Guitar Straps

Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional

FSLN strap

The FSLN (English: Sandinista National Liberation Front) is a democratic political party that is extremely popular in Nicaragua that is responsible for overthrowing the Somoza regime, a U.S.-supported family dictatorship that spanned 40 years, during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Their members will brag that the party was started by college students and spread at a grassroots level. While the Somozas were known for imprisoning and torturing rebels right below the palace in Managua and dropping undesirables into an active volcano from a helicopter, the first thing the FSLN did after taking power was to abolish the death penalty so that no member of the Somoza regime could be executed for war crimes.

The party is named for Augusto César Sandino, the leader of a popular rebellion against the U.S. in the late 1920s. During peace talks with the puppet dictator, he was kidnapped and executed by the National Guard, which was led at that time by the man who would become the first Somoza family dictator. Sandino’s name has been used by the FSLN as well as other political parties and rebel groups throughout Latin America, somewhat in the vein of Túpac Amaru in South America and Cuauhtémoc in Mexico. Because his body was either moved or misplaced, it is unknown today where he is buried. For that reason, it is said in Nicaragua that “Sandino is everywhere.” In Managua, there is a giant black silhouette of Sandino looking out from the highest point in the city.

I won’t comment on the politics of Nicaragua other than to say that you see pro-FSLN displays everywhere. You see red and blag stripes in graffiti, art, flags, shirts, and even the facade of the occasional house. I decided to draw from that for a guitar strap. I used the party flag (red and black horizontal stripes with “FSLN” in white) for the back end and the famous silhouette of Sandino for the front.

The version I had printed for an acoustic guitar also included a heart just above “FSLN”. The heart is outlined in white and center-aligned with the black and red stripes. The colors inside are inverted. This is based on a piece of graffiti I spotted in Managua.

Mountaintop Speech

Mountaintop strap

The last speech ever delivered by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr came on April 3, 1968, the day before Dr. King was assassinated. Commonly referred to as the “Mountaintop Speech,” this is my favorite of Dr. King’s famous orations. The speech ends with a foreshadowing of what was to come. “Like anybody,” King says, “I would like to live–a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

This guitar strap features powerful excerpts from the transcription of that speech. Overlaid on top in large letters is King’s assertion, “We, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Carolina Hurricanes

Canes strap

In June 2013, the Carolina Hurricanes unveiled the worst home and away jerseys in franchise history (and that’s no easy task when you’re competing against that green Whalers jersey). Among the awful design decisions which stripped the jersey of any attachment to the history of the franchise that won a Stanley Cup less than a decade prior, the worst may have been the decision to remove the stripe of storm warning flags from the bottom of the jersey. The stripe was moved to the inside of the collar, where it was no longer visible except while hanging unsold for several months in the team store.

That bottom stripe had been a design element on our jerseys even before the move from Hartford. The warning flags were simply a clever homage to the green and blue stripes on the bottom of the (gorgeous) white Whalers jerseys. As of 2014, we now have three totally different jersey designs with practically no shared motifs or design elements.

What makes this fact particularly sad is the fact that the black alternate unveiled in September 2008 were an overwhelming success. That jersey used a black and silver theme with red accents that were used just enough to work as a strong highlight. The designers clearly felt that the red in the warning flag stripe and the shoulder logos distracted from the chest logo and numbers, so they converted both into two-tone black and gray. The two diagonal stripes on the sleeve were a great low-profile alternative to the large blocks seen on the home and away jerseys at the time.

It wasn’t until I saw an awful jersey that I understood how much our good jerseys meant to me. For that reason, I decided to immortalize (ok, that’s a strong word) one crucial design element from that alternate jersey in a guitar strap.

By the way, on the off-chance that Mike Sundheim reads this, I’d like to offer my services as a free consultant to help design the next set of Hurricanes jerseys. There’s no reason we can’t keep the red shoulder yoke or the strings on the home jersey while maintaining a connection to the jerseys that lifted the Stanley Cup or that shocked the Devils and Bruins en route to the Conference Finals.

Calvin & Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes strap

Like many suburban teenage musicians in the late ’90s and early ’00s, I was heavily influenced by Weezer. The band paired intelligent and often reflective lyrics with the occasional bit of sarcastic humor over power chords and pop-rock hooks, exemplified in songs like “El Scorcho”, “Perfect Situation”, and “Say It Ain’t So”.

The cover of the Green Album shows vocalist Rivers Cuomo holding a guitar with a fairly simple, yet instantly recognizable guitar strap; it’s a black strap with a white lightning bolt down the middle. I wanted to come up with something that would act as an ode to that. In brainstorming ideas, one that kept coming back was a comic strip that I’ve always loved: Calvin & Hobbes. Like Weezer albums, Calvin & Hobbes evokes self-reflection through an artistic genre that isn’t typically associated with anything more than superficial awareness of the world. This strap design features Calvin in his snow gear sledding with Hobbes. In the spirit of the comic strip, I intentionally left it ambiguous as to whether the background shows stars in space or snow flakes in the night sky. The white trail of snow left behind the sled (or is it a trail of exhaust in space?) evokes the image of the white lightning bolt from Rivers Cuomo’s strap.

Northern Lights

Northern Lights strap

The northern lights are a natural phenomenon that has always fascinated me. The magnificent magnetic masterpieces in the northern sky are the focus of my desktop backgrounds from September to May. This strap is a repeating vector graphic showing a green streak in the sky just after sunset. With no text, it can be worn in any orientation (unlike several of my strap designs), and from a distance it simply looks like a neon strap.

Cristo Redentor

Cristo Redentor strap

Rio de Janeiro’s 100-foot statue Cristo Redentor (English: Christ the Redeemer) is the world’s most powerful visualization of both Christ’s sacrifice and his ubiquity. We’re reminded simultaneously of the suffering he endured for our sins and the fact that he is always watching over us. As a musician in a worship band, I couldn’t think of a better symbol to have as a visual reminder each time I picked up my guitar to play. I brightened the statue itself within the picture and left the rest of the strap black to draw all the attention to it.

At the other end I included a line from a secular song (“Light Up the Sky” by Yellowcard) that ambiguously alludes to the Biblical story of Elijah listening for the voice of God. A worship leader standing over a keyboard once played a series of chords and asked, “Were those chords Christian or secular?” After a few seconds of me looking puzzled, he grinned and said, “Exactly, they’re neither. The music we make isn’t necessarily secular if we do it for His glory.” That has stuck with me for a long time, so I combined a secular song lyric with a powerful image of Jesus as a reminder to myself.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

YNWA strap

The song by this title was written in 1945 by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the musical “Carousel”. It is sung by the home crowd at Anfield before every Liverpool Football Club match and is frequently sung at Westfalenstadion (Borussia Dortmund), Celtic Park (Celtic F.C.), De Kuip (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Jan Breydel Stadium (Club Brugge), and several other soccer (and even ice hockey) stadiums around the world. It has been recorded by Gerry and the Pacemakers, Alicia Keys, Johhny Cash, and even Elvis. Queen guitarist Brian May says that the band was inspired to write “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You” when a crowd spontaneously sang it after one of their concerts. It has been used in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” as well as “American Horror Story”. How many musical tunes can brag all of that?

It’s lyrics are very simple: “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky and the sweet, silver song of a lark. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain, though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone.”

This four-word sentence has become something of a personal motto. As a Christian and as a human being, this will always be true. So naturally, I put it on a guitar strap.