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12-Pack Interview Series: Bumpy Pitch Co-Founder Ben Hooper

The brainchild of two former professional soccer players, Bumpy Pitch is setting the standard for off-the-field soccer style. Founded in 2004 by ten-year MLS veteran Brian “Dunny” Dunseth and Ben “Beans” Hooper, who spent time playing in Holland, Bumpy Pitch has established itself at the forefront of soccer fashion beyond the jersey and training gear. But Bumpy Pitch is more that just a high-quality t-shirt company, they're the promoters of the soccer culture and lifestyle that exists in orbit around the game. And that's where their other website, The Original Winger, comes into play. While BP focuses on the apparel-side, TOW is the documenter and promoter of the culture and lifestyle that is weaving their way into mainstream America's head.
The Los Angeles-based company (with Ace Harrison also as a partner) is getting love from soccer fans, professional soccer players, and celebrities the world over. Part of these shirts' appeal is their high-quality, but mostly its about what's on the front of each; and that's American soccer history.
Bumpy Pitch has saved a little slice of the sport's history on each one of their shirts, rescued the North American Soccer League from the dustbin of time, and, in some cases, brought century-old clubs into the soccer consciousness.
“Beans” was more than happy to sit down and pound out a few answers for the Free Beer Movement about Bumpy Pitch, where they came from, their mission, where they're going, and about The Original Winger and its role in this whole sha-bang.
1) Where did the idea come from for Bumpy Pitch? How did the company get started?

The idea for Bumpy Pitch and the start for the company were all very simple. We didn’t feel like there was any fashionable / lifestyle clothes that represented for soccer. So we decided we would make some. The early stuff we made was mostly for ourselves and friends, and was incredibly basic. But the idea was there and we believed in the idea of the “lifestyle of soccer.”

2) If you ask a lot of soccer fans they say that “soccer is young in America,” but the shirts you make tell a different story. Why is looking into the past of American soccer important for its future?
I think the growth of the sport may be in its early stages here in the States, but the sport itself

has a pretty rich history in America. As the sport continues to grow here, we thought it was important to understand where the sport has come from before we could fully embrace where it’s headed. Besides, the stories, histories and imagery from these old teams are pretty amazing.

3) How do BP and The Original Winger work together to promote the game and its ties to fashion?
I think that what we do with both Bumpy Pitch and The Original Winger is about more than just fashion. Obviously fashion drives a lot of what we do, but it’s more the lifestyle of the sport that we really push. Fashion plays a big part in the lifestyle, and since we design and produce clothes that are an obvious focus for us. But we are a lifestyle driven company, more than just a clothing company.

4) BP has garnered some pretty high profile wearers of your shirts. People like Steve Nash, several members of the USMNT, Tom Morello, even Ryan Seacrest. What is it about BP that appeals to not just soccer fans, but a larger cross section of America?
I think the quality of the shirts is the first thing. We spent quite a bit of time developing the shirts and getting them exactly how we wanted them. Everything from picking the type of cotton that is used, the cut of the shirts, and the treatments to get them to feel as soft as they do. I think people pick up on that quality. I also think a lot of people appreciate the stories that are associated with the shirts.

5) You write on your site that the focus of soccer has always been about what’s on the pitch and almost nothing beyond that and that BP and TOW is about changing that. What does the scene look like several years after having started BP?
It’s still a challenge to get people to look at things in a different light, but things have definitely changed from when we first started talking about the lifestyle side of things. We get a lot of incredible feedback from people who appreciate our approach to things so we know we are doing something right.

6) Tell us about your current collection.

The original shirts we did were inspired by the history of soccer in the US. We featured teams such as the Fall River Marksmen and Bethlehem Steel which date as far back as the late 1890’s. We also had some teams from the NASL days. So history was a big part of what we have done so far. We’ll continue to feature some of the older team inspired shirts while we continue to introduce new designs and products.

7) When is the next collection rolling out for BP? Can you give us any clues to what it will be about? Or what teams might be featured?

We’re currently releasing a couple shirts a month right now and plan to continue doing things that way as opposed to one collection every few months. We also have some products we have been working on for awhile that we will be releasing like hoodies, polos, etc. As for the theme or direction, it’s kind of fluid. We come up with ideas we like and then go from there, as opposed to trying to make something fit within a pre-defined theme. We’ve got some pretty incredible new shirts in the works as well as brand new products.

8) So far what’s the coolest shirt, in your opinion, that BP has put out?

I really like the ones featuring the old teams like Fall River Marksmen and the Brooklyn Wanderers. These teams date way back, and also didn’t have any logos that we could find so we got to design the logos based on what we thought a logo should look like for these teams.

We also did a shirt with Nick Egan that blends soccer, punk music and 1970’s London. Collaborating with Nick was a lot of fun, and I’m really happy about how we were able to mesh the different elements without watering down the message.

9) TOW just started a really interesting feature called, Soccer in America, can you talk a little about that project; where the idea came from, what’s the goal, and how it’s going so far?

The easy answer is we are fans of photography and soccer and we wanted to combine those elements. The deeper answer is that we wanted to explore the culture of soccer in America via photography. We are all a part of the greater soccer culture here, but the way that looks in Southern California might look very different in some ways to how that looks in the northeast and so on. The series has been incredible so far. Getting to see soccer images taken from people around the country will never get old for me, and hopefully it helps continue to build the community.

10) A few selfish, and pretty slanted, questions for the FBM. What is it about seeing a live soccer game and having a cold beer in your hand that makes everything seem right with the world?

It’s kind of like peanut butter and jelly. They compliment one another and just fit together perfectly.

11) How cool would a Free Beer Movement shirt look in your next collection? (feel free to respond with “no comment”)

I actually have the basis of a design for a BP x FBM t-shirt, and I think it would look pretty rad.



Tags: DrinkWear, Twelve-Pack Interview Series

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