Jeff Ho Says “Keep Your Tools Clean, Sharp and Organised”
And buy a t-shirt while you’re at it.
Artist collabs are often done and rarely done well. There’s no concrete rule stating that what looks good on a wall automatically transfers to wearable textiles with its dignity intact, and plenty have taken the cash and thrown their credibility out the window. Jeff Ho however, is an exception, as his recent Vissla capsule clearly demonstrates.
Jeff Ho should need no introduction, but if you get the majority of your information from a handheld device in your pocket, lightly irradiating your balls as you go, then here’s the great man’s accolades cut criminally short. Before Zephyr and Dog Town, polyurethane wheels and all the rest of it, there was (still is) Jeff Ho Surfboards. They say that Jay Adams was the spark that lit the fire. Well for years’ prior, Jeff was there quietly going about his business, meticulously setting the kindling, coal and paper to carry the blaze. Surfer, shaper, artist, Jeff’s influence is everywhere throughout surfing and skating. In short, Vissla were very lucky to have him.
“All the art is new,” Jeff says when asked how involved in the design process he was, pre-empting my cynicism. “Rob McCarty, the Vissla head designer, really got how I wanted to bring the late 60s and early 70s back in a modern way, and how important a good pair of surf trunks are to real surfers.”
Jeff’s style is distinctive and often imitated, and the man sure knows how to craft a logo – a true product of his environment. “God, they were everywhere…” Jeff says of those who influenced his style in the formative years. “In Ocean Park and Venice you had the car culture, street artists, and fine artists all in a tight area. And some of them surfed. As a kid, I was fascinated with Leonardo de Vinci, his composition and use of math. My shaping room shared a walkway with John Baldessari, the conceptual artist. I didn’t look-up to anyone, but I knew who was a worker and who was a bullshitter.”
Jeff goes onto mention that the catastrophic Vietnam War also played its part, casting its ugly shadow over his life and work. “They wanted to draft me, kept sending me letters, ‘You’re next,’” he says. “My surfing, my surfboard building, and art, is a product of that dark atmosphere.”
The range that Jeff’s come out with is rare in the collab ether in that every piece is totally wearable. The trunks are of a sensible length and colour palate with a classic Jeff touch, the coach jacket practical, with that bespoke, old school shaper apparel vibe. And the tee with an updated version of the iconic stormwater runoff drains? Well, it’s quite simply a thing of beauty; not something you often find in a t-shirt.
In keeping with the theme of reflection, I ask Jeff what the best piece of advice he’s ever been given is. A common, but always enlightening question.
“Keep your tools clean, sharp and organized,” his immaculate response.
And, if you dig the above collection, spend some shekels here.
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