Hobo Jack Clothing has embraced many aspects of the tattoo community. Their creative output includes collaborations with the finest tattooists in the industry, gorgeous paintings and prints, a clothing line, a skate team, and even their own Hobo Jack tattoo studio, based in Bournemouth UK. Their passion for high quality products and pieces has given their company an edge, as does their inherent devotion to the tattoo scene itself.
In this interview with Jimmy, co-owner and creative director of Hobo Jack, he talks about how they got started, what they hope to add to the industry as a whole, and their plans for future endeavors.
How did Hobo Jack get started and why did you feel it was an exciting or important project to get kicked off?
The vision for Hobo Jack started in 2014 when me, aka hobojimmy, and Dan, aka hobodanexplorer, were traveling across Australia. We never had much money so people often referred to us as the ‘Hobo Brothers’, and that’s where the inspiration for brand name came from. We always dreamed about starting a brand together and our traveling inspired us to combine our favourite things, travel and tattoos. It was super important to us to build the brand around our passion, and that’s how we’re able to put our heart and soul into our work, day in and day out. We are a family run business and without wanting to sound corny, Hobo Jack is more than just a brand, to us it really is our life.
I love that you guys have such positive messages on a lot of your merch such as “Better Times Ahead” and “Stay Happy”. Can you talk about the direction or philosophy behind the creative output?
We don’t have a huge design team that plan ideas and concepts months ahead. It’s usually just the two of us, sitting down, chopping up ideas we like. We don’t make seasonal collections; we drop a new limited-edition collection each week, every Friday 6pm, which means we can be pretty spontaneous. As we print our garments directly from our own UK factory, if we like a concept or design, it can be on the website that week. We’re not trying to fill a gap in the market or follow trends, our main goal is to create a community around the brand. By interacting with our followers on social media, we often let our customers come up with ideas and names as it’s important to us to create pieces that they like and want.
Because we release collections weekly, we are very up to date with what’s going on in the world. Many companies release products that were planned months ago, so it’s probably harder for them to connect with such relative messages. We are well aware at the moment that the world needs some positivity, so we definitely wanted to release some products with some positive slogans to keep people uplifted. It seemed only right for us to print garments with positive messages, to help everyone pull through, and if it can make a difference to just a few people then we’ve done our job.
An interesting thing about the tattoo community is how supportive and motivated we are about certain initiatives. Currently, Hobo Jack is doing a collab with NHS. Can you talk about this and why you felt it was important?
We have really enjoyed working with different charities, whether it be t-shirt sales or donating stock to charity shops. As a dog lover, the Dogs Trust is a charity we regularly donate to as it’s something that is close to our hearts. After seeing what an incredible job the NHS have done, especially over the past few months, we felt it was important to do our bit to raise as much as we could. We know how hard this virus has hit the entire world, and how so many people are unable to do the work they love. We wanted to raise money for the NHS to help them get through this awful time as quickly and as smoothly as possible, so everyone can return to their daily lives. The charity T-shirt was designed by my partner Amy Billing, who co owns our new tattoo studio. The design was completely different to her usual tattooing style. Knowing the style of T-shirts we sell, she felt it was important to design something that our customers would love in order to sell as many as possible, and raise as much money as possible.
Illustration by Kyla Rose #KylaRose #snake #flowers Hobo Jack Clothing, Tattoo and Skate #HoboJackClothing #HoboJackTattoo #HoboJackSkate #tattooculture #tattoocommunity #tattoocollector #tattooartist
How do you choose which artists, people, or organizations to do collaborations with? Are there any people in the future you hope to work with?
It’s important to us that we build relationships with the people we collaborate with first, as the whole point of collaborating is to create things together, and to promote the best of all of us. We also like to keep it ongoing if possible, creating multiple products with each artist. We have worked with some incredible artists and illustrators such as Mike Stockings, Chris Stockings, Amy Billing, Rachel Sawtell, and Davis Rider to name a few. We like to meet artists at tattoo conventions and build relationships there, so next year when the conventions are back up and running, we’ll be sure to find some new incredible artists to collaborate with. It’s not just about creating and selling T-shirts, our brand is all about building relationships and a sense of community.
We also like each artist working in the new tattoo studio to have their own limited-edition T-shirt in the shop, and we hope to do the same for future guest artists that visit us. Amy and I want this tattoo studio to be something really special, so we have loads of exciting things in the pipeline to make sure it’s a place artists enjoy working at.
