Father, forgive me, for I have fucked up. Not only that, I'm feeling a little... I don't know... I guess "unhinged" is the popular buzzword du jour, so what better state of 50-scattered mind to bare my selfish soul and talk about something that's been weighing on my mind of late (and apparently my partner Nick's, too, as he's quick to remind me about this one particular product call I made whenever I suggest making a "Heart Skull" trucker hat). To do so, however, we must first take one of my prerequisite trips into the past to better explain the situation of the present, because just like Morrissey I too tend to go about things the wrong way.
So here we go, off into the cuts of skateboarding's past, as I implore you to please bear witness to my unorthodox confessional.
Before settling into its world famous use of Helvetica, World Industries was renowned for using some of the worst computer fonts available.
You see, I've always appreciated blunt force honesty from a company. Under normal circumstances I don’t believe this is considered a successful tactic by those who majored in marketing, as they'll almost always insist on propping up rainbows and butterflies, aka smoke and mirrors, when it comes to the more public-facing aspects of a business entity. Skateboarding, however, has always been an anomalous and anarchic monster of sorts, especially once the vapid product propaganda of the ’70s was shed and hardcore DIYers reanimated the dead, dry husk of The Industry in the early years of the '80s. These cyclical lulls and culls have always born the best in skateboarding—there's a certain je ne sais quoi when anyone who manages to survive during these times is truly in it for the love—but as popularity began to skyrocket in 1986 and money flowed back into the coffers, most companies—particularly the Big Three consisting of Powell-Peralta, Santa Cruz, and Vision—openly embraced their successes and grew larger, glossier, and more professional with each record-breaking financial quarter.
I could have and probably should have shared examples of "Big Three" ads from this same time in the '80s, because the truth is there were some pretty great ones from them as well. If I've learned anything from the New World Media Order, though, it's to only spotlight what fits your narrative and disregard the rest. So don't blame me. Blame society.
Enter Steve Rocco with his upstart startup SMA: Rocco Division in 1988. He was at that critical point in his skateboarding career where he had both nothing and everything to lose, so he shot from the hip in his crude, slap-dash, black-and-white ads and it really was a breath of fresh amateur air. You got the genuine feeling he had no idea what he was doing, he was probably, maybe even definitely doing it wrong, and that was okay. But it wasn't just okay—it was fun! And with every new issue of a magazine that came out, those early ads of his were the first pages I'd furiously flip to find before looking at anything else. Sure, Rocco angered many along the way—for multiple reasons, of course, just one being that not everyone appreciated the curtain to The Industry being thrown wide open, exposing the romper room behind the facade that had been built up through the late '80s—but he poked fun at himself, too. What really appealed to me, though, was that it felt like he was talking directly to you, not down to you, hence Rocco’s fondness for the saying, “The kids have got to know.”
This is Romper Room.
Things changed over time at World Industries, as they do if any business wishes to remain in business, but for a few years there it was straight up Lord of the Flies and it was fucking glorious . It may have also permanently damaged me in a professional sense, but that's story for another day… ah, fuck it, real quick, let's just say that once you've eaten the apple of total freedom and lawlessness in a workplace where not only can anything go but it’s openly encouraged and there's no parental supervision, well, it's pretty hard to assimilate back into any kind of hierarchal, structured work environment.
Thrasher Magazine wasn't always heralded as The Bible—the ad on the left was one of two big bridge-burning steps toward the creation of Big Brother in 1992—but at least Rocco could be somewhat yin-yang in his derision.
Anyway, this really isn't meant to be yet another "punk was cool, too bad you missed it" spiel—each successive generation of skateboarding has had its own upstarts spring from the ashes of economic downturns—all I'm saying is that I feel a little honesty goes a long way and Rocco's advertising genius played a huge role in shaping the happy-go-lucky entrepreneur I am now—for better or worse. For today's purposes, though, I'll be referring to the latter with a prime example being the "no show" socks we produced last year.
Now I'm just being gratuitous in sharing these old ads, but I should also add that I pillaged the majority of them from The Chrome Ball Incident, a blogspot far more worthy of your attention than this lil' vanity dumping ground.
