When it comes to promoting Undefeated apparel stores, co-founder James Bond prefers things gently stirred, not shaken. He wants to keep a low profile and maintain mystique. “I feel like it’s best that people know very little—other- wise you open yourself up for more criticism than you really want,” Bond says. “You’re never going to make everyone happy, so we’ve always maintained a ninja-type mentality.”
The one time the entrepreneur was front and center was when he collaborated on a shoe line with David Beckham for Adidas and had to do a plethora of press. But even then, given that Beckham was British and Bond’s name invoked the famous 007, the soccer star’s name was the only one gracing the shoe, which was fine with his collaborator.
This year marks the Undefeated chain’s 10th anniversary; they have three locations in L.A., one in San Francisco, one in Las Vegas, and two in Japan, with designs on New York City and China. Bond and his business partner, Eddie Cruz, came up with the Undefeated concept a decade ago “over a barbecue and a couple of rounds of golf” while working on other businesses. Bond says it was a “strict passion play” with no business model that has since evolved into stores selling hip, cutting-edge footwear and apparel, including their own line of the latter. He describes Undefeated as being “the performance of the lifestyle.”
Even though the company runs below the radar, Bond wants sports icons like LeBron James to wear their stuff, and he admires the Foot Locker business model. “They took something really basic and simple and turned it into a viable business model, and they appeal to everybody,” he says. “That’s what Undefeated really is. We don’t try to be a vintage or heritage sport line. We just want to be a legit, well-made, well-curated brand.”
When it comes to his tattoos, Bond still keeps it discreet, despite the fact that about 90 percent of the skin above his waist is inked. He simply believes some things are private. “Most people don’t know I have tattoos unless I’m in a short- sleeve shirt, and you don’t see it through my collar. It’s always something that’s more personal and underneath. I don’t have anything on my legs because I wear shorts.” Bond adds that he has a mixture of Japanese and Mexican gangster-style ink. “I ran around the breastplate, I didn’t cover the full chest, then the back is from the waist up to the shoulders and wraps around the collar, almost yakuza style.”
His first tattoo was a “skanky ska guy” that a Philadelphia artist did in reverse, inadvertently creating a swastika, which Bond later had covered with an octopus. Since then he has accumulated exclusively black-and-gray tattoos. Mister Cartoon has done most of his work, including the portraits of his daughter, Jersey (when she was 12 months), and his son Ace (a.k.a. James Bond V, at 11 months) on his forearms. He also has a piece he got in New Zealand—an abstract image on his forearm of two circles forming a lifeline that his wife designed and then turned into a sculpture. On one arm he has a samurai with a geisha that turns into a Japanese tree with symbols on it, while the other arm features water with a couple of koi and a geisha.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, James Bond is his real name—he is J.B. III, his son is J.B. V—and he jokes that it’s good for hotel upgrades. Further, the co-owner of Stu?ssy, the company that holds the license to the Undefeated brand, is named Frank Sinatra Jr. (that’s got to be fun for the duo at parties— and for making dinner reservations).
His name, however, is the most high-profile thing about him. Even Undefeated storefronts do not blatantly advertise the brand’s name, typically featuring a small sign and the hash mark–like logo instead. “I think when you’re confident in who you are, being out there with a big S on your chest isn’t as needed,” he says. “We’re very subtle in our approach—clean, simple, not a lot of bells and whistles. That’s how we live our lives.”