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It’s kind of crazy to think about how much has changed between the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s in comparison to today. It’s weird to think that BMX is just starting to get to a point where it really has some solid points of history. There’s a lot of riders out there that have been riding for 10+ years now days and I think as we all get older (myself included) we’re starting to see more and more love for the nostalgia of “the good old days of BMX”. A few weeks back, a huge blast from the past surfaced with Hal Brindley and Leigh Ramsdell at the reigns announcing that they would be bringing 2B, Play and Useless clothing back all under a new venture called Oldscool BMX.
Now, I’m sure a ton of kids are looking at this news like “What the fuck is 2B, Play and Useless?” or “Who the hell is ‘Hal Brindley’?” Which, I guess I can’t blame you since there’s a good chance a lot of these names were well known names in BMX before you were even born, but still… If you have an appreciation for Do It Yourself BMX, or even things that helped get BMX to where it is today, this should get you stoked.
With things with Oldschool really taking off fast thanks to a very successful Kickstarter, I figured it would be a good idea to get ahold of Hal and Leigh and find out just what they’re planning on doing with the program. Take a peek because good things are coming!
All right, so let’s start this out from the beginning. Can you give us a little bit of a history background on how 2B, Play Clothing and Useless all got started for the younger crowd that may not have even been born when this all got started?
(Hal) Steve Buddendeck and I started 2B in 1989 when I was 19 and Steve was 18. We were just a couple of dumb kids having fun. I guess not much has changed. Steve and I did it because we liked giving shirts to our friends and we liked doing goofy shit and putting ourselves in ads. We lived cheap so making money was never really an issue. When 2B was voted the number one clothing brand in BMX it was kind of a surprise to us. Around 1994 some company in NYC made a trademark claim saying they owned rights to the name 2B. Instead of going into an expensive lawsuit, Steve and I just said, “that was fun, let’s do something else now”. Steve has gone on to do just about everything that can be done in BMX and I started from scratch with Play Clothes. Leigh had been one of 2B’s main team riders from the start and by that point he was also my house mate and employee. So Leigh launched Useless and together we built up Play until I bailed out in 1999. Since the early days of 2B Leigh has been one of my best friends in the world and that’s why I had no hesitation in starting this up with him now.
(Leigh) I remember first seeing Hal at an NBL Contest in Myrtle Beach, SC. We didn’t talk much but I was stoked on all the designs. I sent him a sponsorship tape with some crazy antics and sketchy riding. I guess he was into it and sponsored me for 2B. Since then Hal has 100% supported me with whatever I’ve done. After 2B he started Play and shortly after that I started Useless. It was nothing more than to make silly shirts and to have a good time. It was funny because I put Hal on the Useless team and I was riding for Play. It was just fun to wear each other’s stuff. After Hal sold Play I kind lost the fire to do Useless because one of the main things I loved about it was working with him and exchanging dumb ideas. I still dabble in it but nothing like before. But one thing that has never changed is our friendship. We were even the ministers at each other’s weddings!
So you guys both had some different opportunities come about towards the end of things with those brands. Hal, you became a wildlife photographer, right? Care to share how you got into that field and maybe a story or two about some wild experiences you had from that?
(Hal) Eventually Play got too big, had too many employees and too many responsibilities and I decided it was time to pack it up. I wanted to spend my time doing something that really mattered to me and the one thing I really cared about was wildlife conservation. I think animals are the most interesting things to ever happen in the universe. So I sold Play and started traveling around taking photos of animals. I’ve had so many awesome adventures since then it’s hard to pick favorites but some things that pop into my head are sailing to Antarctica, crawling around behind wombats in Australia, getting chased by lions in Namibia, camping with walruses in Alaska, diving with whale sharks in Mexico… you can see more in http://www.travel4wildlife.com.
Leigh, you went on to become very heavily involved with Eastern as well as judging contests all around the world and a ton of different things throughout the BMX industry. Care to kind of give a background on what kinds of roles your day to day is like these days?
(Leigh) I have been fortunate to stay involved in a passion that I love. BMX has always been a big part of my life. When Play and Useless finished I had just started riding for Eastern. From being a Pro Rider I transitioned into being the Team Manager and eventually the role they call Media Coordinator which is doing a little bit of everything from the team stuff, to shooting photos, to updating the sites, to mopping the bathroom. As far as judging I did my first event at Lake Havasu shortly after I broke my arm in 2000 but didn’t judge much more because I was doing TV reporting stuff for the ESPN events, which was an awesome time. After that stopped I was asked to judge a few more events and now I do a lot of that. I really like it, though it is a tough job and I take it very seriously. Plus I have the best damn seat in the house! And I try and ride as much as I can still. My knees have been giving me problems so riding street is getting more difficult these days.
