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10 October 2016

#4 John Wilson



Subculture can go beyond a taste in fashion or music, and sometimes what links these groups together is a similar mindset. Individuals form a union from their mutual understanding of each other and also of their surroundings. John Wilson, CEO and founder of Stance, took to surfing long before the sock brand was conceived. Described by him as a "way of life", surf has influenced all elements of his life beyond that on the board. Having collaborated with countless individuals through the brand's Punks & Poets movement, John Wilson reflects upon his experience alongside other cultures across the spectrum.
 
 
With the surf industry being a massive part of your life, what got you into surf culture in the first place?
 
Just growing up in San Diego, Southern California. I was very fortunate to have parents who loved the beach and took me at a really young age. I didn't start surfing until I was in junior high. Being able to stand up on a board and ride the wave was a next-level experience. I was just drawn into it at a young age.
 
 
What is different about surf culture compared to other sports cultures?
 
I really enjoy a lot of different sports and activities such as basketball and baseball, so when I sit back and look at the differences, with surf as an activity and surf culture vs other sports and their cultures, I feel one of the biggest differences is that surf is more a way of life than a sport or activity.
 
There are so many elements to that way of life. The travel - I love travelling, going to these places and discovering new surf spots and the beauty that's out there surrounding the ocean. The music component, that which comes directly through surf culture and that which surrounds and is inspired by it. The fashion influence, with brands that have come from within the surf market. Then there's the art, the photography, the videography, which is all woven into surf, and when you bring all of that together into the activity and participation, it becomes more a way of life than other sports and activities. I think that's why it draws people in and that's why it's so inspiring.
 
 
Has there been one collaboration, whether music, pop culture or sport, that has stood out to you?
 
What's interesting in having this conversation about certain cultures, is that though we in Stance have our roots in boardsports, we're a very eclectic brand. We love the juxtaposition between, say, Chris Cole and Rihanna. We chose the term Punks & Poets because we're not just an XYZ brand. Our tagline is The Uncommon Thread. That really speaks to originality.
 
Specific to some of the collaborations we've done, a few have stuck out, from completely different spectrums. Captain Fin, a really cool brand out of ocean-side California, was started by a guy called Mitch Abshere, who is a great surfer and a great board builder. He really brought a lot of energy to the fin category and got the name 'Captain Fin'. It was probably our second season when we collaborated with them and there's a sentimental side to it because these guys saw what we were doing and got it. I mean seven years ago, telling people you wanted to start a sock brand. "What are you talking about?"
 
The other side of the spectrum is someone like Rihanna, and it wasn't necessarily the celebrity, but how involved she was. Someone with her status could easily turn around and say, "Sign the cheque and I'll do X many Instagram posts," but on the photoshoot she was saying, "This should be there, maybe we should try this." 
 
When you do a collaboration you've got to think, is it going to be brand developing or are we going to sell any socks, and sometimes there are more brand enhancers but not many commercial opportunities, and some which do a lot of volume. But with Rihanna it was her hands-on involvement, and I can remember being on the photoshoot and thinking, "I can't believe this is freakin' Rhianna and she is so amped on what we're doing and what she's doing with us." It was definitely a cool moment.

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Words By Karlmond Tang - karlmond.com | @karlmond

Photography - Impossible Project

 
 
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