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Time is on his side, and on his sweatband: Q&A with Jonathan Stephens of TIMEBANDITS Watches

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Jonathan Stephens, designer and CEO of TIMEBANDITS Watches, talks about his art, his cosmology, and his X-Files days.

Last week all my posts were about bandits. What do you like about the idea of bandits as part of your brand?

I like the idea of bandits in TIMEBANDITS because it represents "one who is Superior to Time," and it means that you are a bandit of time--you have the ability to control your own time in your own universe.

I came up with the name TIMEBANDITS after obsessively brainstorming for the perfect watch brand name that would fit the kind of designs I had envisioned--I'm talking about pages and pages of names in a notebook. It's funny: after all of these pages with hundreds of names, I kept coming back to TIMEBANDITS. As if I was drawn to it somehow. It just completely made sense to me.

Do people assume you've had some epiphany while watching the Terry Gilliam film of the same name?

The concept of my watch line really has nothing to do with the TIMEBANDITS movie from 1981. Although Terry Gilliam is a visionary director I admire, the watch line is a completely separate entity in my eyes. I do get that a lot from those knowing fans of the ggTIMEBANDITS movie, "Hey isn't that a movie?"; and I say "Why yes, it is," and then the conversation moves on to the concept and design of the watches. There might be a correlation; however, I never really focus on it because I'm always thinking of crazy new watches to make.

Read on for a chance to win a free watch as Jonathan solicits your own encounters with the supernatural...

You worked on the X-Files for a number of years. How do you think your time there has influenced your work and your aesthetic as a designer?

By having the fortunate opportunity of working on The X-Files series for 4 seasons, I truly believe that I developed into a fine-tuned, hard working artist. I worked as the assistant to Kim Manners who was the main director and Co-Executive Producer of the show, and I also worked as a still photographer. Kim was my filmmaking mentor. Although I may not be directing film now, I learned life lessons from Kim. He taught me how to be focused, to have vision when communicatingimages-4.jpg with others, and most important of all - to start and finish an ambitious project with absolute clarity.

Regarding my aesthetic in my watch designs, visual art, and photography, The X-Files had a huge impact on me. A lot of my photography on the show consisted of taking forensic photos of bodies at crime scenes. If you look at my work, you can tell that even my hyper-surreal color images even have a haunting quality to them. I'm very much into the dark, haunting, crazy, carnival, colorful side of imagery. I am the opposite of a black and white photographer. I like to push colors to their limits. I like to take shots of artificial light at night. I like painting with long exposures of light. That's my kinda thing.

Do you think it's important to be punctual, and do you think wearing a watch increases punctuality? There have been arguments that cell phones make people more likely to be late--they'll call and let you know, but they'll still be late.

To be honest, yes. I do think it's important to be punctual and have absolute respect for the other party.

Yes, by wearing a TIMEBANDITS watch, you will definitely be more punctual. I'm always punctual--ohhhh that's because I wear a watch on each wrist--he, he...I mean I have to self-promote, and besides I have a problem with just wearing one watch style. I feel like I have to be diverse.

I think the functionality of being able to tell the time at any given minute absolutely provides structure in one's life. Now we have smart-phones and PDA devices that help to consolidate structure, but I think there will be even more fusion in the future and people will be able to do anything with a device on their wrist or in their hand. It is my firm belief that an individual should have a blueprint--a script, if you will--and then know when to stray off it--but see, the blueprint is always there to come back to; it's a train that you inevitably have to jump back on, because that's the beat that the rest of this planet is moving to.

Do you remember the first watch you had as a kid?

Yes, it was a Texas Instruments black digital watch--way retro-looking. Believe it or not, I still have it somewhere in one of my old watch collections.

Do you have a story about sleeping in/not hearing your alarm clock?

Yeah, when I first moved to LA, I was a PA on a Music Video shoot. I showed up 3 hours late to the shoot in the middle of the desert with the camera truck--oooops. Needless to say, I was fired on the spot--the producers didn't even see me. They were at base camp.images-31.jpg

Do you think it's possible to steal time?

