In memory of Ben Weible, whose life and untimely death began the journey that started this brand.
There are moments in life too visceral to forget. I was driving when I found out. “Ben died last night.” It was a phone call that would change my life. My stomach dropped. “There has to be a mistake, we just talked.” My car began to swerve as I wrestled with what was happening.
. . .
Ben had a beautifully restless mind and an insatiable curiosity for everything around him. He’d find something that held his interest and research it endlessly. For months, it was mash-ups: the early 2000’s music trend of blending elements of two songs, generally from different genres in order to create something new.
It was a fascination that filled my desk with gifted CDs and manages still to fill my hard drive with songs I can’t bring myself to delete. His findings ranged from brilliant to comedically bad. But it was the latter that he’d playfully gravitate towards, playing them over and over in the car, encouraging me to play them when I DJ’d. It was endearing and eccentric and so perfectly Ben. He loved music: playing it, listening to it, dissecting it and at times seeking refuge in it, but he never took it too seriously.
I loved that about him. He was both wise and childishly playful. One minute he’d be musing over philosophy, books, or baseball strategy. The next, he’d have you in stitches referring to your day at the ballpark, strip club, and Cracker Barrel as “the American trifecta”.
He was an adventurer at heart, prone to spontaneity. It was this drive that led him from his home in Illinois to school in Colorado and sparked long spur-of-the-moment hikes and impromptu road trips. He was grounded, but never seemed tied to a place or thing. And while we were bonded by our shared curiosity for the world around us, I envied his adventurous nature.
Unlike Ben, I’d lost my sense of adventure somewhere along the way. While as a child, I would venture far into the woods, run across frozen ponds, and crawl into drainage pipes in search of strange creatures, as an adult, I found myself chained to routine. Where Ben seemed held back by little, I found myself imprisoned by so much. And though I would occasionally join him on his whimsical journeys, eventually the same drive that brought him to Colorado, drove him away.
He moved to Los Angeles and tried to persuade me to come. He went so far as to start a Facebook group dedicated to the cause and invited all of our college friends living in L.A. to join. They’d post regularly, urging me to move. But I was swimming in debt and afraid.
Eventually, he gave up on the campaign.
We’d talk regularly, and I’d visit - always finding the same Ben: dressed in a beanie, flip flops, and a grey tee. He’d be beaming. But LA, like Colorado before, was a stop - not the destination. Opportunity presented itself and he jumped, as he always did. He accepted a job in Singapore - a country that, at the time, I had to look up - and he moved across the Pacific.
As with everywhere he’d gone before, he seemed to thrive there. He’d post pictures of himself on boats and beaches and tell me of his excursions in neighboring countries. We talked a number of times about me joining, but I never made the trip.
I put it off, until there were no more days to put it off.
That’s when the call came.
Walking home from dinner one night, fate intervened. In the blink of an eye his life was over.
And I was destroyed.
I spent the following weeks swimming and suffocating in disbelief and shock. I’d wake up and cry, text his phone and message him on Facebook, so sure there was a mistake. I acted out: partying, drinking, behaving recklessly.
But the truth was inescapable: Ben was gone.
This harsh revelation led inevitably to another one: my time too would come. Except my story wouldn’t be nearly as romantic: where Ben had lived his life in the manner of a man who understood how truly precious time was, I had not.
Resolved to change, I quit my job, gave up my apartment and sold everything I had. I relocated to Los Angeles, taking up residence on a blow-up mattress in a friend’s living room and began pouring my life into studying clothing. What began with my friend would culminate with the creation of this brand.
Ben was the beginning of UNI/FORM.
It’s something I’ve never lost sight of and something I want to honor. I set out to pay tribute to him with the creation of “Ben’s Shirt”, our tri-blend grey tee inspired by the one he would always wear. For each shirt sold, we contribute 15% of the proceeds to the Harmony Project in his name: a charity that gives instruments and music lessons to children who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them.
With this shirt, I hope to pay tribute to Ben and the life changing impact of his friendship. I hope that through this, he lives on, and that his legacy of love and compassion will not be forgotten.
But most importantly, I hope that, in a small way, I can say thank you to the man that saved my life.
To Ben, my mentor and guiding light: thank you.