Everyone and their uncle was sharing videos of people’s tumbles (as well as the rare successor) for a week straight. But we could not let it go on without speaking with the milkcrate OG himself, Aaron LaCrate.
The founder of Milkcrate Athletics, Inc. was very intentional with the symbol for his brand 25 years ago, and needless to say had some things to say about the trend. LaCrate, formerly DJ Cool Aaron at just 10 years old, got in with the Baltimore underground community of graffiti writers, skateboarders, and DJs. The milkcrates ended up becoming a testament to those origins, his evolution, and the authenticity of his brand.
They were “how you transported [your records] and also how you protected them. They’re borderline indestructible, and it plays a role in adolescence. It plays a role in poverty, it plays a role for furniture. They make a great mattress base. And some kids when I was growing up would store all their spray cans in milkcrates and then put a mattress over it so their parents didn’t really know it was there. So it’s just like I grew up around a very creative bunch.”
“You had to actually participate to continue on in the social circle. So, you know, that’s what DJing became for me, it was a very important role in my life. But as I got a little bit older, you know, I’m in the basement which turned into like a factory and I’m airbrushing t-shirts that I’m writing. I’m making my own t-shirts, one-off shirts. I’m making my own mixtapes. And we also had the first skateboard shop in Baltimore in the basement, which wasn’t a big deal. We just basically sold skateboards out of the basement. My dad got a hook up on wholesale skateboards. So that’s really where it started, pre-DJing. I mean, I was probably writing graffiti and selling skateboards out of the basement. And that led to that basement becoming my little play area, and then I’m DJing parties and selling t-shirts, then mixtapes at the same time as I DJed. I was just an entrepreneurial kid.“
“You’re assembling your own little makeshift mobile DJ system that end up gives you a lot of uniqueness in the neighborhood where now you can do parties. Now you’re important. Now you play a role in the community, like now older kids are calling upon you to do this party or that party and it gave me a real direction DJing… But then everybody DJed, and everybody wanted to make a t-shirt about DJing, and there was a point at the early 2000s where there was a gazillion brands that were putting a turntable on a t-shirt that was like, semi-cool or alternative or whatever. And so I just wanted to go with the most authentic version of not just DJ culture, but music culture in that logo.“
And on why exactly he chose the milkcrate:
“It was because in those days it was cool to have an underground brand. So the task was choose an idea that could never be bastardized or commercialized. That was the goal. It was not to come up with the next fucking, whatever athletic brand an athlete’s going to wear, that just wasn’t interesting.“
Who would’ve thought that rather than being bastardized, milkcrates would be used as a way for people to break their asses. When asked what he thought when he first started seeing the #MilkCrateChallenge, he explained:
“I think it was a hood thing, coming from Baltimore, I’m always excited when the hood innovates. It doesn’t happen often, and this was a very creative, hood-inspired thing. So, you know, that’s a big part of the nostalgia of my life. That city and shit like that. So I mean, I wish the hood would be more innovative like that. I mean, I hate to see people get hurt, and I know that probably wasn’t the initial goal. But obviously it became unfortunately a more exciting part of it like things do. So I don’t think anyone knew it was going to become a thing like that. I wasn’t annoyed or anything, I found interesting. Any time the milkcrate becomes the center of national media attention, like that’s definitely a moment that you scratch your head about. You’re like what the hell’s going on here.”
“I’m always excited when the hood innovates.”
So then why not lean into it? Aaron made a #MilkcrateAthleticsChallenge for the culture, where you’re supposed to dig in your crates and comment with any gems you find.
Let’s go digging.