Ollie Lock Wallride Nollie Tail Grabs in an Alcohol Blanket. Photo: Henry Kingsford / Interview by Jacob Sawyer
It’s important for us here at Slam to be able to stock and support smaller companies and watch them grow, they are often the ones who are keeping things interesting. This is certainly true of Alcohol Blanket whose first few shipments sold out, and whose shirts and caps referencing iconic films definitely struck a chord with all of us. These profiles are put together to offer you more knowledge about the brands we stock direct from their creators. It was a pleasure to speak with Ollie Lock to find out much more about Alcohol Blanket which he operates while working at the Palace London shop and skating for Skateboard Cafe. Read on for the company origins, inspirations and plans for the future. It all starts with a Gumtree purchase in Bristol…
Ollie, stoked to connect with you on this brand profile for your company Alcohol Blanket. Let’s start at the beginning. When did skateboarding enter your life?
Probably when I was about 11 years old playing a Tony Hawk game or something. I remember one of my friends doing it before me and getting me into it and then from there a lot of friends stopping. But I carried on throughout school and then eventually made friends out of school and continued. But I would say about 11 years old.
Do you remember your first board? Did you buy it at Fifty Fifty?
My first board was one I borrowed from my friend and then I just took it from him. My first actual complete wasn’t from Fifty Fifty it was from somewhere else. I think I had the choice between a Fireball one and for £5 more I could have got an Alien Workshop one. I got the Fireball one because I thought it looked better because it had a fire on the grip, obviously not knowing the difference. I had that one for years and then had to get a whole new set up because I realised that whole board was rubbish.
There’s a sick photo of you ollieing the stairs as a kid at Lloyds with tie dye trucks.
Oh yeah those were from Fifty Fifty. I really liked Royal trucks and I thought it was the best of both worlds if I got Royal trucks and they’re tie dye. I had those for years, I was stuck with them for a long time
Bristol has a big DIY history on many levels. What was the scene like in Bristol as far as nurturing your creativity?
When I was younger I wasn’t really into making stuff, clothes, art, music or anything. I just skateboarded and that was it. I know now lots of people in Bristol are doing lots of different things and it seems really cool and everyone is supporting each other. I don’t think I was as aware of that when I was younger. If I had been more into certain things back then I’m sure I would probably have noticed it. I only started realising when I began working at Fifty Fifty, seeing how things worked and who was involved in what parts of the industry.
Ollie Lock wallie frontside 360 contortion at Lloyds in Bristol. Photo: Leo Sharp
In terms of learning about putting your own thing out there, you worked with Rich Smith at Fifty Fifty when he was getting Skateboard Cafe going?
Yeah, Skateboard Cafe had been going steady for a while before I met him. When it started out it was just a skate video and he had been doing tees and boards for a while when I sort of started skating with him. We started off skating together when I was just covering shifts at the shop and he’d be the other person working then we’d go skating after work. From there when we were both kind of working there full time, if we weren’t skating we’d talk about Skate Cafe. We would both design most of the Fifty clothing too so we’d be constantly talking about getting stuff made or what works with what. That was helpful when I started something. I had all the knowledge he had taught me and I could use some of the same contacts we had through Fifty Or Cafe. He helped me quite a lot with Photoshop and making graphics and how to do product shots for a website
He mentioned in the Skateboard Cafe Profile we did a while back that he would bounce ideas back and forth with you. What stuff have you worked on together?
I’m not very good at graphic design, I can do basic Photoshop stuff. Rich can do all of the actual graphics and he gets a lot of contributing artists to do stuff also. As far as me and him working on stuff I would help with some of the film boards. Using an image from a film on a board or a tee and seeing what works. It would be more a case of him showing me things and me telling him what I thought. It would be more us discussing the film stuff throughout the day, the actual graphics would be left to him and then he would show me what he had done.
You were on flow from Polar at the time right? Before getting on Skateboard Cafe.
Yeah through Mike at Keen. He really helped me out. I was skating and working at Fifty and when Polar first started I was buying the boards and clothing. Then Mike came to Bristol, he knew some people who I knew there. I guess he saw that I really liked the brand and he thought to send me some boards which was really cool and I skated them for quite a few years. I was really stoked on it. It was probably one of the best companies to get stuff from around that time when it was very popular. I felt very lucky to be getting all the stuff I would be buying or wanting to get. Somehow I was getting bits for free which I am really thankful for.
As far as making T-Shirts for the fun of it in the early days, that was when you were working at Fifty Fifty? Early Patrick Swayze shirts..
