Ballisticone - The Skater Boy Who Became Streetwear Icon
Here’s one way to start this story; a 15-year-old gamer entered a one-month apprenticeship at a computer shop. There, he became savvy with fixing computers and creating websites.
At the same time, that boy was drawn to the world skateboarding. He was fascinated - transfixed, even. Only a couple of years had passed when he asked his family for their permission to pursue his passion in the US.
Philadelphia was the city that welcomed him. It was the city that nurtured his budding interest in skateboarding and made it blossom into a complete devotion to street culture. He branched out, diving into streetwear fashion, hip-hop, and many art forms.
After returning to Thailand, he started numerous projects that entwined deeply with street culture.
Among the projects are a skateboard-focused website (PlaySkateboard), an online community for hip-hop fans (Siamhiphop), a DJ career, a few hip-hop albums, a streetwear brand (SneakaVilla), a party organizer (CMYK Party), and a fashion website (Sneakthestreet).
He also created the website Ballisticone, where he expresses his feelings and impressions of places he visited through his favorite hobby - film photography.
As incredible as it sounds, that’s how the story of Kuntaput “Ball” Sirikiattiyot a.k.a. Ballisticone began. The skater boy had become not only a trailblazer of Thailand’s street culture but also a successful entrepreneur.
Art, music, and streetwear fashion are what shaped your life into what it is today. How did you first become interested in these pursuits?
When I was about 15, I watched a lot of sports on ESPN. I saw skateboarders like Tony Hawk and felt that the sport is really cool. And back then, I was a timid, skinny kid who’s anything but cool.
I think skateboarding could be how I met my first girlfriend because girls always gathered to watch the skateboarders. [Laughing] So, I asked my family if I could get a skateboard.
Getting into the skateboarder crowd exposed me to a new world of experiences.
When you buy magazines or videos of skateboarding, you get a distinct sense of each professional skateboarder’s character from their clothes.
You know the genre of music they listen to; the songs they use in their performances. I started dressing like them and listening to the same kind of music.
It truly is a treasure trove of street art. The T-shirts or skateboard designs - they’re [illustrations] and graffiti. They are what inspired me to travel to the US.
After I got my vocational certificate in Pattaya, I asked my family for their permission so I could pursue skateboarding in the US.
But when I actually got there, it wasn’t simple at all. I wasn’t much of a good student; my English wasn’t fluent.
I was also extremely shy. I couldn’t even order food, so I had to eat one-dollar hotdogs for weeks.
The situation forced me to prioritize study. And because I studied a lot, I didn’t have much time for skateboarding.
I studied English there for two years. Before I return to Thailand, though, I got to know the guys of Thaitanium, who were promoting their Thai Rider album in New York at the time.
When I went back to New York, Khan gave me a tour of their studio. I realized that rapping is something I enjoy, so I started writing songs since I was there.
CMYK, DJ Bangkok Invaders, SneakaVilla, Passion Juice, SneaktheStreet, and Ballisticone Page are all related to art, music, and fashion. How did you develop your passion for those niches and transform them into such projects?
When I get into something, I usually go all in. Some of my friends even call me a perfectionist. I need to learn about everything to its basic essence.
If I start DJing, I need to know how to DJ well. If I start taking photos, I need to know how to take them and process the films properly.
You need to learn the craft thoroughly before you can start doing it.
How did you start SneakaVilla?
I like to mix & match clothes. When I was in the US, I bought a lot of clothing options. I brought back like 20-30 pairs of sneakers with me.
Back when I started wearing those sneakers, nobody else in Thailand had them. My friends often asked to buy them from me.
They’re not actually limited edition that worth tens of thousands of baht. They’re standard 3,000-baht pairs, but the color or version just wasn’t available in Thailand.
Back then, Cheeze magazine was super trendy. On weekends, I hung out around Siam with friends who are hip-hop fans and dress in the same style as me.
I got photographed for almost every issue of the magazine. The readers wanted to know what brands were my shirts or pants.
After my friends asked me how to get the kind of clothes I wore, I realized there wasn’t any shop in Thailand that sold clothes like these. So I started one.
So everything is connected to your personal interest?
Yes. They have to be; otherwise I wouldn’t be working on them. When I see these things, they just click; they speak to me, and I want to work on them.
I’m not spending a couple of hours a day pursuing these interests, but entire days.
I can only focus on one thing at a time, too. I can’t do 3-4 things simultaneously, and all of them would work out.
How do you find the balance between your professional and personal roles, with you being an entrepreneur, a photographer, a father, and a husband?
It comes down to time management. There are working hours and off-work hours.
When it was just me by myself, I couldn’t tell which is which. Every hour was working hour, and my work was like playing.
I had a shop at Siam. I would open up the shop at 2pm but stay there until 4am. I closed up at 8pm, then my friends came over. We played games and watched movies.
At around 4am, I went home. I went to sleep at 5-6am. When I woke up, I opened up my shop. I did that every single day.
