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Interview: Pro Baller Rod Benson Talks about his Fashion Line

Fearless, fun and irreverent could describe both pro baller Rod Benson and his streetwear line, Boom Tho. Bright colors and signature in-your-face catchphrases (Sorry is for Suckers, Sex! Tacos! Beer!, Sunday Funday) adorn his tees, hoodies and caps. Currently playing for Ulsan Mobis Phoebus in Ulsan, Benson divides his time between basketball, blogging and both designing and marketing his gear. The founder of the Boom Tho Movement took a time out with Haps to answer the big question: What do you get when you cross a quick-witted basketball player with West Coast street-wear swag?

Educate the readers of Haps on what Boom Tho is all about.

Boom Tho does things a bit differently: we produce lunch boxes and slap bracelets, we have a team of 7’5 mascots and aren’t afraid of making an occasional YouTube video. We have no limit as to lengths we will go to have a good time and stand out. We skate, paint, chill, make moves and party. We’re the envy of anyone who thinks they’re next level.

What are the principles of West Coast Style?

West Coast Style is influenced by the sun and the sand. Surf and skate culture also have an effect on how people dress, so it’s totally reasonable for younger people to wear Vans, shorts and a t-shirt or hoodie for most of the year. There tends to be a bit more color as well, as people want to stand out and show their individuality.

Describe your customer. Who’s wearing your clothes?

Men aged 16-26 are our main customers, as street-wear is a young man’s game. That said, there are some stylish women who wear our small sizes, and some older guys who wear our board shorts and other party styles because, let’s face it, partying doesn’t end at age 26.

You use a lot of color in your designs—do you have a favorite for your next collection?

We tend to have a crazy colorway, and a more hip-hop/sneaker-friendly colorway for each of our items. I’m partial to all of our puzzling designs. It’s like our signature pattern that uses puzzle pieces to add color to our logos. You can find it on our best-selling beanie, on our upcoming hats and on our zip-hoodies that are out December 1.

Why did you start designing street wear? How did this come about?

After graduating from UC Berkeley, my basketball aspirations led me to the D-League where I improved my skills, but also founded It was during that time that I started using ‘boom tho’ (coined by a group of my close friends in college) as my tagline in many of my videos and writings. As my basketball career blossomed, so did the phrase. In 2007, I was hired to write for Yahoo!, and ‘boom tho’ became known internationally. People wanted tees to rep the word, and I created some pretty crude stuff to keep them happy. In 2010, I decided to take what I had learned over the years of creating shirts for fans and grow it into a full line.

I’ve read that you’ve been criticized by NBA execs for perhaps spreading yourself too thin with your blog. Do you think the same could be said about your fashion line?

The same could definitely be said, but that criticism is more of a PC way to criticize me for not being basketball enough. Really, I’ve been called too smart for my own good many times, and for no other reason than the fact that I have the capacity to do more. But the argument against me tapping my outside potential must mean that I should ignore other talents and spend my entire youth not preparing for my next career at a time when my friends are in grad school and moving up corporate ladders, right? Sounds a bit funny to me. Besides, nobody has ever just said, He’s not good enough. It’s more like, We don’t get it.

You work with a lot of celebrities—rappers, athletes and MTV personalities alike. Who would you like to work with next?

I really prefer working with the up-and-coming guys a lot more. They tend to really grind and are very humble. That said, I think Macklemore would be awesome, as well as Kendrick Lamar.

Which Korean hip-hop/pop artists would you like to work with?

I think Tiger JK and Drunken Tiger would be a great look, because he reminds me of the Korean rappers from LA, and ties pretty well with the street-wear scene.

You’ve lived in Korea for a while now. Have you used anything from your experiences here in your designs?

Absolutely. The bright lights and color patterns here are very inspirational. Also, since a lot of the fashion here comes from Japan, every now and then I see something crazy that I feel I can incorporate into our line.

Any plans to break into the Korean market?

Yes. I’m currently working diligently to get the pieces in place and get into some Korean boutiques before this season is over.

If you were designing for the Korean fashion market, are there any things you’d do differently?

Smaller. Everything smaller. The smallest size we currently carry could probably fit a Korean couple inside. The biggest could fit half of Jamsil.

Thoughts on Korean style? Likes and dislikes?

I like that Korea is pretty forward and that the people here have a lot of confidence in the things they wear. My issue is that there’s not too much creativity here. Much of what people wear is solely based on what’s popular. Most of the stuff the people here are wearing is already pretty wild, why not just wear what you want and step outside the box?

How far do you want to take this project?

I could be doing this for a long time. In fashion, if you do it right, you don’t blow up and then go away. We’ve had those opportunities. Instead, keep building hype and legitimacy, and people will see your brand as cooler and long-lasting. Hopefully we can reach that level and, if so, there is no real timeline.

If you had to choose between basketball and fashion in the future, which way would you go?

In the future? Fashion. But it depends on how far in the future. I have to retire from basketball someday, but do I have to retire from creativity? Nope.

Check out Boom Tho’s range of tees, hoodies, caps and other fashion at, on Twitter (@boomtho) and on Facebook.

You can also check out Haps’ earlier interview with Rod Benson here or check out his latest article on Hoops Hype.

Photos courtesy of Rod Benson



About Christy Swain

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