Yeah through working there and seeing all of the different things that we would make I got really into the process of it being made. I really liked embroidery and I was pushing to get everything we made embroidered, I just really liked how it looked. I ended up buying an embroidery machine which I found on Gumtree. I used it for a few months, I taught myself how to use it and was enjoying using it. I thought if I want to continue using it as much as I wanted to I might as well make stuff but I just needed a name or a reason to be making stuff every day.
I really liked embroidery and I was pushing to get everything we made embroidered, I just really liked how it looked
The tools of the trade. The embroidery machine which spawned alcohol blanket
So you began by embroidering the cuffs of trousers and stuff.
Yeah to be honest I just ruined a bunch of my own clothes, old T-Shirts and pairs of trousers I had I would just embroider them and then I realised I was going to run out of clothes before I knew it. I bought some blank T-Shirts but I didn’t really know what to do on them and was trying to think of something. I can’t remember what order it came in, there was a Patrick Swayze shirt I had made in the past. One of the original T-Shirts was just made at Vistaprint or something. Then when I had the name I realised I could make that exact T-Shirt but add a little logo. That was where the photo T-Shirts came from. Images of shirts that I already had, a logo addition to things I had already made.
Where did the name come from, whose slang sparked it?
It’s quite a hard thing to force yourself to come up with a name for something when you don’t really know what it is. I was with my girlfriend and I think we were going to the Fifty Fifty 25 year anniversary party they had. We were walking there in Winter and she hadn’t brought enough layers. She said “I can’t wait to get there, I really need an alcohol blanket”. I remember at the time just thinking that was quite a funny thing to put on a hoody to try and warm people up. I thought it was good at the time and forgot about it.
Then a few weeks later I remembered and thought it was a perfectly good name if I was going to be making hoodies and stuff like that. That’s where the name came from, luckily enough people know the term and find it funny enough to want to buy something. When I was working in the shop I’d be really stoked when someone came in and bought one but sometimes it would be a little kid. I’d be wondering what their parents reaction would be “of all the things they could have bought’. There’s always going to be some complaints about some of the stuff, every skate shop gets that I guess.
I can’t wait to get there, I really need an alcohol blanket
So that’s when Alcohol Blanket was born. Did you get good responses to making stuff early on?
Early on a lot of people who I knew would ask me for stuff. I was still making all of it at my house so I could kind of do custom colour ways for people if they wanted. I could buy a blank hoody and ask somebody what colour embroidery they wanted so that initially helped quite a bit. It was a lot of my friends helping me out which I really thank them for.
From selling quite a few bits that way, I thought if I just had a website with some basic colours on it, if someone saw it and wanted something they could find it from searching the name online. It was a simple website. That’s when I decided to do the graphic T-Shirts too so if someone didn’t want the embroidery shirt there was something else there. It started like that.
The embroidery is no longer in house?
I stopped doing all the embroidery about a year ago. When I moved to London I didn’t have enough space to bring the machine with me so I decided I needed to sort out what I would do. Before I made the move I wanted to figure out a way. I found a place that could do the embroidery and I could still use the T-Shirts I had been using before. Obviously I enjoy doing embroidery a lot but it would take me a couple of hours to do a couple of T-Shirts if I really tried to focus on it. I didn’t want to make something I wasn’t fully happy with obviously.
Then when I found this place, they are able to do 100 T-Shirts in a day. Although I really enjoy doing it, it’s easier to have that taken care of. When I get home from work it would be quite relaxing to sit down and do that for a few hours but when you’re short on time it’s a bit more stressful.
I saw a Carhartt gilet you had with the Fleetwood Mac Rumours font embroidered on it. Did you do that?
Yeah that was one of the earlier things I made. I would make these embroidery files, find a piece of my clothing to put it on and do that. I started very carefully making an embroidery file and then testing it. Then I’d throw it on something without testing it first, put it on some trousers and completely ruining them and realising I should take a bit more care before I did this to everything I own.
Where does the Patrick Swayze and Elvis obsession come from?
When I was growing up my parents really liked Elvis and there was a lot of cheesy memorabilia in our house. I always found it really funny, like mirrors and pictures. Obviously I listened to a bit of his music but it’s more the image, one I’ve seen for a while that I find quite funny. The Patrick Swayze thing I think, it’s through watching films but I could have picked anyone and it just happened to be him. I think his image on a T-Shirt is funny. Most of the stuff that I make is because it entertains me. Patrick Swayze is someone people will look at who is interesting enough to warrant wearing a T-Shirt of.
