Interview by Mike Rogge
Matty B! What’s going on its Mike.
Yo! How’s it going?
Oh, you know. Pretty well, dude. So how did EC Headwear get its start?
It started probably when I was 14. The hot thing on Newschoolers was to crotchet hats and I got into that. Then I slowly started making them for my friends. Then through the Internet, primarily on Newschoolers, I started selling them and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and I wanted to do better things with it. It really just kept on growing.
Wait, how old are you?
I’m 18 now.
Holy shit, I thought you were at least in your twenties. Where do you get your eye for business?
I don’t know. I actually read online that some people think it's genetic but I don’t know. It's really just something I’ve always had in my life. When I was little I would always go to ski races and I would take the bibs from the racers and sell them. I had small companies pretty much my entire life and it's just been something I’ve always done.
the man behind the scenes. photo: Ida Benedetto
You’re in college?
Yes. I’m a freshman at St Mike’s in Vermont.
Why go to college if EC Headwear is doing so well?
The business takes up so much of my time and it almost is a full-fledged business and I’ve already gotten in contact with so many people by being here at school that will have a positive influence on EC Headwear in the future. I definitely think college is the way to go.
photo: Joe Tyson
Do you live in the dorms?
Yep, I do.
I do. I didn’t know him before hand. He’s from Virginia and it’s a little different type of scene for him up here. It’s not going too bad. (laughs)
(laughs) I can’t imagine what he was thinking when you guys were moving in as I imagine you had a ton of product with you.
(laughs) Yeah, I think he was definetly surprised. I think a lot of people up here have been surprised that someone our age runs a company. It's been interesting.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to process orders then try and make it to class on time.
The school has been awesome. St Mike’s hooked me up with an office. I’m actually in it right now. It’s a pretty legit office with shelves and everything! It’s nice because I can keep the boxes in here, process orders, do some design work, and make stickers. It's been really sick how supportive the school has been.
photo: Joe Tyson
Hook up the administration with hats?
I did. (laughs) I hooked the Presidential Board up with some Biggie Tall beanies and I’ve seen them rocking them around campus.
What do your parents think of this?
(laughs) They’re loving it. They like to claim me a lot to their friends. They’ve been so influential and helped me a lot and I definitely think they’re proud of me.
How did your sticker company come about?
That started after I had made EC Headwear. I wanted to get some stickers made for promotional purposes and I really liked the idea of being able to make whatever designs I wanted. I bought the machine to make stickers and then through some contacts, I started making stickers for Newschoolers, Ninthward, and a few other companies. It’s grown and had a positive impact on EC as well.
Andrew Hathaway. photo: Chip Kalback (http://www.chipkalback.com)
Back to EC, a real strong point of EC Headwear is your team. You’ve got Ahmet, Wallisch, Walker, Margetts. How did you approach these guys about being on the EC Headwear program?
Well, a lot of the guys like Wallisch, Ahmet, and Hathaway approached me because of the influence EC Headwear has on skiing. I’m so glad they came to me because these guys are shaping the way skiing is now and they are the next generation. Walker, he’s been with me since day one and that relationship has been really great. I think they’re happy to join the team because of the way EC Headwear works in this industry.
Matt Walker. photo: Chip Kalback (http://www.chipkalback.com)
How does it feel to see your riders wearing your gear in this year’s films such as Turbo or Reasons?
It’s probably one of the best feelings. Just knowing that something I’ve created has had an impact. I’ve seen so many people wearing the hats. I went to Mt Snow this past weekend and seeing the amount of skiers, and even snowboarders, supporting the movement. It’s one of the greatest feelings to see something out there that I put so much work into.
Looking for any new members for the team?
I’m talking with a couple people right now and I should have an announcement on the new members pretty soon.
I can’t really say anything yet but they’re definetly the next generation of skiing.
Being a smaller company, what kind of support do you try to offer your team?
I try to have the riders have a huge impact on design and everything that entails. With Walker trying to get into the X-Games last year, I talked with a few people to try and get him in. Obviously I hook them up with product and try to hype them as much as I can because I really think that they’re bringing skiing into a new direction.
You’re starting to branch out from just headwear into apparel and sunglasses. Your sunglasses made quite a splash. Symms was rocking them at IF3. When the Oakley frogskins came out they were hard to find and somewhat pricey. Was this the inspiration for making the shades?
My basis for EC Headwear is I want to come out with products that kids will like but also they can afford. I thought the frogskins were sick but I wasn’t willing to shell out one hundred bucks myself so I wanted to come up with a solution where I could come out with a sick product that was also affordable for everyone and looked pretty much the same. I think I achieved that and I’m hoping to do that with more products because I want to make skiing more affordable and make it more accessible for kids to purchase products they want.
photo: Ida Benedetto
Do you look in the forums for what kids are saying about styles?
Oh definitely. Without Newschoolers, I don’t think…well…EC Headwear wouldn’t be in existence without Newschoolers. I don’t think people realize the influence and impact Newschoolers has these days. I’m on Newschoolers anytime I’m not in class or doing something else, just reading what kids are saying about what styles are hot.
Are you planning on doing another spring line?
I am. I’m looking to get more into a cut and sew kind of thing, sort of like what Jiberish is doing. I’d like to put out more sweatshirts, t-shirts, hopefully some new collaborations with some other companies, and defineately another line of sunglasses.
What drives you to keep EC Headwear going, aside from the money?
Well, going to IF3 and seeing people wearing my stuff. I take pride in coming out with things that have a certain quality and make people happy. I like coming out with new products people can get hyped about and talk about on Newschoolers.
Do you think having a region-specific name like EC Headwear affects the people that are buying your products?
I try not to have the name be too influential of the brand. It started on the East Coast but its definitely scaled beyond the US. I have dealers in eight other countries. I don’t think the name has hindered my goal of making it a global movement and my riders are definetly holding it down on the West Coast.
photo: Joe Tyson
Where do you see the company going?
I’d like to see it on the level of…I don’t know…In my eyes, I’d like to see it get to the level of Oakley but that’s a little impossible. I really want to see it progress and have a stronger influence and impact and really help skiing become a sport that everyone likes and is accustomed to.
What companies do you look to, besides Oakley, for inspiration? What other companies are you into?
Grenade has always been one even though they’re pretty snowboard based. I feel like they impacted the scene pretty well. Obviously Jiberish. Their clothing is off the hook every year and they’re coming out with the most ridiculous things. Not just their clothing, I mean their edits are just off the hook.
What are your plans for this season?
This season I will be shredding at Stowe most of the time and trying to travel around to more comps. I should be sponsoring some higher level movies this year and coming out with more products. We’re going to try and come out with a small Christmas line and another line in the summer.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever bought with an EC Headwear cheque?
That’s a tough one. I don’t know. I try not to splurge too much because I want to make EC Headwear better. I keep reinvesting all of the money back into EC and I don’t really use too much on myself.
If you could say one thing to the people that have ever bought an EC Headwear product, what would you say?
I just want to say thanks because without them, I would be nowhere. They’ve really made this dream come true. It’s been awesome and I can’t wait to bring you guys more products year after year and keep your eyes open.
Thanks a lot Matt. I appreciate it man.
Yeah, no problem.
photo: Joe Tyson