Happy Jack: “Because Normal is Boring”
Happy Jack is a clothing brand that was born from the mind of Jack Nathan, as he used art and design to cope with anxiety. He wanted to create a community for the misunderstood; a product for those like himself who struggle with life and mental illness. Jack suddenly and accidentally passed away on July 3rd, 2020, just weeks shy of his 20th birthday. To honor his legacy, Jack’s family and closest friends have kept Happy Jack alive by releasing new clothing collections, establishing the pop-up store, and spreading his message of love and positivity worldwide.
Jack and I went to school together, were in the same grade, and even ended up at the same parties some weekends. We were not the closest of friends, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever had three full conversations with him. He was outgoing, hilarious, charming, and insanely handsome; all things I am not. He truly was the life of every party. However, Jack and I had more in common than either of us would ever know. I too was struggling with (and still do struggle with) anxiety and depression. I too was desperately searching for a way to get out of my own head, a rescue from the tumultuous waves of anxious thoughts I felt like I was drowning in each and every day.
It wasn’t until he created Happy Jack and I received a follow request from the brand’s Instagram page (@officialhappyjack) that I really got a glimpse into Jack’s mind and his struggles. By posting photos of his latest pieces the world got to see his incredible talent for abstract art and design. In the captions, he shared inspirational quotes or his own thoughts on mental health, authenticity, and living positively. He believed that everyone should find that thing that makes them happy, and then spend their life doing it. One of his first collections included a piece called the “Mixed Emotions Hoodie,” a sweatshirt I deemed a necessity, because it so perfectly captured how I am usually feeling. In each package he sent out, Jack included a note explaining the “why” of Happy Jack: “This brand serves as a nod to everyone who feels trapped in their mind, and a reminder to do precisely what is important to you. Otherwise you’ll end up being normal, and normal is boring.”
As I walked into the pop-up shop, I was overwhelmed by the vibrant colors, hopeful energy, and profound mix of emotions I was feeling. I knew Jack was talented, that was clear from seeing all of his creations online for months, but nothing could have prepared me for his paintings. Each huge canvas is covered in color, featuring a fictional character from his favorite shows, or one that Jack created. The room is also filled with shoes, lamps, chairs, and rugs that Jack had left his mark on. As you make your way upstairs, more paintings line the stairwell, but the yellow tiles covering two of the walls is what will draw you in. Each yellow rectangle was scribbled on with doodles, feelings, personal messages to Jack, or appreciative sentiments to his family and the store, as the signage above reads “Tell us. How do you really feel?”
Seeing the impact that Jack’s life and death has had on his family, friends, community, and more was devastating, inspiring, and everything in between. So many different people, even those who had never met him, have come together to support Happy Jack and turn Jack’s dreams into reality. Just through his entrepreneurial spirit and by starting the company, Jack has touched so many people by letting them know that they are not alone. I personally found immense comfort in the Happy Jack Instagram stories, as each day brings a new encouraging message surrounded by bright colors and fun designs. Just knowing that other people out there are struggling with and feeling the same things I am makes it a little bit easier to get through each day.
Happy Jack’s mission is to destigmatize mental illness and create a space for people to begin talking openly about it. It was Jack’s dream to turn Happy Jack into a widely known clothing brand by traveling all over to do pop-up shops and spread positivity. Through TV and radio interviews, billboards in Times Square, newspaper and magazine articles, and social media posts by celebrities, Happy Jack has had the opportunity to share their message with people all over the world. You can also visit the Happy Jack pop-up store and see Jack’s amazing creations for yourself at 8 Fulton Street in New York City from Friday to Sunday, 12-7pm.
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With immense gratitude, the Promly Team.