And John Travolta
Same kind of thing. People look at him and think he is a funny guy. He’s a bit hit or miss though, some people definitely don’t want him on a T-Shirt but it fits well with the direction I was moving in.
But entertainment wise you like films from the era you are referencing.
Films with either of them in are always going to be entertaining. If I’m sitting down to watch something and struggling with what to pick, as long as it’s with someone like that in, even if it’s a crap film at least you’re going to laugh. Sometimes it will be the opposite and you watch something quite interesting.
Favourite Swayze movie? You focused on Point Break.
Mine is probably Roadhouse. That’s the first film I watched and made a T-Shirt from it. What a hilarious film, so many quotes, that’s definitely my favourite.
I remember him stitching himself up at the beginning being pretty impactful when I was a kid.
[Laughs] Yeah and always having his medical records on him because it saves time.
What’s your favourite item you have made so far and what was the best received?
Personally that I have made, I did a crew neck a while back which had some flowers on it. Really liked that because of the way I was embroidering it, it was quite a lot of stitches and I didn’t want to get half way through and the machine eat up the thread. Because my machine wasn’t the best it would do that every now and again. So a crew neck used to take probably 5 hours in total to make. I sold a few but I didn’t end up making that many because with the time they took I couldn’t really do them after work. I might try and get something like that made again down the line but making those were my favourite process I think.
As far as what’s been well received, it changes a lot, sometimes it’s something plainer. I like making some of the hoodies with random colours on because I used to just see black and grey hoodies all the time working in a skate shop. I thought making colourful ones probably won’t sell as much but will stand out and hopefully break up what most people are selling.
I really liked the Ghost cap.
Oh yeah, the caps as well. I wanted to do something else alongside T-Shirts and hoodies and I didn’t want to just put another logo on a hat. I know a lot of people have done hats with films on. I just thought I’m not going to think of something completely groundbreaking I may as well just put some things that I enjoy on a hat.
Is bowling a big deal to you, you made a few actual bowling shirts and your logo shirt with pins?
I would like to say it is and that I’m good at it. It’s more something where I made a logo with it and it fit with the name. The idea of the bowling alley, having some beers and everyone pretending they’re good at bowling. I had done plain logo T-Shirts for a while and thought doing one with something else there would make it a bit more interesting. I had already made the bowling one before so I had the idea but it fitted a bit better.
You must be stoked to have it in a bunch of shops in the UK plus Japan and Sweden…
Yeah when I originally started it in Fifty I hit up Welcome because a lot of people in Leeds had ordered stuff through my website and I had spoken to a couple of them on Instagram. I asked if I sent them a PDF of designs would they be interested in taking a look and I’m really glad that they did. From there I had a couple of shops to hit up in mind. I didn’t’ want loads of people because I was still making it at that point and I didn’t want it to get out of hand. Eventually a few more shops hit me up who I had thought about asking, including yourselves.
I didn’t think that many people would be keen but it was really surprising to see they were interested in getting it. Then randomly one morning I woke up to an email and a guy in Japan had hit me up wanting some bits which was really funny. I think he wanted some of the Patrick Swayze and John Travolta T-Shirts. I don’t know if the name translates so well in other languages. It’s not a well known term in Europe so to see people elsewhere wanting it, it’s going to be interesting to see if it’s as well received.
It’s become a bigger operation.
Yeah now that I’m not doing it all myself it’s relaxing to know that if somebody does ask for stuff I don’t have to stress to hard or worry about taking time off work to do it or something.
So the focus is to skate and run the company and you work at the Palace shop in London.
Yeah so now I can just work and skate. Then when I’m at home on my days off I don’t have to spend too many hours doing stuff. The company getting bigger has meant I don’t have to do it all myself and actually given me more time which is great. When I first moved to London I didn’t skate as much as I was planning on doing. I was a bit intimidated at first by how big the city was when I moved here. So when I ended up getting a job I became more comfortable but then had a job so didn’t have as much time to skate. But now everything is nice and manageable which is good.
Matt [Warder] said you almost had a job at Slam.
Yeah before I moved Matt said that if I ever needed a job to just hit him up. I had some savings I was planning on using, I was predicting I could use them for three or four months. I completely underestimated how much it would cost just to live in London so my budget only ended up lasting one or two months before I was properly thinking about getting a job. I ended up going for a pint with Matlock [Bennett-Jones] who works at Palace. The next morning he texted me and asked if I wanted a job, he’d spoken to Tom [Tanner] and Nick [Stansfield] the managers. I was thinking about starting to look for something and it was sorted just in time which was good.