Yes, you can steal time. You can lose time. You can gain time. You have the ability to perceive time any way you like. You are the creator of your own universe.

Jost Burgi invented the minute hand in 1577--it was part of a clock made for the astronomer Tycho Brahe, who needed an uber-accurate clock. I'm wondering if there's anyone you think is the Tycho Brahe of our day...

I think Stephen Hawking is the Tycho Brahe of our day. He is looking at the bigger picture of time, space, and matter. Because we have to remember that the Earth is only a small part of the bigger equation that makes everything move the way it does. I can't even imagine what future generations will learn about the further realizations of time and how our planet relates to other relative matter in the universe.

I love Stephen Hawking. We have the same birthday. (uh, Beat.) When do you think time moves slowest?

When you're 8 years old in 3rd grade waiting for the last bell to ring.

How much time does it take to make a TIMEBANDITS watch?

Eeeehhhhhh a couple of hours.

The first person reported to wear a wristwatch was Blaise Pascal. Who was the first person (besides you) to wear a TIMEBANDITS watch?

It was Sheryl Crow. She bought two--one for her and one for a friend.

Which X-Files cast member do you think had the biggest issues with the nature of time?

Obviously, CSM. images5.jpgThe infamous Cigarette Smoking Man played by William B.Davis. He was dying of cancer and had limited time on the planet. He wanted to work with the alien colonists and the human scientists at providing a solution for the survival of the human race under the domination of the coming colonization.

Most of your watches come with sweat bands. What do you like about sweat bands?

I came up with the idea for the sweatband watch purely out of a comfort reason. It is absolutely the most comfortable watch you'll ever put on. I also was drawn to the width of a sweatband and the wow factor that came with it--ok this watch is noticeable. I still get people stopping me all of the time asking--"Hey man, where did you get that watch?" Another thing I like about sweatbands is they take me right back to the 70's. They just have this retro vibe about them.

How do you feel about sweat?

I actually sweat pretty easily. I'm more of a fall/winter person. To tell you the truth, our sweatband watches keep you really warm during the cold weather. So that's an added bonus.

Jonathan would love to know a) your most beloved X-Files episode and b) which of his watches is your favorite...And, in the spirit of X-Files-dom, he's even agreed to comp a watch to the mental_floss reader who shares the most convincing/harrowing real life supernatural occurrence.

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11 Classic Facts About Converse Chucks
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iStock

Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the early 20th century, but they haven’t changed much—until recently. In 2015, The Chuck II—a new line of Converse that looks much the same as the original shoe but with a little more padding and arch support—hit stores. In honor of the kicks' staying power, here are 11 facts about Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.  

1. They were originally athletic shoes. 

The Converse All-Star debuted in 1917 as an athletic sneaker. It quickly became the number one shoe for basketball, then a relatively new sport (basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, but the NBA wasn't founded until 1946). By the late 1940s, most of the NBA sported Chucks. They remain the best-selling basketball shoes of all time, even though very few people wear them for basketball anymore. (Many teams switched to leather Adidas in the late ‘60s.)

2. Converse previously made rain boots.

The company started in 1908 as a rubber shoe company that produced galoshes.  

3. The All-Star design hasn’t really changed since 1917.

The updated Chuck II is Converse’s first real attempt to update its flagship product since the early 20th century. The company is understandably reticent to shake things up: All-Stars make up the majority of the company’s revenue, and like any classic design, its fans can be die-hards. In the 1990s, when the company tried to introduce All-Stars that were more comfortable and had slightly fewer design inconsistencies, hardcore aficionados rebelled. “They missed the imperfections in the rubber tape that lines the base of the shoe,” according to the Washington Post. The company went back to making a slightly imperfect shoe.

