Mike Vallely is nothing if not a man of law. You support him, he supports you. You show up at one of his one-man middle America prefab skatepark demos, you get to see at least one brawny mute grab. You drunkenly wrest a hockey pole from the fingers of his daughter, and you may endure a televised pummeling that could ultimately cost Mike Vallely a coveted hockey blogging gig but not the dignity of his family.
So it is then that Mike V, as he is known, once again cashes in his deck sponsorship chips to go it alone again with the third (fourth? [shit, fifth?]) hardgoods concern, after several years of diligent brand building under the Element/Billabong parasol. He extends his latest business venture into risky territory though by choosing not a mononymous nym like “Transit” or “Vallely” or even “TV” but instead taking a gamble with the powerful yet weighty name brand “By The Sword.”
It makes sense because the tri-nommed brand hints at the powerful violence with which Vallely has long been associated. Yet also it suggests he is coming to terms with his own mortality, perhaps after shearing his locks, similar to the biblical story of Samson or Britney Spears. Vallely represents a figure of controversies and contradictions, but he remains emboldened by his do-it-yourself approach, signaled with his hiring of Jason Filipow to do the artwork for the skateboards.
But even bearing a personal brand as established and cultivated as Vallely’s, it’s hard to overstate the danger of employing more than one word in the name of your company. The ditches are littered with the delaminated corpses of those who tried and failed: Sixty-Forty, City Stars, Tree Fort, Channel One, Gordon & Smith, Santa Monica Airlines. Zoo York and Alien Workshop got bought. Birdhouse Projects moved to the singular burbs, Powell dropped the Peralta and World Industries has all but collapsed under its own weight. Even the venerable Black Label was flirting with the singular “Label” for a while, when the subprime mortgage crisis was peaking.
Can Vallely buck the trend? This is a question that must be and will be answered with time and the developing battle for market share he faces against JR’s Rand Paul-influenced venture, which has the benefit of a one-word name and a music career that may not be as long-lived as Vallely’s, but has certainly captured more blog attention, a priceless commodity in the 24-hour blog buzz cycle. He also is challenging this site in the realm of search engine optimization, a tall order against mounted men bearing halberds.