Leigh No Foot Can at 401 Trails
Photo: Steve Buddendeck (Verde, Duo, Cinema)
When did you guys start talking about firing up the press and bringing back these brands? Was it kind of a spur of the moment idea or has this been coming for a few years?
(Hal) Pretty damn spur of the moment. In early January Leigh posted a pic of a 2B “For Men With 20 Inchers” sweatshirt on Facebook and it got a crazy response. We sort of jokingly said we should do some reprints and that very night I registered the domain oldscoolbmx.com and it came to life pretty fast. By February we had our site up and launched our kickstarter project by the end of the month.
I saw you guys were able to track down the old press you guys originally used when you started all of the brands. How did you manage to track that down? Has it been in BMX riders ownership the whole time or has it bounced into some other industries?
(Hal) You take this one Leigh
(Leigh) Actually I didn’t track it down, it tracked me down. The last owner called me up and asked if I wanted to buy it back. But I am getting ahead of myself… So after I stopped doing Useless I sold the equipment to Kerry Gatt who used it for maybe a year. He then sold it to Dan, the drummer of The Scaries (a local Chapel Hill band). They were in a few Props videos and I used a song from them in my DK Intuition part. Dan then sold it to their guitarist Bill. Bill had it for a long time but didn’t use it much. He was trying to just get rid of it and called me. So I bought it for less than I originally sold it to Kerry. The dryer doesn’t work and the press is in need of some work too. But we are in the process of getting it up and running. It just makes sense to reprint everything on the OG equipment. No it doesn’t but I am telling myself that.
Hal – Toboggan
Photo: Steve Buddendeck (Verde, Duo, Cinema)
How come you wanted to go with that press versus picking up a new one?
(Hal) Cause Leigh already had it! And I have strong emotional ties to it. I bought the press when I was a sophomore in college in Williamsburg, VA. I printed shirts in my dorm room and kept setting off the fire alarm with my spot dryer. The next year I opened a small shop space and bought the used conveyor dryer. Yes, it was already used way back then! We printed every single 2B or Play shirt that was ever made on that equipment. It just seems right.
You guys fired up a Kickstarter page to help get the funds to start things back up and it got an amazing reaction. Did you think you guys would meet your goal so fast? What are you going to do now that you guys are well over your goal now?
(Hal) Honestly I had no idea how people would react and I was pretty shocked we met our goal in less than 48 hours. It’s been amazing. Granted we did set our goal pretty low, just enough to get the dryer kicking again. But we’re really excited about how much support we’re getting. It’s been a huge honor to get pledges from so many of my bmx heroes and industry legends and all these people who are sending in pics of their original tees they’ve been hoarding for 20 years. It’s freaking bonkers. I can’t thank everybody enough for all your support and kind words. You guys rock. We’re about to add some crazy new rewards and some new silliness for stretch goals so you should go check it out right now. (http://kck.st/13hv6GT)
I’d imagine you have been getting a real good response from the older guys that were riding back when you were doing things before. Have you seen much from the younger generation?
(Hal) It’s crazy how many names I recognize on our backer list. So yeah, definitely a big response from guys who’ve been riding a long time. As for the youngsters, if I was them looking at us I’d probably be thinking, “what the fuck is the big deal? A bunch of stupid old shirt designs?” So I’m not expecting much response from them, but who knows. Maybe our designs will appeal to them too. Kids still masturbate right?
(Leigh) I’ve had a few younger guys talk to me about it. And when I say younger I mean early 30’s. This was mainly meant for the older guys but it is cool just for the younger generation to learn a little about our era.
Your plan is to bring back the old designs right? How has the voting been going so far? Please tell me that “For Men With 20 Inchers” is coming back?
(Hal) Yes, it looks like the “20 Inchers” is definitely going to make it into the top ten. Watching the votes has been super fun. The biggest surprise to me was that the 2B Convoy shirt jumped up into first place for the first four days. That was because some serious oldscoolers were pledging right from the start. Sometimes when we designed shirts we would just make the stupidest things we could think of to see if people would buy them so it’s always fun to see what people go for. We didn’t list every shirt we ever made on the vote page (http://www.oldscoolbmx.com/vote) but we gave people the option to write in the name of another design if they want. It’s been awesome seeing some of the obscure shirts people have written in, including the “I love sweet corn” and a shirt that we only released for a single contest at Scrap in 1997 with a drawing of my cat Scamper drinking a cocktail out of the head of Leigh’s rat Honky.