4. Chuck Taylor was a basketball player and trainer ...

Chuck Taylor in 1921. Image Credit: North Carolina State University via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Taylor was a Converse salesman and former professional basketball player who traveled around the country teaching basketball clinics (and selling shoes) starting in the 1920s. His name was added onto an ankle patch on the sneaker in 1932

5. ... And though he sold a lot of Chucks, he wasn't always a great coach.

Taylor is in large part responsible for the shoe’s popularity with athletes (the company rewarded him with an unlimited expense account), but his training advice wasn’t always the best. As former University of North Carolina player Larry Brown told Spin in an oral history of the shoe:

My greatest memory of Chuck Taylor—probably ’61 or ’62—is that he told Coach [Dean] Smith that he’d make us special weighted shoes in Carolina blue. The idea was that we’d wear the weighted shoes in practice, and then during the games, we’d run faster and jump higher. Well, we tried them for one practice and everyone pulled a hamstring.

6. Converse didn’t intend for their shoes to be punk.

“We always thought of ourselves as an athletic shoe company,” John O’Neil, who oversaw Converse’s marketing from 1983 to 1997, told Spin. “We wanted to sell a wholesome shoe.” The company was still touting its shoes as basketball sneakers as late as 2012, and some of its non-Chucks sneakers still have pro endorsers.

7. The company owns a recording studio.

Finally embracing its role in the music scene, the company launched Rubber Tracks, a Brooklyn-based recording studio where bands can record for free, in 2011.

8. Not all the Ramones were fans. 

Chuck Taylors are associated with punk rockers, especially the Ramones, but not everyone in the band wore them. “Dee Dee and I switched over to the Chuck Taylors because they stopped making [the style of] U.S. Keds and Pro-Keds [that we liked],” Marky Ramone told Spin. “Joey never wore them. He needed a lot of arch support and Chuck Taylors are bad for that.”

9. Chucks were initially only high tops. 

In 1962, Converse rolled out its first oxford Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Previously, it had just been a high-top shoe. Four years later, the company would introduce the first colors other than black and white.

10. Rocky ran in them.

In 1976, All-Stars were still considered a viable athletic shoe. If you look closely at the training montage from Rocky, you’ll see the boxer is wearing Chucks. 

11. Wiz Khalifa loves them. 

The rapper named his record label Taylor Ganag Records, in part due to his appreciation for Chuck Taylors. In 2013, he launched a shoe collection with Converse featuring 12 styles. 

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Adidas, Mari Orr
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Adidas Collaborates With Artists to Create Sneakers for All 50 States
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Iowa
Adidas, Mari Orr

For a recent project from Adidas and Refinery29, artists were given a women’s running shoe to use as their blank canvas. Their only prompt: Design the sneaker to represent one of the American states. The results are as varied and colorful as the nation itself.

As Adweek reports, the initiative, dubbed BOOST the Nation, takes an all-American look at Adidas’s UltraBOOST X footwear line. Refinery29 selected several artists—all women—to put their regional stamp on the plain white shoe. Some have been decorated with state flora. For instance, the Florida sneaker sports a tropical frond and the shoe for North Carolina is embellished with Venus flytraps. Food is also a popular theme: Wisconsin cheese, Maine lobster, and Tennessee barbecue have all been incorporated into sneaker designs.

Each sneaker is one-of-a kind and only available through auction. All proceeds raised will go directly to Women Win, an organization dedicated to bringing sports to adolescent girls around the world. The auction runs through Tuesday, July 11, with current bids ranging from $110 to $2000. Check out the artists’ handiwork that's for sale below.

Sneaker designed to look like a peach.
Georgia

Checkered running shoe.
Indiana

Adidas, Jen Mussari

Yellow running shoe with cracker tag.
Wisconsin

Sneaker designed to look like a mountain.
South Dakota
Adidas, Mari Orr

Sneaker decorated with wheat.
Oklahoma

Adidas, Jen Mussari

Sneaker embellished with fake roses and leaves.
Kentucky

Pink running shoe with lobster claw.
Maine

[h/t Adweek]

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