As human beings, choice has inevitable communicative power. And commerce and the market place are, a lot of times, one of our primary choice making venues. What we buy can reveal to the world things like what kind of resources we have access to, what we value, what we enjoy, what our political leanings are, among other things. It is with this in mind that Andy started his emergent BMX driven clothing line, Weird Brand. As a long time friend, customer and sometime mellow session riding partner, I decided it would be fun to get a better handle on why exactly Andy puts himself through all that he has to in order to bring his product from idea to something people can live, work , ride and create in.
When did you start Weird Brand?
I got my first physical product in 2011, but the idea of the brand started much earlier then that. I really had the name and ideas I wanted to communicate with the brand, at least 5 years before I got the brand started.
That said, what was it that led to your choice of name? What is it that struck you about Weird Brand that said to you “that’s it”?
Well, weird is a word that can be viewed as negative in ways, ways I had experienced first hand. As a young black kid coming up in BMX, I’ve been at a number of events, jams and contests where I’m the only person of color in the place. That’s not to say that everyone else there was doing things with the intention of making me feel weird, and some definitely did do things for that reason, but its hard not feel a little weird when you stick out like that. At the same time, I could be at another event with a large black crowd, and the weird thing in that setting is that I ride BMX and do, “white boy shit”. I’ve even had people call me “Tony Hawk”? I mean, he doesn’t even ride a fucking bike!!!!!! But, back to the point, I wanted to take a negative, sometimes shitty term, and convert it into something positive. Ultimately, why can’t we make weird something we embrace? After all, to be a trailblazer, you are going to have to deal with being called weird. Being weird can just mean you are expressing your individuality.
What’s the story with the logo? I have to tell you, it’s brilliant in all the right ways: its simple and identifiable. The kids I work with at the school all love the shirts, logo and name. They get very excited when they see I have the stuff on!
Well, when I was growing my hair out, and it was in the sort of in between stages, I started with some drawings that I thought looked like my hair. And, after a bunch of attempts to whittle it down, and make it memorable, that is what I landed on. Its simple, it brings something a little different to BMX, and it is something I think a broader audience can identify with then some of the other BMX brands. That’s not to shit on other brands at all, their hard work made BMX possible, I just mean that I thought a little bit about my experiences of feeling like an outsider in BMX and tried to create something that might have made me feel a little more included in BMX. To be honest, I think we are seeing a shift where, as BMX grows, more people have to be invited to the party and more people and perspectives need to be represented. Look at how the Females are representing! Now, with little girls getting to see themselves as included and can see themselves as a rider, now that there are more and more examples, I think that population will just keep growing. It can be difficult to feel like you are invited when not many people at the party look like you.
That’s a great point, the brand working like an invitation and expanding the picture of who can and is participating in BMX. Speaking of expansion, do you pay attention to things outside of BMX when you make decisions about what to make?
Oh, yeah! I am a big sports fan, but I also pay attention to what is going on in the larger world of fashion, too. I look at what designers are making and thinking and, though I don’t do everything they do, It is all an influence. One of my NBA inspirations was a player named Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, one of the best free throw shooters in history who, long before Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the National Anthem in protest of some of the things happening in the country. He eventually made an agreement with the league that he would put his head down during the anthem and he recited a prayer to himself for all of the people suffering in the world. It eventually cost him his career, as he was out of the NBA soon after, even though he was such a great shooter and scorer at that point in his career. But, despite all that it cost him, he stuck to his convictions and stood by his political and religious beliefs. I find it inspiring when people have things that are more valuable to them then money and fame. And, lots of people talk the talk but, when it came down to it, Mahmoud walked the walk, no matter how WEIRD it seemed to so many.