What are your personal favorites?
(Hal) I have favorite Useless designs that I still wear like the Torn and Original Logo. I also love the Useless Big Mean Maggot cause it’s just a dumb doodle I did one day and Leigh made it into a shirt. In 2B I have attachments to some of the oldest designs like the Tarsier and the Dope Fish and I would definitely wear the embroidered 10-pin again. Some of my Play favorites are the Slug, Roughneck, Leif’s Mug, and probably my number one is the Binky & Scamper which was drawn by Steve Crandall of FBM.
(Leigh) My personal favorite is…man there are a lot…. For 2B the Fork is my favorite, with Play I would say the Slug Tee or Binky & Scamper, and with Useless I am going with the Big Mean Maggot shirt Hal drew. Pretty much anything with something random and silly on it works for me.
Will you guys be doing any new designs or are you going to strictly stick to the classics like an 80’s Billy Joel tribute band?
(Hal) I don’t think I’d make any new designs under 2B or Play. Somehow seems sacrilegious to me like trying to reanimate a corpse. Reprinting is more like dragging the dead body around and charging people to look at it (much more respectful). But Leigh and I are talking about bringing out a new brand along the way.
(Leigh) Yeah I think we are just going to do these reprints for 2B and Play. I have made a few new designs recently with Useless but might focus all my energy into a new brand Hal and I have been talking about. We don’t want to set the bar too high, just have fun with it.
If things really take off, do you see yourselves turning this back into a real job for yourselves or is this just something you want to do for fun?
(Hal) No real jobs for me! I prefer to stay funemployed forever. I’d like oldscool to stay small. Besides, I wanna spend at least three months a year driving around the desert in Africa.
(Leigh) I am fine with it becoming a real job as long as it is fun. Hal has supported me and helped me out through the lean years of BMX so if he want’s to run off to Africa for months at a time taking pictures of the elusive Northern Reclusive Chiapet then I am down to man the ship until he returns. But at this point we are just playing it by ear.
Hal – Fakie Wall
Photo: Steve Buddendeck (Verde, Duo, Cinema)
Hal, if you could have gone back to the time when you originally sold the business to pursue the photography career, would you have done things differently and stuck with it?
(Hal) Nope. My only philosophy is follow your heart. Do whatever it is you care about and you will never regret any decision you make.
So what’s next? Where do you guys plan on taking things as time goes on? Could you see yourself doing screen-printing jobs for other brands?
(Hal) I like the idea of doing reprints of classic designs from some of our friends’ companies like Crandall and giving them a cut of sales. I wanna support the guys who were cool to us when we were making tees. I also think it’d be fun to start a new brand for the same reasons I did 20 years ago, to give some shirts to our friends and put ourselves in goofy ads. I’m sure Leigh would love to do printing for other brands cause that’s his end of the business. Leigh?
(Leigh) Yeah for sure. Once I get this press dialed in I would love to print up some shirts for anyone in BMX.
Leif Valin, Leigh and Hal.
How can people keep up with what you guys have going on? What’s the website address? Do you have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all that shit or are you keeping it Oldscool?
(Hal) What the fuck is the Internet? That’s Leigh’s job
(Leigh) Nice Jay and Silent Bob quote, Hal. If we kept it old school then you wouldn’t be reading this on the World Wide Web now would ya? BMXer’s young and old can reach us at the following:
Good ole fashion email: email@example.com
Follow us and see what we are doing.
Leigh – Roof Drop
Photo: Zack Phillips (Kink)
When and where will these shirts be available? Will Dan’s Comp or any of the mail orders be carrying you guys? Let’s say distributors or shops want to get your products in their warehouses and shops? Who should they contact?
(Hal) We’ll print our first batch in April when the kickstarter project closes. Yeah, I’m sure we’ll sell some stuff to our favorite dealers and distributors. Just hit us up at oldscoolbmx.com
What if somebody has a general question about Oldscool or one of your products, whom should they contact?
(Hal) It’s just me and Leigh and either of us are happy to answer any questions. We’ll both see any email that goes to firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there anything I missed you want to say?
(Leigh) Yeah two things… First, Kurt thanks for pledging to our project and helping us out. What shirt did you pick?
For Men with 20 Inchers… DUHHHH
(Hal) Huge thanks to you Kurt and to everyone who has supported our project so far. We couldn’t do this without you guys. Can’t wait to get this rolling. Please visit our project at http://kck.st/13hv6GT