There was no time for me to figure myself out, or to spend with my family. Now that I’ve got a family of my own, I need to manage my time properly.
6pm is when I get off work; I have to actually stop working and spend time with my family and favorite hobbies.
And what are your favorite hobbies?
My wife and I like similar things. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we sometimes go to Chatuchak market to buy plants and fertilizers.
I take some photos, too. Chatuchak is always a fun place to do that.
Now that we have a shop at ICONSIAM, we sometimes drop by to see how the shop is doing. Do we need more decorations? How are nearby shops or our competitors doing?
Another thing that I like to do is traveling abroad. I travel often, about 3-4 times a year.
The first purpose is to take a vacation, and the second is to see the world and fashion in context. I want to get a feel of it.
Although you can search online what’s trendy right now, there are other things you can’t see, like culture.
How do people really act? What is their lifestyle really like? What are the new trends or businesses that are happening around the world? I love to observe them.
From all of your projects, if you had to choose one that perfectly captures what it means to be Ballisticone, which one would you choose and why?
That would be SneakaVilla. It has been [going on for] a long time; we’ve been in the business for 13 years.
We’re one of the first streetwear brands in Thailand. We started a lot of movement in Thai streetwear scene.
SneakaVilla is a brand founded by people with a genuine passion. We didn’t have much money to promote the brand, but we slowly made our way here.
Are there any artists or fashion icons who have influenced you?
I like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. They’ve always been icons who I’ve admired.
There’s also Nigo - Tomoaki Nagao, the owner of BAPE, and Hiroshi Fujiwara, who’s like the Godfather of streetwear.
As for photography, my idol would be Joel Meyerowitz. He’s all about fine arts photography. He experiments with everything.
If you want to be good at photography - to become a master in photography - you need to learn how to take photos of everything. You need to know the process and how it works.
As someone who started his career at such a young age (starting a skateboard website at 17) are there any lessons you would like to share? What are the pros and cons of starting early?
I didn’t actually consider what I did as work. I did it for fun and never thought about what I get in return. I have only started thinking about the compensation as I got older. [Laughing]
Back in the days, I organized events for Siamhiphop. Around 500-1,000 people showed up for one event.
I got 20,000 baht from the event. I needed to pay the DJ 2,000 baht. Some of my hip-hop friends rapped on the stage, so I gave them 1,000 baht each.
In the end, I only got 3,000 baht for myself.
That’s the experience from when I was young. I didn’t know that you can charge money for organizing events, or that what I do have more value than that.
I don’t think of it as a disadvantage, though. I feel like I got an opportunity to work on bigger, more exciting projects. Everyone is happier.
What is one thing you wish you had known at 20?
No regrets whatsoever?
Nope. I feel like I gave my all with everything that I do.
I always tell everyone to get the most out of their teenage and young adult years. You can’t bring back those years once they’re gone.
You can’t bring back the kind of cheerful spirit and guts you would need to hang out with a bunch of people from different cliques.
As an adult, you won’t be as creative as someone younger. You’re limited by errors. You’re afraid that you’re wasting time.
You won’t have the confidence to do something risky or messy. Another thing you won’t have is time; there won’t be enough time to spend.
Even if in [your younger days] you haven’t achieved much, you have at least tried, learned, and gained experience.
You realize what you want early on. Is that why you were able to start your career much quicker than most people?
It starts with a simple thing. When you see something that speaks to you, and you enjoy it, you should pursue it.
Some things, they look good, but they don’t feel good.
Maybe you see them, and you like them, but when you actually work with them, you realize you only like the end product.
Let’s say you like flowers. They’re beautiful, but you don’t actually like growing or tending to the plants.
Try to think about what else do you like about the process. Can you be a farm owner, maybe importing the plants or breeding your own? Perhaps you can start a flower shop.
As you go on, new ideas will pop up.
What would you say to someone who has dreams, but is too afraid to chase them?
Just do it. Sometimes, you should fail to gain experience and to find out whether the thing is a good fit for you.
People are afraid of failing, but I think failing is the basis of success. Successful people are just people who handle failures well.
Have you often failed in the past?
I was lucky; I didn’t fail much. I work on things all the time, though.
What are your current short and long term goals?
My short term goal is to make SneakaVilla more casual. Someone who wears this brand doesn’t have to be super into streetwear fashion.
Another one is a children's clothing brand. I think there are opportunities for children’s streetwear fashion to grow.
When I go to malls to find clothes for my son, I want to get him something that looks like my style. There’s currently nothing like that in the market. Patterns for children’s clothing are not very stylish.
I want to introduce a special concept too. I intend to give a part of the profits back to society - charities for children in poverty and such.
As for long term goals, I want to do more fine arts projects such as portraits of people in Bangkok and the streets of my neighborhood. Maybe publish a photobook or have an exhibition.
Every project this man has created is a result of his determination and passion in art, music, and fashion.
This is the story as told by Kuntaput “Ball” Sirikiattiyot - the man who never stops moving forward.
For the latest on his work and projects, follow Ball on his social media below.