Neck tattoo by Rachael Sawtell #RachaelSawtell #ladyhead #necktattoo #blackandgrey #portrait #HoboJackClothing #HoboJackTattoo #HoboJackSkate #tattooculture #tattoocommunity #tattoocollector #tattooartist
You guys also recently opened a tattoo shop. Why did Hobo Jack feel that this was the natural path for the organization, and why is tattooing/tattoo art so integral to what Hobo Jack is all about?
Here comes the love story. Amy and I met at London Tattoo Convention; Amy is a tattoo artist and the tattoo industry is a huge part of both our lives and I honestly think we were meant to meet and be together, and build Hobo Jack Tattoo. I had always thought about opening a Hobo Jack clothing shop, and Amy always wanted her own tattoo studio, so naturally we thought of joining forces. Although Hobo Jack Clothing is the brand I share with my brother Dan, Hobo Jack Tattoo is mine and Amy’s project and it incorporates a clothing store and tattoo studio.
We stuck with the brand name for the shop because we’re already quite well known in the tattoo industry, so it made sense to keep it to build the brand further and also to get the shop and studio as much publicity as possible. We have both set such high goals for the studio. We want to put Bournemouth on the tattoo map, and by joining forces and creating this tattoo studio/clothing store we really hope and believe this is something that we can do. We’ve both invested so much into this studio/shop, not just money but a lot of time and hard work. We don’t just want it to be your typical tattoo studio, we want it to be something extra special, something unique.
The way we have arranged the layout makes getting a tattoo a whole new experience for our clients. You enter through the clothing store, there are no signs or advertisements for tattoos, it’s an appointment only studio. Through the shop is a door at the rear leading to the waiting room, which then leads down into the concealed, underground tattoo studio. The studio itself has a very quirky and bright feel, which always impresses clients as they enter the room, it certainly doesn’t scream typical tattoo studio.
The coronavirus situation has had devastating effects around the world. How has Hobo Jack been coping with the COVID-19 situation and what has it made everyone involved realize or value about the future?
Our goal for the clothing brand was always to make it special for the customer, offering limited edition pieces that they feel proud to wear, similar to that feeling of having a unique tattoo. Before the pandemic, the brand was growing so rapidly which was never intended, but recent events gave us the opportunity to reflect; it reminded us of what we started out to do. This is predominantly why we have now switched to weekly collections. It’s a great way to keep stocks low so nothing’s going to waste, and it means we can really keep up to date with things and be spontaneous.
Our customers seem to be loving the new weekly drops, I guess it helps people keep going through this rubbish time as it’s something to look forward to every week. It really does make you appreciate what you have, and we really do value our customers, as they have continued to buy our products during the lockdown. It’s given us time to think about the future and plan ways to give back to our customers and thank them for sticking with us. We’ve also been able come up with some special ideas for the new tattoo studio and shop, so keep your eyes peeled!
It has of course put tattoo studio and the shop on pause, so me and Amy are just using the time wisely to focus on getting it completely ready to give our clients and customers the best experience when we do re-open.
Are there any upcoming projects, collabs, or future plans you’d like to share? Any particular hopes or goals that you see flourishing in 2020 and beyond?
Last year we took part in our first few Tattoo Conventions including London, Brighton and Bristol. We were due to do the same again this year, but they have sadly been postponed due to the Coronavirus. Amy and one of the studio artists, Rachael, will also be joining us at Brighton Tattoo Convention. They will be tattooing alongside the clothing booth which we’re all really looking forward to. Up until now it’s just been the clothing brand at conventions, so it’ll be really cool to promote the brand, the studio and the artists collectively. A big goal is to get the Hobo Jack Tattoo artists working alongside the clothing brand at London Tattoo Convention. It’s such a special convention to Amy and I, we wouldn’t be in the position we are today if we hadn’t had met there, and I know it’s always been a life goal of Amy’s to make the cut. We would also be really interested in exploring some conventions abroad with the clothing brand and the tattoo studio.
We collaborate with incredible artists and we have many more lined up for the future. Take a peek at our instagram to check them out. It’s so important to the brand to make connections and build relationships with artists. This is another reason we take part in conventions, to engage personally with our customers but also to meet new artists we may be able to collaborate with. The tattoo industry is insane, there are so many ways artists can work together and bounce off each other, and that’s exactly the sense of community we want around our brand.
We’re really eager to get through this pandemic, to get the shop and tattoo studio up and running. We are keen to get guest artists on board and to build the shop and studio into something really special.
Although it is a business, making money isn’t the priority for us, we want to be known for selling awesome products and hosting incredible artists.