Fourth is King’s J. Byrnes

In 2010, J. Byrnes combined his passions for street art, skateboarding, music and traveling into one company: the Chicago-based street wear brand Fourth is King.  Their clothing, which includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other accessories, takes a minimalist approach to graphics, laying brightly colored images on high-quality fabrics.  We talked to Byrnes, Fourth is King’s Owner and Creative Director, about what Fourth is King has in the works, what he’s learn along the path to success and why Chicago is the right place for comfortable street wear.
J. Byrnes. Photo credit: RedEye Chicago.

Why did you choose Chicago?
Chicago is our home.  I always felt like if you can make it here in Chicago, you can make it anywhere. I refuse to relocate to Los Angeles or New York.  That’s just no who we are. Plus, those places are saturated with clothing brands.  I think there is a great opportunity here and Chicago is ready to have a clothing brand they can call their own . We like to say “Made for Us.”  The city has supported us by buying our products at festivals, pop-up shops and online, and we contribute to the creative and small business communities here by teaming up with other individuals and organizations and participating in various Chicago-based events. 

If you could go back in time before you started this project and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself? 
I think in the beginning I thought that if I create good work eventually someone will notice. This is partially true, but as I get older I have more of a sense of urgency, and I have realized that no one is going to do anything for you. You need to make things happen for yourself or for your company.
What are your next steps?
We are trying to grow. We want gain to awareness in Chicago within the creative community and street wear industry, as well as in the music and skateboarding cultures. One way we do that is through pop-up events. We have an event coming up with the Chicago dj group Hood Internet on August 8 at Rational Park in Humboldt Park Neighborhood. We have designed their new Mixtape Vol 8, which will release at the event, and we’ll be selling our street wear at a pop-up shop on site.
We want to be in the know!  Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.
Only one: I would be selfish and say us of course—Fourth is King.  Kidding aside, the first thing that comes to mind is a creative couple I met last week who run Heart and Bone Signs.  They are sign painters and do beautiful work right here in Chicago.  You have probably seen there work, and you didn’t even know it.
Q&As are edited for clarity and length.

Erin Robertson is managing editor at Chicago Ideas.

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