Along with the rest of the skate-o-sphere, I was shocked to learn that Brian Anderson and Alex Olson quit Girl. It’s the equivalent of quitting pizza or sex–you’re crazy to give either up unless someone has a gun to your head. Rumors quickly surfaced that BA was starting a new brand out of the Skate Mental camp and anyone from Alex Olson to Dill and A.V.E. were going to skate for it. Eventually Anderson started leaking logos on Instagram for his new brand 3d skateboards.
While the name 3d might seem fairly innocuous to most, it really irked the inner skate nerd in me. What was the big deal about the name?
Well it was already used by a company started in Connecticut in 1990 by Matt Landon or Skimps if you know him well. Most people know Brian Anderson is from Connecticut–Groton to be specific–and he’s close in age to both myself and Landon, so he had to be aware of 3d Innovations right? Chrome Ball mentioned getting 3d’s DVD (which is still available here for only $5.00) and Quartersnacks posted a complimentary and detailed review of it in 2011 when it was released. Of course my surprise was nothing compared to how Landon felt when he heard about the new venture.
“A friend told me about it.” Landon said. “At that time it was no names just, ‘That new company those guys with contracts ending are starting.’ Then a few weeks later I heard from another friend that it was Brian Anderson. At that point it was a given that they knew of what I did with 3d since homie is from CT. These guys are amazing skateboarders and could call it anything. Why 3d?”
“I was a bit surprised and thought it was best to just contact Brian directly” said Landon about contacting BA. “I wanted to catch up and clear up all the static in the air, he got right back to me and to say the least he was super cool, we both agreed right off the bat that there is no need for drama.”
Landon reached out to BA, everything was cool, and Anderson cleared things up in his Jenkem interview about the name choice saying, “I didn’t wanna do it because it’s already an existing name in our culture but I just had a good feeling about it. Brad [Staba] liked it too and I’m happy how we chose to call it that.” Anderson also said, “I’ve been in touch with Matt from 3d Innovations. We’re on cool terms I do believe. Lots of companies and corporations in life and business have similar names. Restaurants, clothing, distributions..etc. So I think everything is fine in that respect.”
With things copacetic, it’s now time to look back at a raw, creative, and influential time in Boston skateboarding that launched careers and is unforgettable to those who were there.
3d Innovations not only introduced Jahmal Williams and Copley Square to many, it was once home to Robbie Gangemi, Jeff Pang, Matt Reason, Mike Graham, Joey Pepper, and even Brian Lotti briefly. But the fact that 3d existed at all was a big fucking deal, because Boston wasn’t seen as the “skate city” it is now. They were a big component in shining a light on the city, when it was a mostly ignored location.
In the early ’90 the skate industry in the Northeast – the whole East Coast actually – was tiny. PJ Ladd (Who once was flow for 3d Innovations) hadn’t had a wonderful horrible life yet, Jereme Rogers was tattooless, and if you rode a skateboard you could probably name every park and shop in your entire state. That’s really fucking small.
Landon recalled the brand’s salad days saying, “I wasn’t trying to do anything big–it was just for friends and it grew. After printing my first few shirts in graphic arts class as a senior in high school, I just liked to create things. A fellow skateboarder named Denis, his parents owned a screen-printing place in New Milford, CT called Fat City. Naturally I got a job their reclaiming screens and was able to have them print stuff for me. Then around 1990 I went to an art store and met Matt Pesci, who turned out to not only be great skater but an amazing artist. After helping me with art for a few random shirts we started a brand called 3d Innovations.”
”The concept of East Coast pro wasn’t tangible, sustainable, or even an option.”
Every skater then who paid attention was aware of small East Coast brands like Big Top, Nimbus, Shut, or even a little operation called Zoo York because the sheer existence of East Coast brands was an achievement. The industry wasn’t just rooted in California, it WAS California and for a long time the only way to “make it” in skating was to move there, get coverage, and get sponsored. The concept of East Coast pro–if your name wasn’t Fred Smith–wasn’t tangible, sustainable, or even an option, so starting a brand was a death wish.
Anytime Boston was featured in a magazine it blew our minds and we studied the fuck out of it. Just typing that makes me think of the Harvard Crew sweatshirt Rom is wearing in the March 1990 issue of Thrasher while skating the hospital banks and the big chip on the nose of his board, or Adam Ayer’s Transworld cover in November of 1991. Ayer was wearing Vans ERAs and candy cane socks, while most of us were wearing puffy Airwalks or Converse Cons–we thought he was insane for skating handrails in “low tops.”
