Cannn Weee Taaalk (about the 90s) for a minute? This era of timeless culture is heralded as one of the most influential decades in human history. It’s damn near impossible to avoid its remnants even in 2018: baby hairs, denim overalls, and vibrant windbreakers just to name a few. However deep your love may be for this period of time, I guarantee you Greg Cates has you beat. The 25-year-old is the founder of modern vintage street-wear brand, GAC (pronounced /gack/).
“Whenever I think of the 90s I think about how lit my childhood was and I constantly want to be living in that. It kind of makes me feel like I’m not adulting when I’m creating,” said Cates.
At the center of Cates’ lit childhood was sports.
“I grew up on it [sports], that’s all I really knew. My dad played college basketball, I played basketball in high school and I ran track in college,” he said. “One day my dad whipped these shirts out of the attic and he was like ‘Yeah I used to print shirts back in the day’. That was just a different side that I saw from him because all these years all I knew was basketball.”
Then and there Cates realized that he liked the idea of having his own clothing line. He didn’t know exactly what would come of these aspirations but he was fascinated with the fact that anybody could create their own brand.The GAC assortment of short sleeves, long sleeves, sweatshirts, and hoodies is the epitome of nostalgia culture.
“I want people to like how dope the designs are and I want them to know that GAC is not the average street-wear brand, like not only is it dope but it has substance too,” said Cates.
In Living Color
Cates released four collections this year, but GAC’s pathway to 2018 is as dynamic as they come, dating back three years ago. Cates took a scholarship offer to run track at the University of Mount Olive but didn’t like it there. He then transferred to Elizabeth City State University believing he would be the face of their first-year track program. Due to unforeseen circumstances the track program was cut during his first year. He was left questioning his collegiate career.
“School was never me in the first place but sports are what got me there. So when track got cut it was like ‘Why am I even here?’”, said Cates.
Cates was majoring in radio communication, but that just wasn’t it. He switched to graphic design and GAC was born. When Cates decided to start a brand, he had the vision for his designs but not the skill set.
“I hit up a graphic designer at NC State, he was either a freshman or sophomore. But he just wasn’t moving on the time that I wanted him to move on,” he said. “Looking back, he had every right to be moving as slow as he wanted to because he wasn’t charging me at all. I got impatient so I was like I’m going to figure out how to do this on my own.”
When Cates began to hone his own skills, he washed his hands with the graphic design degree.
“I never graduated because I didn’t really learn a lot in school. School teaches you the fundamentals but creativity, that’s all you. I know plenty of guys who say ‘You got it bro, with or without the degree’ and this is coming from guys who have their masters,” said Cates.
Cates questioned if he had entered the right business after GAC’s poor sales during it’s first year.
“I had this whole idea of I’m supposed to be taking off, like I’m talented so why isn’t this whole thing popping off right now, which caused me to go into a deep depression,” he said. “I’m actually doing life coaching right now. I’ve had the same counselor for about 9 months now and it’s really changed my life. It’s opened up so many doors and I’ve been able to clear my mind. I had to realize that hey, these things take time and they don’t pop overnight.”
If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)
GAC is just one of Cates’ brainchildren. The freelance creator offers brand consulting, outsourced photography, and videography editing. In addition, he runs a podcast on his entrepreneurial journey and is a road manager for DJ Pdogg out of Durham. The one man band doesn’t plan on ever resting, even once he makes it to the top.
“At one point I told myself yeah I’m doing all this so one day I can kick my feet up but what I’m realizing now is that I love tackling on something new,” he said. “GAC is growing, but it’s not where I want it to be. But once I get myself established, it’s going to be like okay what’s next?”
“Never Limited. Basically means that you can do anything you want to do regardless of the circumstances, just never limit yourself if there’s something you want to accomplish.”
“I would be any pastel color because they just give off a good vibe. Nobody dislikes that type of color.”