Brandon Fuss-Cheatham never thought he’d have a T-shirt shop on High Street once his Ohio State career ended.
He served as a volunteer coach for the Buckeyes, then lived in California for a while. He worked in Columbus for a company that developed a basketball training aid.
But as it turns out, those steps were just leading him to where he was supposed to be. His time in California? It turned him on to the comfort and flexibility of the T-shirt, the de facto uniform of the sun-splashed coast. His time in basketball made him conversant in sports, and he developed a base of friends who could help him get his company off the ground.
“I’m a basketball guy,” he recently told BSB while pulling double duty working behind the counter at Lamp Apparel. “I thought I’d be in sports. Before I went full-time here, I worked at a sports technology company in Dublin, InfoMotion Sports Technologies. We invented basketballs with censors in them.
“I thought I was going to be in sports my whole life, but with this, I started 2½ years ago. I didn’t know it was going to be full-time. I thought it was going to be a hobby.”
Now, that hobby – sketching out designs for apparel based on the hottest moments in sports – is a full-time job. Fuss-Cheatham is the man behind Lamp, which produces shirts, hats, sunglasses and more that have become popular on the streets of Columbus and beyond.
Following the lead of Homage and other such companies in Ohio, Lamp’s goal is simple – provide attractive, comfortable clothing with a message that people can wear equally well on a chill day at home or a night out on the town.
Sold in a basement storefront at 815 N. High St. and online, Lamp specializes in shirts that celebrate Ohio – from the Buckeyes to the city of Columbus and beyond. There is also a military-themed line and other lifestyle options, all of which have combined to be a winning idea for Fuss-Cheatham, who played 113 games as a point guard for the Buckeyes from 2002-05.
“I think people want a different shirt,” Fuss-Cheatham said. “They don’t want the shirt that everyone can have. We have shirts that a lot of people will buy – you see a lot of the same shirt – but to them, it’s not the issued team shirt. And it’s the feel of the shirt. It’s a shirt you can wear out all the time in jeans, you can lay around the house in it. It’s a shirt that washes well and dries well, so it always looks good. People wear it out more than just to games. They wear it to bars and having fun.”
After finishing his basketball career at OSU, Fuss-Cheatham spent that time on the West Coast, where the T-shirt and jeans look was everyday attire. He started knocking ideas for shirts around in his head, but the chance to create an apparel company took off when he returned to Ohio.
Partnering with college friend Scott Kaiser, Fuss-Cheatham began sketching out ideas and created a line to print. Lamp doesn’t have a license from Ohio State to produce team-branded apparel, so Fuss-Cheatham and his designers – including lead designer Andrew Matre – have to get creative. For him, that’s what it’s all about, as he’ll put a twist on things that are happening to create a unique look that can stand the test of time.
“That’s kind of what the basis for the company was, just expressing my creativity,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m into fashion. I’m not a fashion guy. I don’t know fashion. I’m not in New York. What I do know is what’s cool, and I know what I like. I think what I like, a lot of people like.”
That’s proved to be true. Lamp’s shirts have resonated with fans, with the “Ohio State of Mind” shirt – the “H” is a stylized version of Marcus Hall’s famous double-middle finger salute at Michigan in 2013 – becoming one of the company’s most popular designs.
But the real frenzy for Lamp Apparel occurred in January when Cardale Jones stepped to the microphone at a press conference in Cleveland to tell the world he would return to Ohio State. The Buckeyes quarterback did so in a gray T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “12 Gauge Buckshot,” a reference to his nickname that Lamp Apparel produced after he burst onto the scene during college football’s postseason.
While some fans worried that the company had produced the shirt for Cardale in violation of NCAA rules, Fuss-Cheatham said that simply wasn’t the case, as Jones had stopped into the store and bought the shirt after beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game.
“There were a lot of good and bad conversations about it,” Fuss-Cheatham said. “People thought we had made it just for him (to wear), and we didn’t. We made that shirt months before. He came onto the scene – played three games and took the nation by storm – so anything he did or wore was a conversation piece. It just so happened the biggest interview of his life was to return or go pro, and he happened to be wearing our shirt.
“We got a lot of reaction, good and bad. People definitely gravitated to it. We only sold it for a few days, just because we got so much heat for it. People thought we had manipulated it. No, he just wore the shirt.”
But shirts such as those and other hits have helped Lamp become a key player on the apparel scene in Columbus. Because of that, the company has passed the wildest dreams of its founder.
“It’s definitely exceeded our expectations,” Fuss-Cheatham said. “We have three or four people that are working for us, and this is my life. For me to provide a living for other people that are close to me and provide a living for myself, it’s ridiculous. And we’re young. The growth potential in our business is huge. We’re seeing that, and it’s moving fast. Obviously our goals are a lot higher, but we’ve definitely exceeded our expectations when we first started.”
Among the perks of those exceeded expectations? Taking a look outside the storefront and seeing Lamp designs wherever he goes.
“I see it almost daily now because I’m down in the Short North,” Fuss-Cheatham said. “I always see shirts anywhere I go really, and then I have a lot of friends who could be in airports, they could be somewhere in the country and say, ‘Hey man, I just took a picture with a guy with your shirt on.’ To me, that’s the most fulfilling part.”