Promoting Bitcoin with Style: An Interview with Pro Crypto

One of the many cool designs available from Pro Crypto!

One of the many cool designs available from Pro Crypto! (Photo Credit: Pro Crypto)

On a quest to add Bitcoin clothing to my wardrobe, I realized that there are a lot of terrible options out there. Images of bitcoins just slapped onto a plain white background, blocky text declaring common cliches, the “I Love NY” logo reformatted over & over again…

Luckily for me, Gordon Ligon & Marty Payette of Pro Crypto had that same realization – and did something about it! I had a chance to chat with Gordon via email about how Pro Crypto came to be and why everyone interested in Bitcoin should wear their designs!

“In general, the designs weren’t well considered. There was no affection or passion in the works, and I think onlookers would sense that every time they saw you wearing one. Also, there was no greater identity or mission behind the clothing. They came off as cash grabs, not as something you’d wear while disrupting the foundations of currency and global finance.”

– Gordon Ligon

Emily Braun: I saw on the Pro Crypto website that a lot of the designs are inspired by street art. What’s your involvement with the street art movement? What else inspires the shirt designs?

Gordon Ligon: Well, I’m just a graphic designer, so I’m not talented enough yet to be painting awesome wall murals or doing super poignant Banksy type stuff. Not yet, at least! But I have gotten pretty familiar with the people behind the local street art scene where I live (in Bangkok). We even feature one of my friend’s piece’s on the front page of procrypto.net.

Street art is fascinating, because its all about re-purposing common space (like the outside of a bank) and turning it into a beautiful, meaningful, or even ideological message. Stencil art in particular is cool, because it’s the People’s art. You don’t need an art degree to cut out a stencil, spray it on cardboard, and march your message down to Wall Street. Anyone can do it. That’s what stood out to us when establishing the brand, because street art is the perfect parallel for Bitcoin. Bitcoin doesn’t ask permission. Ready or not, here it comes. That’s the spirit we wanted to capture with Pro Crypto.

Our original premise was actually propaganda art, as that’s sort of the mission of our brand: Bitcoin PR. The original logo was inspired by those Communist posters from the Soviet Union and China, with those giant people towering over the landscape, pointing toward the future. The concept was great, but we were worried it was a little too “on the nose”, because we don’t want people to feel like they’re being brainwashed by a central authority (there’s enough of that going on in the world already). Bitcoin is a grassroots movement, so that’s where street art came in.

Braun: How did you first learn about Bitcoin? What were your first impressions of it?

Ligon: I first heard of Bitcoin in college, back in late 2009 – early 2010 when I used to browse Digg. I was immediately into it. That came right on the heels of the financial meltdown and the bailouts, and everyone I knew felt like we’d been robbed by the financial industry. And then they get rewarded for it? They robbed us twice! So as a malcontented & creative kid, I was already sympathetic.

But it wasn’t until I moved abroad and had to quickly move money overseas that I tried Bitcoin for the first time. You can’t beat how useful it is for controlling your own money. My favorite anecdote I tell people came from a Reddit thread a while back. There was a girl in the Midwestern United States in line at the grocery store checkout when she saw that they accepted Bitcoin. She messaged her boyfriend (who was in Hong Kong) the QR code for the store. He paid her bill as quickly as if she’d swiped a credit card. From the other side of the planet! Ideology aside, that’s an amazing technological accomplishment.

Braun: What challenges do you think Bitcoin faces? What do you see in store for the future?

Ligon: On a tech level, I’m nowhere near qualified to comment. On a community level, I think Bitcoin faces the same challenges that every small, ideological group faces: consensus. It’s far too easy for motivated people to turn their guns on each other and divide the community. Healthy debate is constructive. Anger, vitriol, and censorship are not. If we create a caustic environment, the very brilliant people we have working on Bitcoin might take their talent onto new projects.

On a public level, we have lots of challenges. Average people tend to be very ignorant about the technology and too easily associate it with scams & illicit activities. That’s a big image problem, one that Bitcoin’s enemies will easily exploit once the currency becomes more viable for average people. Our mission should be to create awareness, build trust, and demonstrate everyday utility. We need ambassadors. We made Pro Crypto Clothing as a tool for ambassadors to use in their mission. In the future, we want to make more tools and help people develop communication strategies for Bitcoin.

Braun: Have you heard success stories from people who have bought shirts from Pro Crypto, such as people asking them what their shirt means and then learning about Bitcoin?

Ligon: Yeah, we’ve had some good responses from our customers. From what I’ve heard, most people get comments like, “Bitcoin, huh? I thought that company was a scam.” Or even better, “Bitcoin? That’s how you buy drugs on the internet, right?” I think, at first, it’s a little jarring to hear how misinformed people are, but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity to help correct the misinformation and myths surrounding the currency. After all, people only say that stuff as a way to break the ice. They genuinely want to know more.

Braun: How about you? Have you ever had someone come up to you and say something about one of your Pro Crypto shirts?

Ligon: I get comments a lot. The most surreal one came from a security guard at an airport in Qatar during a layover. I forgot I was even wearing the shirt, and this guy just comes up and starts saying “Bitcoin!” and wanted to take a picture. I thought I was getting arrested! Thank god it was just a selfie…

– Emily Braun

To purchase the shirt featured in this article (or tons of other awesome designs!), check out the Pro Crypto website here. And look out for their new line of products coming soon!

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