Have you been managing to skate a lot again?
Yeah with lockdown and being on furlough for a while. When lockdown eased and you could see your friends with unlimited exercise I was definitely taking advantage of it then. Now the shop is open with slightly reduced hours and everyone is working a bit less, I get to skate on my days off.
Are you working on anything for Skate Cafe or Carhartt?
There is a full length Carhartt video that everyone has been working on for a little bit. That’s meant to come out at the end of the year but I imagine it’s going to be a bit of a struggle now because of various restrictions. There was a trip to London they did a few weeks ago and they were planning on coming back from Paris to get various bits people might have missed out on. But while they were here it was announced that if you come from France you have to quarantine so I don’t think they’ll get back here.
Everyone is going to have to film with their respective filmers. With Cafe, in Bristol they are just always out filming. I think Rich is probably planning to get something out before the end of the year as well. Another 10 minute VX clip, that’s all I’m working towards at the moment.
I shot photos of Mikey Patrick in a hood a while back now for the site. I know you flow him stuff, is there an official Alcohol Blanket squad?
Friends who ask I have sent stuff to, if someone is interested in something. I don’t really know who I have given stuff to, I don’t keep a note of that, I probably should. Mikey [Patrick] has always really supported it which is nice and Zach Riley as well. Matlock [Bennett-Jones] I have given some hoodies to and there are quite a few people in Bristol. What’s good about there not being anything official is that I can give it to people who have clothing sponsors and they can just say they’re wearing their mates hoody.
Where did the Swayze mirror illustration in the new season come from?
That was an image I found on Google that someone had drawn. I don’t even know how I found it. I re-traced it on paper because the quality of the image wasn’t too good. I printed out a photo of it and then drew over it with Sharpie and added the border which made it look like a mirror. It’s like somebody looking in the mirror but the image is a bit weird
The new season sees Dante’s Peak take centre stage.
With the Dante’s Peak stuff I like doing at least one thing that’s a full colour photo tee, I remembered that film as it was one I’d watched recently when I was coming up with things to make. I had forgotten how good it was.
Point Break was an epic one too.
I think that was my favourite one to be honest because It’s got Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze on it.
The inspiration well isn’t going to run dry anytime soon.
No, not that I’m very good at planning things but in my head I’ll think of something and try to remember to use it at some point, then I forget. Then I think some things come back to me. There are probably things I have planned to do by now but forgotten, then I’ll remember and they’ll come out later.
Is it still as fun putting these bits out there?
Yeah it’s different to when I started and I was making it all myself. I enjoyed it then but I was always worried that someone was going to complain that something was faulty when I had just made it. Now it’s more that seeing something you have designed being made is equally as satisfying but in a slightly different way.
The coffee mug is rad.
Oh yeah that’s one of the few things from the new season which has turned up which I actually have at the moment. I thought that would go quite well Dante’s Peak on the mug.
Tell us something about Alcohol Blanket we don’t know…
All of the ring pulls, which I put on the drawstring of all of the hoodies, are from beers that I have collected and that I take from my friends when they are done with a can. They’re not soft drinks, I made sure they all come from beers. I want full authenticity on them. If someone gives me a couple of ring pulls I need to see where they’re from. I can’t just have loose ring pulls people have collected.
All of the ring pulls, which I put on the drawstring of all of the hoodies, are from beers that I have collected and that I take from my friends when they are done with a can
It is inspiring watching anyone putting things out there on their own terms. We are stoked it’s working for you and stoked it’s in the shop. Are you thinking of expanding things or happy with it moving how it is?
I’m quite happy with how it is. Every time there is something new coming out it’s quite nice that one or two new shops take it on. That progression is a lot nicer for me. Rather than anything getting out of hand all at once. I’m not looking to make any money off it. It’s very self sustaining at the moment which is nice. Anything I make from it I can put into making a few more bits the next time around. How it is at the moment, it’s still fun. When it stops being fun I’ll have to think about what to do next. Hopefully I can have a few more years of making things that I enjoy and other people like them.
What advice would you give anyone looking to start their own thing?
If you have the option to make things yourself, try to do that for as long as possible. Because as soon as you don’t have that option anymore to make custom bits for people, for me it lost quite a unique part of the whole thing. At first I could do it all myself and put someones name on something or give them a custom colourway. When I was no longer able to do that I thought I wish I had kept that for a little bit longer.
Thanks to Ollie for taking the time out to answer these questions and let us into his world. Thanks also to Henry Kingsford and Leo Sharp for the photos. Be sure to check out the latest arrivals from Alcohol Blanket.