The title of the interview, inspired by Gilbert’s “Doin’ Thangs” part – which will forever be burned into my memory because of its genius intro with the catchy “NO FUCKING AIR BUBBLES” punch line –, hints to what Gilbert is focusing on these days. In between making art, pants, and fixing things around the shop, he answers the phone driving through Richmond, Virginia, momentarily doing away with the confusion as to why he chose a good old-fashioned phone call over a Zoom call to conduct the interview.
Hey, Gilbert. How are you doing?
Doing well, just kinda driving around in the ice-cold weather.
What’s the go-to spot for that kind of weather?
It hasn’t really gotten that bad until last week, so we’ve been skating outdoors. We’ve all been talking about trying to find an indoor place to rent or buy. We haven’t figured anything out, so I’m just kind of waiting for the next warm day, I guess.
How is the situation regarding lockdowns and COVID?
I don’t think Virginia is terrible as far as numbers go. Restaurants are open, I guess that’s not normal everywhere. We are still dealing with it, I’m just trying not to go into anywhere I don’t have to.
No, we’ve been closed for a while because my mum is older and she’s the one that runs the shop. We’ve only been open for a couple weekends during the pandemic. We’re just doing online business.
Do people buy vintage online? I could imagine that it’s pretty specific with the fit of certain items.
Yes and no. We actually had a lot of sales through the pandemic, which I’m happy about. I think people are shopping online more than usual and they want to show support! We’ve been getting enough support to be happy about it. We’re hoping that it keeps coming in.
"I like old tattoos and I like old pants."
Are all Cee Blues graphics your designs?
They’re all my paintings and we sell them through the store as prints. I’ve been working on that today, too. We just had some come in a couple days ago and are getting some more made as soon as we can.
Are any of your tattoos your own drawings?
No, I hung out in a tattoo shop for a summer and I was talking to them about trying to learn how to tattoo and they helped me with drawing and learning how to paint. I wanted to learn the style that I have tattooed on me. It’s just natural, like the pants. I like old tattoos and I like old pants. I try to make art that looks like the era of tattooing that I enjoy.
We’ve been around a little over two years. It’s been gaining momentum slowly since we opened and was still heading up until the pandemic. The day-to-day activity in the shop as far as running it is my mum. It was actually her idea. It definitely wouldn’t exist without her. I don’t have enough time and skill and focus to be able to do that. Skating and working on clothing and stuff, it’s too many things for me actually.
I do pickups a lot. Either I’ll go to a place we can buy vintage wholesale at a vintage dealer or we’ll buy stuff online and I’ll pick it up. Estate sales we’ll go check out. There’s a lot of ways we end up with clothes just because they’re not all reliable routes as far as always being able to get vintage in one place.
Yeah! I didn’t find this one personally, but my girlfriend found a nice 1930s U.S. Army denim jacket that’s probably my favorite thing we sold in the store. I haven’t really uncovered anything too grail-like.
I’d like to think they would, but generally, people won’t learn that lesson from this. Maybe some people, but the general population is so obsessed with consuming new items. We are all guilty of it. I don’t know if it’ll really change anything. As soon as we get out of this thing, everything goes back to normal production for the brands. It will just be like everybody is trying to get back to where they were. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
How about your Cee Blues pants, are you still able to produce them?
We placed an order a couple weeks ago for 120 pairs of jeans. They’re working on them and we haven’t really had any sorts of trouble. However, at the same time, I make a really small amount of stuff compared to companies that are actually dealing with production problems. They’ve got so many moving parts, I’m a real small fish right now. Pretty fortunate.
"You got an iPhone in your pocket and you can just look at exactly what every skater is doing and wearing, it’s almost too accessible to me."
Oh yeah, especially wider pants are getting ridiculously popular at the moment. All these skaters are wearing Big Boys from Polar and if they’re not wearing those, they’re buying 38” waist thrift store jeans or whatever they can find, which is cool. To me, skating has always been really involved in fashion. Everybody is always trying to find the best-fitting pants, shoes, or t-shirts, just to have your kit looking a certain way. It’s almost weird to me nowadays how easy it is to be on trend. You got an iPhone in your pocket and you can just look at exactly what every skater is doing and wearing, it’s almost too accessible to me. Kind of makes me not want to do what everyone else is doing, I guess.
What got me into wide-legged pants and that kind of look is vintage clothing. I realized, in the 1940s, pants were huge and I started buying vintage chinos. There were a lot of them made, so they’re not that hard to find. I realized it was good for skating and I really liked the look of that era. That’s kind of how I got here. Once I got really into vintage, it came hand in hand with my mum always being into old stuff and advertising. She got into the vintage clothing thing too, so it kinda all happened at the same time for me.
A lot! [laughs] Especially on the internet.
"I’m definitely not past having my day ruined by pants that don’t fit right or any article of clothing that doesn’t fit right."
