John lin is the owner and designer of zealots and villains. follow the brands journey here on his blog.

What's in a Name?

I wanted to talk about our name for a minute today.  Don’t laugh, but it took me a long while to come up with Zealots & Villains.  I toyed around with so many different ideas; some workable, some awful, some downright shameful- none that felt right. 

Our shirts are obviously deeply rooted in cryptocurrencies and so, at first, I considered names that had a direct linear relationship with the industry/community.  For instance, I was super close to going with the name “NO-MIS-MA”, which is Greek for the word “Coin”.  That felt appropriate, somewhat.  I printed the name out in different fonts and then pinned them to my wall.  And for three nights, I stared at the name, never quite sure whether or not I liked it.  And eventually, I realized, it seemed right, but didn’t feel right.  I knew that I didn’t want to design shirts that were specifically about cryptocurrencies and I think with this kind of name, I would pigeon holing myself into a very specific kind of relationship with the subject.  I wanted the brand to not only echo a concept, but evoke a voice.  I wanted it to be about something not named after something

So, I scratched NO-MIS-MA (and any other direct cryptocurrency related name for that matter) and went back to the drawing board. 

The more I fumbled around with what drove me to make street wear brand based around cryptocurrencies, the more I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the coins themselves that interested me, it was rather, the sentiment of the entire concept, the entire culture that propelled the technology forward.  Meaning, bitcoin, crypto, blockchain- these are all one of the same reactions to a system that felt broken.

I realized I got into crypto and bitcoin because I was angry.  I wanted an alternative, I wanted to not feel trapped anymore.  Obviously, the money was an important factor, but behind that was the driving reason: we have resorted to this form of encrypted digital currencies and technology because we feel our world has failed in some shape or form.  The powers that be have become the powers that destroy.  Is it any coincidence bitcoin was released soon after the ’08 financial and housing crisis? 

But here’s the thing.  Crypto is for the most part a wild mixture of greed, technology, innovation and madness.  It’s both naïve and cunning.  Which is to say, for all the good there is, there’s some downright nasty ass bullshit.  Scammers, liars, tricksters, snake oil salesmen.  But that’s kind of the way the world is right? 

Good and bad.  Wrong and right.  Simple and complex.  Selfless and greedy.

We’re always teetering between two sharp sides of a dangerous slope.

So, that’s where Zealots & Villains come into play.  It’s about drawing a line in the sand.  It’s about acknowledging the deep anger we feel at a primordial, subconscious level, the frustration that sits and burrows in the back of our minds and hearts and wallets.  I felt it was the perfect encapsulation of this emerging culture, one side fighting for innovation and change, the other side, seeking the most wealth regardless of the collateral damage.

It’s like that Mr. Rogers quote about helpers.  That in times of disasters, look towards the ones who want to help.  When the world burns, there really are only two kinds of people: 1. The ones who seek their own 2. The ones who will help build towards something better. So I wanted to name the brand after that kind of tension, that kind of constant conflict between opposing ideologies that are so intricately intertwined.     

When people ask me if we’re a crypto apparel brand, I say yes and no.  I’m not trying to sell you a shirt that is shilling you a coin.  To be honest, I could care less.  I want my stuff to be authentically yours, to be truly inspired by the under currents of what it feels to be young and already broken.

Zealots & Villains is not pegged to the price of a coin; its pegged to the sentiment of you.


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