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Shaun White's clothing line boasts skater style
NEW YORK -- Olympic gold medalist Shaun White and his brother Jesse hang out with young artists and skaters, surfers and snowboarders with a distinctive style that's a little bit retro, a little bit edgy and a whole lot of cool.
The White brothers say they want to bring that look to the masses -- even if you're not artistic, can't skate to save your life or don't dream of waves or half-pipes. They are in the third year of an apparel deal with Target that now covers boys, young men and shoes.
"This is all about clothes our friends would wear," said Jesse, who is the sketch artist here. He turns into tangible designs all the ideas Shaun collects from his worldwide travels. Shaun will also snap photos of passers-by, which adds to the authenticity and street cred of the brand. "My trips turn into T-shirts," he said. (And there's a particular favorite shirt with his own dog wearing a pair of shades.)
On this day, "street" is what the Whites are wearing, too. Shaun has on ultra-skinny gray jeans, a V-neck T-shirt and dangling charm necklace, while Jesse wears black jeans and the new fat-lace, gray suede sneakers.
Shaun did go to a runway designer show in Milan, Italy, right after the Vancouver games earlier this year. "I won't lie. It was weird," he said. And during one post-Olympic interview with Rolling Stone, Shaun immediately noticed the reporter wearing a plaid shirt from the line.
He readily admits that he didn't always have enviable attire.
"I fell into fashion as an older skateboarder," Shaun said. "Before that, my clothes were lame. But now, can you imagine an 8-year-old without skater sneakers? Could you imagine him having to wear dress shoes?"
The fashion savvy of kids has increased as they are exposed to events like the X Games and have style role models within their grasp to mimic, he said: "I now get outdressed by that 8-year-old."
Because they adapted the skater/boarder lifestyle so many years ago, the Whites have a keen eye for detail that others from the fashion side of the business might miss -- but a kid never would, Jesse said. "We make our skateboard graphics look the right way. ... The sneaker has the right rubber compound. You have to be able to break the shoe in and break it in quickly. The toe shape has to work the way you flick your board."
Shaun added: "You can tell if you see a skater impostor from a mile away."
The Whites say they like the affordability factor with Target -- especially considering Shaun's fan base is likely to be among the after-school-job crowd -- and that it's a store where a teenage boy would feel comfortable browsing the racks.
"You don't want it to be like the small guitar store that you go in and you feel like they're sizing you up," Shaun said. "These are clothes you're meant to live in, to wear the jeans so much that they're so tattered you have to cut them into shorts."
As designers, though, the Whites were most challenged by younger boys -- the ones who care more about robots and dinosaurs than Shaun's medal count. They've tried to fix that with some little monster-dude characters.
The best part of the gig? It justifies Shaun's own hobby browsing secondhand shops, where he recently bought a leather jacket from the 1940s.
Look for an aviator-style addition to the line next season, he said.