When asked why they chose the name 3d Innovations, Landon spoke of his background in the thriving hardcore scene and the early days of the brand. “Before we came up with the name, the shirts were were making would be mostly be sold at a hardcore music venue called the Anthrax in Norwalk ,CT. There was a ‘Racism Sucks’ one, another with a guy sticking his head out a window screaming, ‘God Dam #?*#ing Skateboarders,’ and another one that said, ‘Drugs Destroy Dreams,’ all with amazing letters that Matt had hand drawn. Yes, we were straight edge.”
As the hardcore scene moved into the ‘90s and the music changed, the Matts saw 3d evolving too, “After a bit of time and I guess you could say the edge wore off, ha! Matt and I were hanging out–he was sketching stuff in his book as usual–and it was decided we needed some form of brand name to put everything under. One of us said, ‘How bout DDD’ then the other oh wait, ‘3d.’ Boom! We tagged on ‘productions’ because at that time we were listening to By All Means Necessary daily. Eventually it became ‘innovations,’ because it sounded cooler and Matt started sketching out logos.”
Though he founded the brand in suburban Connecticut, it really took off when Landon moved to Boston. 3d was being featured in Slap and Thrasher during a pivotal time in skateboarding. Fashion was firing off in a new direction and the rip off graphic game was born. Sure 3d’s riff on the Hawaiian Punch dude and A&W logo were awesome, but they also had a mix of original designs too. Even their appropriation of a large chunk of the anime movie Akira used in their first promo video Fat Juicy Clothing was on trend and predated Hook Ups.
Through their relationships with local screen-printing shops, they were able to produce T-Shirts easily, but Landon wasn’t content with only making shirts. “Matt (Pesci) was an amazing artist and always doodling, so we had countless images to play with.” Landon said. “While we were doing that I would also hand make garments on my sewing machine, starting with drawstring pants, cargo pants, and shorts. Eventually things kept growing and I had enough stores buying stuff that we were able to start creating denim jeans and other products produced in California.”
The brand wasn’t just important as an example of DIY business, it defined a time and started the clock on an inspiring time in Boston skate history. Boston plenty of legendary spots that were primarily transition based. The Cambridge Pool, ZT Maximus, the aforementioned hospital banks, and Turtles, (side note–seeing footage of Andy Howell skate there in Useless Wooden Toys tripped me out more than the ending of Seven or any Shyamalan flick) but as street skating was gaining popularity and ledge tricks were coming into play a new spot downtown became a focal point.
The new fountain erected in 1991 in Copley Square was described to me as “Boston’s EMB,” and no less than 24 hours after hearing about it, I was nosesliding its main ledge on a Justin Girard everslick until my bolts and baseplate were flat. It became a meet up spot, place to drink and smoke, and eventually, THE place to get harassed by the police. It was also prominently featured in Jahmal Williams’ part in Fat Juicy Clothing and gave Boston an identity. The Copley fountain absolutely was essential in the scene growing and 3d was right there. It was cool to wear Blind jeans or some gross colored Big Deals, but there was a different feeling when you wore something from your area, who the guys killing it repped and that you wanted to ride for.
A flurry of shops and brands sprouted up in the early ‘90s. My friends and I would daydream about brands we were going to start as we sat in Big Dig traffic, itching to get into the city to skate. Whether it was making bootleg Phillies Blunt T-Shirts in “industrial arts” class or printing shitty stickers for some mythological one word name company that never happened, we were trying to do shit and 3d was part of the reason we even gave it a shot.
Beacon Hill Skates held the city down during the lean years, but skater owned shops Placid Planet, Liquid Spaceship, Positive, and Landon’s own shop Hanger 18 further defined this new era and grew Boston into a real destination. Landon talked about moving 3d from his apartment to an actual space and how it lead to a brick and mortar shop, “In 1994, to fill the growing demand we had created, I rented an office space to be the home base of operations for 3d. With help from friends and team riders it became a retail skate shop and we named it Hanger 18. Just like 3d, it grew and grew and grew. Before I knew it people that I did not know were walking in the door asking for a set up, and buying 3d shirts in the process.”
”As the ‘90s progressed we didn’t have to chase California–that hot chick playing hard to get, it was coming to us.”
As the ‘90s progressed we didn’t have to chase California–that hot chick playing hard to get–it was coming to us. Jahmal [Williams] was riding for the best teams, Robbie put everyone on blast by boardsliding the knobbed Union Square rail, and a guy known as just Panama Dan became a legend. The city even tricked people from nicer climates including Will Harmon, Jerry Fowler, Matt Willigan , and a bunch of other Panamanians to relocate there.
Matt Landon and 3d Innovations were staples of Boston during a highly influential time and despite the brand never opening a flagship store in Times Square or making anyone rich, it left an undeniable mark on a generation. Being a trailblazer doesn’t always mean you’ll get the fame or the recognition, but that’s not a measure of impact.
A full history of 3d can be found on their official site http://3d1990.com/