Chuck Guarino is a rare breed in the fashion world: part jock, part rocker, all Jersey, he makes a living doing exactly what he wants. Pretty lucky motherfucker, no? He's one of those dudes who was too cool to be a total jock but too athletically inclined to sit still, so instead of football he turned to bodyboarding (after a brief childhood stint as a competitive rollerhockey player--we're talking roller skates, not rollerblades here). His t-shirt company, Plastic People, is now in its sixth year.
Combining the quick-disappearing scumbaggery of the Lower East Side (his studio is in a basement on Ludlow Street a few doors down from Motor City) with a bro-ish surf-punk 'tude results in some pretty fucking rad t-shirts. Guarino is also one half of denim-and-leather masterminds THECAST, a clothing line/storefront run out of the same Ludlow basement Plastic People calls headquarters. But while THECAST is serious menswear at a serious pricepoint, Plastic People's tees will only set you back thirty bones. Plus if you say his name really fast it sounds like Chuckarino, which is pretty awesome.
Vice: Hey Chuck, it's time to throw down some questions for Vice. New York is hardly known for its surf punk culture, yet you run Plastic People out of your studio in the Lower East Side.
Chuck Guarino: I was born just outside the city in Newark, New Jersey, in ’76 and moved down to Monmouth Beach about an hour south when I was seven. The town was basically a mix of surf punks and metal heads. Everyone had a skateboard or a BMX and a bodyboard or surfboard. Everyone wore Vans and we’d always hang out at our local surf and skate shop at North End. Then there were our metal head friends with their cutoff denim vests with either Maiden or Priest on the backs. So basically a lot of the Plastic People designs are influenced from that time. It’s a mix of collage, words, and the good old salad days.
Is there much of a rivalry between the bodyboarding and surf communities? It seems less obvious than the 90s skateboarding vs rollerblading feuds in which skateboarding obviously won. Everyone's out there getting their asses kicked for the love of the waves, but surfing has a much larger pull on the American psyche. It has its own cultural signifiers. Does bodyboarding pull from the surfer viewpoint or does it have its own distinct culture?
I think the rivalry still prevails in California more than anywhere, a place with an enormous amount of surfers. East Coast is pretty bad as well but overall I don’t think its nearly as bad as it used to be. I mean, everybody is just psyched to get in the ocean and ride some waves. It’s a fun time no matter what you’re riding. Bodyboarders (or boogieboarding, which most people like to call it), I’d like to think we have our own distinct culture. It's somewhat the same in that we both ride waves for fuck’s sake. You can do the sickest airs and air reverses and get barreled. We have our own industry…our own magazines and our own clothing and wetsuit companies. In this day and age, the level of riding is really high. Bodyboarders ride pretty intense waves and waves that are conducive for it and nobody can deny that. Heavy reefs and sick crazy wedges. A lot of the surfers towing into a lot of the reefs around the world right now, the majority of them have been founded and ridden by bodyboarders first. I think there was definitely a time back in the day when bodyboarding wasn’t as respected by surfers, but today its changed a lot. Surfers who ride real waves respect bodyboarders who do it functionally and do it well. Same goes for us toward surfers who ride waves well. Ask any surfer what they think about Mike Stewart. He is the king of our sport and probably the best waterman in the world.
Where are the sickest spots you've hit the waves? Any plans to get out there soon? I’ve been all over, but I’d have to say Hawaii and Australia. Best waves in the world hands down.
I went out last week at Rockaway, but it’s summer and the waves are usually pretty soft. Winter is the best time of year to get in the water. When its cold and nasty as fuck.
What the hell is a "stain?"
A stain is a person who always leaves his mark. Pretty much the entire Plastic People crew.
Can you give us a brief rundown of the Plastic People crew?
Well, there’s Mike Murphy--he’s my business partner and he is super underground and rushes the heaviest waves. Murph fucking rules. Andre Botha, the most eccentric hell rat from Durban. He’s a great artist too. He comes through New York a few times a year. Then there’s Dave Hubbard from Hawaii (shreds freesurfing and is on the world tour) and then theres the Aussies….Toby, Max, Simon, Leif, Crowley, and Little Sammy. The Ozzie rats are cool as shit and shred and party hard.
I know you partied hard and seriously thrashed Australia last year, you wanna tell us a little about that?
Yeah it was called The Hellfire Tour. We packed all the riders in the White Knight, a massive white 15-passenger van. In between scoring waves, doing promos, and throwing parties, the boys were getting head in the back seat throughout the trip. Your typical wild shit. We have a strong following in Australia, so we definitely plan on doing another promo trip next year!
New York street style is such an integral part of your other line, THECAST. In fact, you are a pretty busy motherfucker. Where does one design concept end and the other begin? Each line has a fairly distinct identity but both have this shades-and-leather-jacket punk rock appeal.
Yeah, THECAST and Plastic People are different. THECAST is really rock 'n’ roll but a little more high end, focusing mostly only denim, leather, and tees. Plastic People is a mix of D.I.Y. art, punk, and surf culture, the city mixed with the ocean. More importantly, both lines are made in New York. Not in China.
You've been using Cramps lyrics in some of your t-shirts (I want that All Women Are Bad tee...bad). What other rockers are floating your boat right now?
Same stuff I always listen to. All the old punk and metal ya know, like The Stooges, Dead Boys, The Misfits, Adolescentts, Siouxsie….to Motorhead and Hawkwind, Priest, Maiden, and Sabbath. This is what keeps me going through the day and night. No pussy shit.
Do you just have like a secret stash of awesome naked lady images or something? It's been a theme with THECAST and Plastic People for a while now.
Yeah I’ve got the raddest old stack of nudies. It’s an essential element to the collages and art I make.
Any plans to expand beyond tees, hoodies, and shades?
Yeah, we’re doing some denim and surf trunks for next season. The samples look sick!
You collaborated with J. Penry in the past, which resulted in some pretty raw tees. Any future artist collaborations in the works?
Penry’s old Plastic stuff is still talked about, it was so raw and so badass. I don’t know, probably Brendan Donnelly or Wes Lang. Both are really good friends of mine and my favorite artists.