Austin, Texas is a growing trendy city that’s located in one of the friendliest states in the United States to start a new business. Two friends from the Northeast are now trying to take advantage of that while trying to export a preppy style around the United States.
Menswear Criquet Shirts was founded by Hobson Brown and Billy Nachman. The two New Yorkers came grew up together at the time of the 1980’s prep-fashion that included the likes of L.L. Bean sweaters, Docksiders and polo shirts. Their coming of age during this year is what mainly influences their approach to designing Criquet’s wide and colorful selection of leisure shirts and sweaters.
The east coast, especially New York, is a fashion goldmine but the founders of Criquet wanted to begin their store in the growing city of Austin, who has a reputation for being a business and technology-friendly hub. A 2016 American Business Journal study ranked Austin as the number one city in the United States to start a small business.
“Austin has a laid-back vibe and a real appreciation for the work-life balance,” Brown said. “And that’s an attitude that we want to capture with our shirts. It’s a uniquely Texas brand.”
Criquet is taking advantage of the tremendous growth of the men’s apparel market. Research from IBISWorld shows online menswear grew at an average rate of more than 17 percent over a 5-year period, generating an annual revenue more than $20 billion.
Criquet has one brick and mortar store in Austin, but its primary source of revenue is from its online website. The website currently makes up for 80 percent of the company’s total sales. Criquet maintains retail locations at approximately 150 private stores, including pro-shops and country clubs in Palm Beach and Jackson Hole.
“We’re well positioned for future growth, and we want to do it right,” Brown told CNBC in a recent interview.
Criquet says its apparel is designed to “be worn with jeans and cowboy boots, dress slacks, or even shorts”. Brown says, “they’re great for work, play and relaxing… for your own ‘19th Hole’.”
The term ‘19th Hole’ is a slang term used that refers to a bar or restaurant near a golf course.
The 19th Hole is “a mythical place where, after a hard day’s work, you go to relax and recharge. And that’s deeply personal, so it means a lot of things for different people,” Nachman said.
In Austin, it could be golf, or it could be sitting around a fire pit with a cooler of beer, fishing on Lake Travis, or pub-crawling on 6th Street. It’s not ‘work hard, play hard.’ It’s ‘work hard, then hit the 19th Hole…wherever that 19thHole is, for you.”
Criquet has one major advantage most new apparel brands don’t have. A star name who can serve as a pitch man. Hobson and Nachman signed a deal with Hollywood actor and native Texan Luke Wilson, who also attended the University of Texas. “This was kismet, for all of us,” Brown told CNBC in an interview.
We saw Luke wearing one of our shirts on a late-night talk-show. After the show, we reached out to him through a mutual friend, and sent him a few shirts. Not long after, he visited our store in downtown Austin, one thing led to another, and now he’s not only the face of our brand, he’s a partner, too.”
Nachman says Wilson was the perfect choice to promote Criquet Shirts. “Luke is the everyman with an edge. He’s a Texan who just happens to live and work in Hollywood. He’s laid-back and likable, and really personifies our Texas lifestyle brand.”