For years and years I always thought if you're going to have a company then you should make what you like to skate and wear... right? Well, maybe, but no, not always, because if I designed a line of clothing around my closet that wouldn't be a prudent decision in the least. Case in point, on any given day I'll walk out of the house wearing a plaid flannel over a tie-dye shirt with camo cargo shorts to round out the entire IDGAF ensemble. Seriously, I'm a grown-up version of the little shit whom Adam Sandler encouraged to dress himself every morning in Big Daddy (1999). There's no shame in my game, mind you. I come from the "If it's all bright, it's all right!" camp of no fashion sense, but I also know I stick out like a sore—but colorful!—thumb whenever I attend any 99.9-percent black-clad skateboard event.
It should come as no surprise that I absolutely loved the clusterfuck of words in the ads of World Industries. Oftentimes it was better and more entertaining than the actual editorial content of the magazines.
However—and this is A BIG HOWEVER—goofy boy that I am in my style or lack thereof, I absolutely will not wear crew socks unless I’m wearing pants . And ever since I moved to California from Wisconsin, I’ve vowed to wear shorts every day out of the year unless forced otherwise by the weather. So the idea of making StrangeLove socks that can be worn as unseen fungal buffers seemed like a great addition to our line of branded products. But… they weren't. I mean, sure, they did come out late last year just before winter dropped making for the worst possible release time ever, but that's really just an excuse to help me sleep nowadays because summer is here and our stock remains the same. My only other farfetched excuse is that I may have unintentionally cursed our sales with the copy I’d written for the back of the header card:
Skinny pants? Baggy jeans? Whichever you prefer, neither has anything to do with these socks, because they were made to not be seen in the “no show” sense. Look, what I’m trying to say is everyone has their personal preferences, regardless of trends, and some people just can’t rock crew cut foot sheaths while wearing shorts—or maybe that’s just me? Good god… did I just make 1400 pairs of socks for myself?! I certainly hope not, because they’re here now and there’s no turning back on that manufacturing call. Anyway, the chilling fact remains our planet is only getting hotter and these foot sheaths may be your only ticket to salvation. And by salvation I mean not overheating. On that dire note, you should probably just stop buying shit like this—go nude if you must—and begin stockpiling water. I’m no Sarah Connor, but there’s a storm coming and potable H20 will no doubt become the desperate tinder by which humanity’s next great engines of war are stoked.
Am I prophet? Did I predict and seal my very own foot sheath fate? Did my overly forward reverse psychology backfire? Should I not have evoked the coming climate apocalypse in such a brazen, cynical manner? Who knows. It doesn’t even matter anymore. The fact is I now have enough socks to last me a lifetime under the blazing hot sun. So it goes.
I’m reminded of an interview I'd once read with Jason Dill—or at least I think it was Dill?—where he more or less said, "When you're in the window you can do anything." And it’s true. I’ve had front row seats at three prominent companies over the years when there were indeed high-flying, black-balling times where no wrong could be done and everything was wine and roses… up until the window slammed, not everything could be done anymore, and you're suddenly swimming in a swollen empire of shit.
So with that cheery thought in mind, what have we learned today as I stare at all these no show socks taking up precious time and space in the warehouse and mucking up our inventory? One, we are not in the window; and two, I am the reason we can't have nice things .
1. I do hereby acknowledge that this is not a viewpoint shared by everyone, as evidenced by John Lucero's recent interview in Jaime Owen’s debut issue of CLOSER. On that periodical note, I strongly urge you to click on that link and subscribe to Jaime's new mag. Blood, sweat, passion, and occasional tears are the foundation of any lifer's career in skateboarding, and Jaime's certainly doing the distance with CLOSER, a mag that is truly from the heart and made for the culture.
2. If and when I do wear pants you can bet I’ll wear whatever wacky tube or crew socks come my way—my most favorite being those made by Porous Walker (although, honestly, I really do prefer our own crew socks, which have lasted surprisingly longer than I’d ever expected in the elastic and comfort sense).
3. But if you do want nice things, or at least what I think is a nice thing, which, as we've learned today may not be that great of a thing anyway, aka the "Heart Skull" trucker hat, then by any and all means necessary please go and buy these damn socks lest they become the cotton cross I'm doomed to bear throughout the rest of my life.