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Highsnobiety Q&A March, 7 2014

Highsnobiety Q&A | Shaun White Talks His Relationship with Oakley, Designing, His Band Bad Things and More

Shaun White has had an unrivaled career as a professional snowboarder and skateboarder. He’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the current record holder for most gold medals and highest overall medal count at the X-Games – he’s also the first person to compete in and win both the summer and winter X-Games in two different sports. Not to mention he’s the rightful owner of 10 ESPY Awards.

This past week, Oakley celebrated its 30th anniversary with their Disruptive By Design event which highlighted the brand’s past and present game-changing technologies and designs, and gave us an idea of what we can expect to see in the future. While taking in all the event had to offer, we had the opportunity to speak with White about his relationship with Oakley, what it’s like designing with the brand, his band Bad Things, and much more.

When did Oakley first become a part of your life?

I was always intrigued by their goggles and glasses, even though I rode for other companies when I was really young and starting out. Once I began winning events and making a name for myself in the sport I was noticed by them. That was 12 years ago, I’ve been with them for such a long time. It all started with a basic entry-level sponsorship and as I got older and continued to be successful, I ended up growing within the brand. I went from that to full-on sponsorship, global team, and I was traveling and doing competitions for Oakley. From there they let me design, I was coming into my own and I wanted to start wearing my own clothes. It was an interesting time in my life, I had just started designing products for Burton – helmets, jackets, boots and snowboards – and who better to test the product than myself.

When designing, do you try to align the Oakley product with the rest of your kit or are you trying to create something that benefits your performance?

When I was designing the goggles it was more performance-based, “The wind comes in through here and makes my eyes water, so let’s do this.” Or, “This type of lens allows me to see the snow better, let’s do this.” The sunglasses were more of a stylized piece which was really fun. It’s all about combining the technologies and great elements of Oakley. If you look at the update of the Holbrook, the Enduro, you’ll notice the supper thin stem and wider, rounder lens. These things aren’t in the line anywhere else, it’s unique to the shape they’ve allowed me to produce. The Enduro is coming out in April; I’m really excited about it. It fits great and it’s definitely an evolution from the glass that was before…And the Holbrook’s been the best seller for Oakley.

Do you think Oakley will take any of the design cues from your signature sunglasses and incorporate them into the rest of the line?

I’m not sure. I hope they do and then I hope they don’t. Its very unique to our shape, and I like that it’s a unique glass in the line. It’s so much fun to be a part of the entire process but having your own glass is double-edged: it’s rad that you have the ability to create your own glass, but at the same time you’re putting yourself out there. If it doesn’t do well, it’s like “Well, Shaun had to have it purple!” I’m glad it’s not a company that I just signed on with; I’ve been with Oakley for so long.

At what age did you start playing music?

I won a guitar when I was 16 years old at a snowboarding contest at the X-Games. It was yellow, it was pretty awful, but I had it and I wanted to learn how to play. I went on the Internet and looked up guitar tablature, I learned The White Stripes’ “7 Nation Army” and I was hooked. I’m the guy that likes to practice, I would practice every day and night. I made friends in the neighborhood that could play and it slowly started sounding good. Then I moved up to Los Angeles and met some real musical talent – guys that were coming off of other bands – and then Bad Things kind of became.

What happened next?

We had a guy from Warner Bros. come to my garage and listen to us play, he really enjoyed the music. It took off from there, we ended up getting signed and making an album. We went on tour and then I took off to do the Olympics, and now we’re going back on tour. It’s so much fun, it’s the only thing that I do that’s collaborative. It doesn’t matter how well I play, everyone has to do their part. When we played our first gig it was The Echo in Silver Lake, I remember getting pumped up like “Ok, I have to do this,” and the band looked at me and were like “No, we have to do this.” [Laughs]

It’s such a fun thing for me; there’s no contest. There’s no winning in music, people either like it or they don’t. I really enjoy that aspect of it. It’s not about being the best, it’s about creating something together. We’re booked to play South by Southwest, we played Lollapalooza, we got to play Osheaga, we played the Voodoo festival in New Orleans, and next week we’re going to New York to play Fallon. I’m really excited.


“It’s a huge career change for me to be doing music, but I think my roots still will remain in the sports side of things.”

Is collaborative work something we can expect to see more of from you in the future?

It’s a great thing and it’s a tough thing. It’s so difficult to get everyone together and get everyone on the same program, I think that’s why I shied away from team sports in the beginning. You’re on your own terms in action sports and I really enjoy that. But I definitely love to collaborate with Oakley on the glass and I love to collaborate on music. It’s a huge career change for me to be doing music, but I think my roots still will remain in the sports side of things. If [Bad Things] becomes something great, I’m in.

I’ll continue to do the sporting side of my life because it’s a huge piece of what I am and what I’m all about, but it’s really fun when everything comes together and you have a great show. We came off stage at Lollapalooza – we weren’t even supposed to play one of the main stages, we lucked out, one of the bands dropped out and we had a great showing earlier in the day, so they asked us if we wanted the slot. We came off stage and the crowd chanted for one more song, and I’m like “Do we even have another song? Let’s play the first one again?” I’m really excited, and I’m happy for the band members because they work extremely hard while I’m off doing the snowboarding thing.

You can follow Shaun White on Facebook, G+, and Twitter.

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