Yeah, I think it’s the one people pay attention to the most when you’re measuring. Your shoe-to-pant-leg-opening ratio is one that matters a lot, but there are a lot of measurements that I’m obsessed about. I have to be in a window of certain measurements to decide if they are going to work for me or not. I can kind of tell before I put them on if I’m measuring them.
Oh yes! I’m definitely not past having my day ruined by pants that don’t fit right or any article of clothing that doesn’t fit right. I try to bring an extra pair of pants in case it’s not working out.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I enjoy. It’s worth it to me to have spots that are harder to skate or spots I’ve already skated. That’s something I’m willing to deal with as long as I’m skating spots that aren’t touched by a bunch of other pro skaters. They’re not in every skate video, people don’t know where they are, how rough they are. All that stuff is just part of the fun to me. I’d rather deal with difficult weather and spots than deal with oversaturated skateboarding.
It just has character to me. A California stair set is generally going to look a certain way, clean and newish. Not a lot of weather on it. On the east coast, we have a lot of brick, a lot of weather; it makes the spots look a certain way and gives it a bunch of character to me. When you only have a certain amount and type of skate spots, it makes your brain have to work harder. I find creativity in those times where I have to work harder.
If I had all these perfect skate spots at my fingertips, I don’t know if my skating would be the same and mean the same thing to me, or feel as expressive as it does to me. That’s something I appreciate, I want skating to feel a certain way when I’m doing it. I don’t want it to feel like I’m just working.
Sometimes I’ll leave the house with a certain trick in mind that I want to try that day, but that’s not how I would like to operate, I guess. What I enjoy the most is what you’re talking about where you’re out skating and whatever you guys are fucking off on turns into a good idea to film a trick. That’s the best way for me to go skating, just because it feels natural. The idea is happening, now the trick is happening, there’s no in-between, no build-up of anxiety of having to try this trick today. That’s my ultimate goal in skating: I want to feel like I’m doing the right thing for expression. I want it to blow out of me. I don’t want to have to force something, that’s not something I enjoy doing at all. Especially in any kind of art or skating, I want to feel like I’m exactly doing what I want to be doing as far as getting the idea out.
"I find creativity in those times where I have to work harder."
Way before! We used to make videos on point-and-shoot cameras and then we made them on cell phones before there was an iPhone.
Everybody had a skit in the beginning of their part. One of the guys that made the video wrote everyone a script, and in my script, I’m just a lunatic pro skater with millions of dollars that was supposed to be out of control. It was really fun to make, one of the only times I’ve acted that way where I have a script and I’m acting like a whole other person. It was super fun, I love that type of shit.
[laughs] That’s something I’d listen to nowadays more than back then. That was something the dudes that made the video picked. I actually love the edit and the way the song works for editing.
I’m always involved with the music. I picked that Pavement song that I skated to in “Alright, OK.” Greg Hunt had Danny Garcia scored the other stuff that went in there with it. That’s something I’m always interested in. I love working on music, I actually even like editing if it’s possible. If I’m near where the person is working on the video, I love being involved in the editing and picking out the music. It’s an interest I have. If I had more time or resources, I would love to work on videos with Quasi and Vans one day.
No, I’m trying to figure out what I’ll work on next. We’re talking about a Vans and a Quasi video. I might be working on two different things ,but we’re not really sure at the moment. Just kinda skating for the love right now.
No, I don’t really try to be on a program. I pretty much just ride my bike, walk our dog. I do stretch, but I’m not like “super fitness man” or anything. I should probably be doing more than I am. I do think about keeping my body healthy, something I definitely pay attention to. However, I feel fortunate, skating feels good these days, and I’m not in a lot of pain. Knock on wood. I’m getting older and I can tell my joints are starting to take a beating a little bit.
I think making clothes is what I’d like to focus on in the future, and the shop, of course, is partially that. I would like to be in the store more and work on my brand down the line – or art: basically painting, potentially tattooing one day, or making clothes. I’m interested in a lot of things and I’m hoping that once my body is too old to skate the way I want to, that one of those will lead me somewhere. Expressing, you know, I really like to make things, whether art, clothing, skate videos, or whatever, I just want to have outlets where I can keep feeding that inspiration.
Oh yeah, plenty of people. I’m definitely not the type of guy who is only into my own style of skating. Somebody I think of when you ask me that is Heitor. Heitor wears really wild big clothing and it can be really flashy and his style, the way he carries himself and how he skates is so loose and flowy. I feel like he can pull it off, but I don’t think I would ever be able to pull it off what he wears and how he skates. I love watching Heitor skate. There are plenty of people out there where I love their style even if it’s very different from my own.
Right before I got on the phone, I dropped off a painting to have it made into prints just like the other ones I had made. I’m waiting to hear back from them to work on that. I’m going to try and work on a t-shirt design today, try to pick out some colors for the screen print, and then I will maybe work on a sign. We have a wooden sign at the Cee Blues shop and it’s falling apart, so I’m painting a metal one to replace it. That’s my day today.
I like to be working on something, so I am happy about it!