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The Crew Behind Philadelphia's P's & Q's on Why Friendship, Passion, and Community Come First

The Crew Behind Philadelphia's P's & Q's on Why Friendship, Passion, and Community Come First

By Kat Thompson

P’s & Q’s, the menswear mainstay over in Philadelphia, started with a mission in mind: to inspire the community, highlight the distinctly diverse culture of Philly, and provide the highest-quality streetwear retail experience in Pennsylvania. Five years later, the young brand is thriving—hosting artist pop-ups, like the one with Aaron Kai back in March of this year, and guest lectures (including one done by our co-founders, Ben and Bobby Hundreds, in May of this year). “We know there are a lot of talented, aspiring young artists in the city so we host lectures with pioneers in the industry to share their stories. We want to inspire people... up-and-coming local Philadelphia artists [just] need an outlet so we lend our store space as a pop-up shop,” says Ky Cao, owner and founder of P’s & Q’s.

P’s & Q’s during the Aaron Kai Q&A.
Rick and Ky Cao.

Ky and his brother Rick have nursed a deep love for and fascination with streetwear and its surrounding culture since they were young. Before P’s & Q’s, their entryway into the business side of the culture began with a sneaker and streetwear consignment store called Abakus: “Abakus was our first love and with most first love[s], things just didn’t work out. Abakus was not a failure; it was a step towards P’s & Q’s,” Ky wisely reflects.

“We’re all very family-oriented so we treat everyone like family. Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family.”

That’s something notable about the attitude of the guys behind P’s & Q’s—they’re infectiously positive and care so much about investing in both themselves and their community (and they seriously love food). “We treat everyone with respect... the simplest thing we do is have a conversation with people,” Rick said, shedding the too-cool attitude that many other streetwear brands continue to have.  Even the name, P’s & Q’s, is a reference to “mind your manners” and “be on top of your game.”

The shop’s creative director Saeed explains further: “Back when type-placing was a thing, people would confuse the p letter block and q letter block all the time, so to be on your p’s and q’s is to know exactly what you’re doing.” Ky adds, “We want to remind Philly to be proper and to be the best at what you do.”

Left to right: Rick, Saeed, and Ky.
The Ben and Bobby Hundreds Q&A.

Unlike most companies in our industry, P’s & Q’s has a warmth about them that feels tangible. “The culture of streetwear can be intimidating at times... we wanted the vibe to be inviting and we wanted to make people feel comfortable when they came in. We speak to people as if they’ve been our friends for years and we embrace them for who they are,” Saeed says.

Saeed’s actually a living example of the commitment and family-oriented values that the brand has; before becoming the creative director he is today, Saeed began as an intern at Abakus when he was merely in 10th grade. “We’re all very family-oriented so we treat everyone like family. Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family,” Ky says. “Everyone on the P’s & Q’s team has been connected in one way or another since the Abakus days. We’re small but our dreams are bigger!” he adds. Saeed affirms this sentiment, too: “I really wanted to create something special with P’s & Q’s and after working really hard (and still working really hard), I’ve been able to contribute to the bigger picture and become more of a family member.”

P’s & Q’s made this fun and very funny video for their 5 year anniversary.

When the P’s & Q’s boys gave artist Aaron Kai and Aaron Lau a proper Philly tour. See the full recap here.

Something else that really sets P’s & Q’s apart from every other streetwear store is their commitment to their community and their celebration of their city. They provide a safe and open space for others to experience streetwear’s culture while also learning. “The culture in Philadelphia is very diverse. That’s what I love about [it],” Rick reflects. “As for Philly youth, we try to get owners from the brands that we carry [to give] a lecture. I think it’s great that the youth get to ask any questions [they] may have for people like Ben and Bobby, for example.”

“There are tons of young people that are into photography, music, painting, design, and all of that stuff. There’s a lot of DIY things happening, from people creating their own zines, to people creating their own brands, to people forming an underground music scene in someone’s basement. It’s super interesting and we try to support it,” Saeed says. Their investment in Philly’s flourishing culture isn’t out of a desire for monetary gain or notoriety—it’s genuine love and passion, which makes the brand, and their space, all the more fulfilling.

Rick and Saeed!

The P’s & Q’s team.

The Hundreds has always considered P’s & Q’s to be family. When asked about our symbiotic relationship, Rick said, “The Hundreds is very special to us. In this industry, it’s hard sometimes to have a good solid relationship.” He isn’t wrong, which is why we’re excited to announce that in honor of P’s & Q’s’ 5 year anniversary, we’ve collaborated on an extra special The Hundreds X P’s & Q’s coach’s jacket—a tangible reminder about the camaraderie and community that goes hand-in-hand with the streetwear’s spirit. Saeed says, “We’ve always wanted to collaborate with The Hundreds since the Abakus days; it’s been a dream come true to see that come to life.”

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The Hundreds X P’s & Q’s 5 Year Anniversary twill jacket is available at P’s & Q’s, their online shop, and the The Hundreds Online Shop.

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