An interview with Bill Cruz, aka DJ Guamstyles
Bill Cruz, aka DJ Guamstyles, started to get around Vans not very long after he started to get to know about sneaker culture. If there is a passion stronger than the one for sneakers, that can only be towards Vans.
Owner and one of the top minds of the Under the Palms site (an all Vans established online resource), Bill Cruz is just ready to keep on with his drive. It all began in California, and it all continues to happen in California.
Vans and the passion for the brand is something that is cherished, more than anything, by locals, even if nowadays Vans really is a global brand. We talked with Bill about his dedication and interest for the brand, the Under the Palms project and more.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Bill Cruz, aka DJ Guamstyles. I own and operate Under The Palms with a little help from my friends and family. The DJ name comes from, well, me being a DJ! I’ve been spinning since about 97-98 when I was a junior in high school.
Tell us about your passion for all things Vans? How did that come up?
It was a progression of my sneaker hobby, turned habit, turned addiction, lol! Like most people who get started in sneakers, we start with the Nikes and Jordans. I’ve always been up on sneakers, ever since a young kid.
Same story as most dudes my age. We went to school with future losers, who at the time, had their parents convincing them to get them the dopest kicks out, and this would fuel my desire to obtain all the shit I wanted as a kid?
Fast forward to a couple years of steadily buying Nikes, and discovering sneaker boutiques like Undefeated, Proper, Neo39, and most notably a Vans oriented sneaker site called Offthewallsite. Thanks to Offthewallsite, I was able to discover a whole new side of sneaker collecting.
It was something fresh and new (to me), and with a brand, I thought I knew everything about, as they have stores in every mall, as well as tons of stand-alone stores all throughout Southern California, I soon learned that there was this entire subculture of Vans fanatics.
Small, but passionate and dedicated. The web forums helped introduce me to a bunch of new guys, who were cool enough to educate me on all this new Vans info I needed to catch up on.
Stuff like the difference between an Era and an Authentic. I mean, I’ve always recognized that there were these two Vans models that looked very similar, but I didn’t really recognize that they had their own names.
That’s the stuff I was indoctrinated into. That experience got me hooked. Vans were an alternative to the nonsense that was already starting to become apparent in the general realm of sneakers. That’s what got my feet wet.
Just how do you feel that Vans is different from other footwear brands?
Well, first off, the way they look. The vulcanized sole sneaker was not their original design, as there were other brands also making the same deck shoe that we recognize today as the Authentic. In fact, the founders of Vans had come from another shoe manufacturer back East, but decided to open up their own operation out here in Southern California.
The way they re-engineered it with the waffle grip and marketed it as a skateboard shoe is what set them on their own path. As technology advanced, and skateboard shoe companies introduced many new ideas and designs over the years, it’s apparent that the original skateboard shoe was, and still is, the best one for skating.
Please share with us about three of your all-time favorite Vans’ models…
This one gets asked all the time, and sometimes my choices change, but at this time, my three favorite Vans styles are the Sk8-Hi, Old Skool, and Mid Skool.
I find myself wearing mostly Old Skools and Eras at the moment, probably because they’re low tops, and don’t rub against my ankles. Comfort will always rule over style when it comes to the everyday pairs in my rotation.
Why the evolution of the UnderThePalms site?
In a nutshell…Vans. Obviously, the name OFFTHEWALLSITE has their trademark embedded in the title, and even though we only exist to promote and interact with all things Vans, I guess it was too risky for them, from a legal standpoint.
Especially since I made my own t-shirts, hats, and such, which they weren’t too happy with. They even went as far as to say that OTWS is too close to OTW. It’s all good. I needed to be cut loose from that name at some point, and they just sort of gave me that ultimatum.
We know that there are some very exclusive looks and “inside info” that sometimes drops at the site’s forum – are there people that collaborate with Vans that sometimes inform you guys?
Our forum is a sanctuary of some sorts. Certain areas are for members only, and in those areas, we sometimes share news and info of upcoming releases, and it’s mostly just talking, but every once in awhile a member will stumble across an Instagram account, or Asia site with a leaked photo, and shares it.
I’ve stopped leaking those sorts of pics to my following, as it just tends to cause more problems for me. I just leave that sort of stuff to those of us who seek it out, and I half-heartedly protect it from those who don’t, and to answer your question, no, I don’t work with anybody at Vans who sends me leaked information.
What about some initiatives? Are there any events planned for the upcoming months?
I don’t have any events planned just yet. Planning and coordinating an event, such as an art show, is a lot of work and requires about 3-5 months of planning at the least, and I haven’t seriously pursued anything yet.
First, you gotta find a theme, then a venue, then a timeline, then artists, then keep in touch with artists, then bug artists to turn in their pieces, all the while creating flyers, promoting it any and everywhere, and so on and so forth.
I love doing it, but it takes a lot of effort. The effort I have tied up in other personal activities at the moment!
Your project is one of passion, more than anything – do you feel you will be able to keep it that way?
For sure. We just need to keep at a forward pace, and that’s by continuing to keep Vans relevant and hyped. I hope that the efforts of myself, as well as a few other friends who run Vans groups throughout the world, notably the “Strictly Vans” Facebook group, ran by the homie Eddie, and our forever growing Asia community, mainly in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, as well as China, and Japan.
Some of these countries are restricted on what they can see on the internet, but Instagram helps circumvent that. Instagram has been the most influential over the past few years, mainly because you don’t need to speak the same language to get the message across.
A picture is the only information we need when we’re looking for what’s new and upcoming.
Finally, what’s next for UnderthePalms? Any new project happening soon?
Not at this time. I’ve been slacking on coming up with some new product. I really need to get some new tees, hats, etc. done really soon.
I just need to stop spending money on sneakers and invest that back into UTP.
My boy Dennis aka @Lazywork does pretty much all the designing for our stuff, and I may have to break it to him that the extended vacation just may be over, lol! I’ve also been blessed to meet and become friends with some world-renowned artists as well, like Mark Ong aka SBTG, and maybe one day I can convince him to do a project with us! Time will tell!
Find out more about UnderThePalms.