If you want to get in the game, move to further your product.
In 2011, Jake Sullivan walked into a local Pittsburgh clothing store called Timebomb. He bought powder blue Wiz Khalifa Taylor Gang Bombay Gin Cup shirts and sold them on eBay.
His enjoyment of clothing turned into a budding apparel and media company in 2015 that he operates with Steven Crump.
At the Make Sure You Have Fun Mixed Threads clothing fair in 2017, Crump and Sullivan were selling their own brand Good Sports. Even cooler, the experience came full circle because Ryan Brown, the designer of the Gin Cup shirt that Sullivan had bought years earlier, hosted the local streetwear market. Another local apparel brand that was at the Mixed Threads market was Reviving Real.
S.O.S.I.M.O. pushes a new T-Shirt concept seemingly every month. The brand drives demand for the product that sells out quickly as designer Ivan Rodriguez of Pittsburgh's east side, known as smoke.myth on Instagram, deals his shirts in person first and then off the Internet second. The gray SOSIMO Sluggers joint sold out in 21 hours. S.O.S. limited product only leaves the community trying to find more of it.
Now, Good Sports, Sports for short, Reviving Real, SOSIMO and more are examples of an emerging streetwear culture in the city.
I asked if either of the Good Sports partners skates because that’s the feeling I got looking at their collections, like the Exordium run. Turns out, only Crump skates, but the love for culture grew from the two’s fondness of Nike SB sneakers back in seventh grade, P-ROD 2 specifically. That’s how they conceptualized “how everything ties together, the shoes, the clothes, the music,” Crump said.
Black and white monochrome tees with characters like Fidel Castro and Malcolm X's meeting in Harlem or Felix the Cat show the tone S.O.S. The archived culture is serious and familiar. The strongest of celebrated human history survives in the fabric of SOSIMO.
For Mike Caraballo, the founder of Reviving Real, his company succeeds because “a lot of us share a genuine love for what we are pursuing, as well as the culture of the city,” he said.
Sports try to support the culture too with a goal to “get more involved.” The 23-year-old Bethel Park and Wexford natives in Crump and Sullivan conduct an interview series called Pittsburgh Culture showing the energy coming out of the creative scene and “the ones behind it all.” Musician Linwood and thrift store owner and barber Zed have segments.
Caraballo noted clothing brands in Pittsburgh aim to help communities of local artists. They “are doing the most to not only serve the people with quality products but continue to help push the culture and arts here in the city,” he said.
Aaron and Christian Kinkela, the brothers who operate the legendary Pittsburgh lifestyle label named after the city's 412 area code, said in a 2014 interview with ITR, "A lot of what we do is supporting the local economy with anything whether it's local seamstresses or local printers. A lot of things happen right here. That's another part of giving back and doing what you can to keep the money in this town."
A local online publication and conversation series called Style412 ran an audit on Pittsburgh’s fashion scene throughout 2016 and 2017. Style412 founder Elysia Panda mentioned authenticity attracts customers to a local business.
With each clothing collection that Reviving Real releases, a music mixtape with highlights from Steel City hip-hop, other musicians and cover art by a local visual artist accompanies the release. “We like to curate sounds from artist around the city that we see working hard and putting that time and effort into their craft,” Caraballo said. “Vol. 3” of Reviving Real’s music compilation highlights this aspect through songs by My Favorite Color or Sierra Sellers. Reviving Real's latest "Idora" T-Shirt was a collaboration with artist Dalton (@lovedullt) that celebrated the Idora amusement park roller coasters. By branching out, Reviving Real roots itself to other communities. “The artists here can see what everyone else is doing and create connections with fellow artist,” Carabllo said.
Additionally, people have been receptive to Sports, obviously, we love our teams, but the Good Sports kind message and general aesthetic promote quality. Crump remembers local rapper Mars Jackson being the first notable person to wear their clothes. Quentin Cuff, a.k.a. InnerviewQ, has also been seen wearing Sports. Musician Benji wears his Doc Ellis T-Shirt that celebrates the Pirates baseball legend.
Part of creating a clothing label is selling a lifestyle and that’s what Good Sports does with their Pittsburgh Culture series and that’s what Reviving Real does with their showcase mixtape. SOSIMO does the same with reverent graphics.
“We are seeing an emergence of online lifestyle brands (versus the traditional boutique), which is definitely something new to our city,” Style412’s Panda said.
Although, vintage thrift shop Senseless in East Liberty creates an atmosphere people want to shop in by curating special experiences. For instance, Senseless, along with the help of craftsman Stew Frick, will release Nike Air Force 1 with the Swoosh donned by repurposed leather from Louis Vuitton handbags on July 6. Three different velcro LV Swoosh and colorful laces come with the sneaker.
Photographs by Tyler Calpin
The Sports’ lifestyle clothing, which is sold online at www.goodsportspgh.com and once at One Up Skate Shop and Shop Zeds in Pittsburgh’s Southside, isn’t trying to be in your face with its simplistic designs. “A lot of things are just overdone now,” Crump said. He mentioned the We’re Proud long-sleeve shirt comes from looking at old ‘80s and ‘90s Sports Illustrated. Garments like polos and quarter zips highlight the ranges.
With limited quantities in each Sports collection, “we focus on every little detail because they all matter,” Sullivan said. Patience helps them, as the business pays no attention to typical season-by-season collections.
Down the line, Crump and Sullivan hope to grow into a brick and mortar store, much like Shop412's store on the Southside, to build a Pittsburgh foundation.
As more clothes and culture stem from Pittsburgh, especially as native designers like John Geiger, Aris Tatalovich and Makayla Wray put on for the city in big markets like New York City, it just depends on "how it all gets put together," Crump said.
Portions of this article come from an ITR article written about Good Sports on April 4, 2018, to create a more thorough conversation on the streetwear scene in Pittsburgh.