By TIM BAINES
Nearly 20 years ago, graphic designer Scott Woodworth – feeling a bit mischievous and puzzled why male golfers weren’t having any fun with their selection of golf clothing – had a seamstress stitch together a pair of pants by splashing Looney Tunes characters onto a powder blue cloth background.
And with pants that had Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam and Tasmanian Devil pictured riding around on golf carts – Loudmouth, the company that had the audacity to go into full attack mode on the stiff-collared clothing traditions of golf, was born. Since then, Loudmouth loves to say it’s become ‘the most fun you can have with your pants on.’
While there were plenty of snickers in his direction, Woodworth – who’s known as Woody – dreamed up ideas for pant designs, then hunted down the fabric he needed.
“Remember those old pictures of Bob Hope, that’s what I wanted to be like,” said Woodworth. “I couldn’t find any of that so I just made my own pair (of pants). Guys would walk by me, I knew they were uncomfortable. I’d look back and they’d be talking to each other. But other guys would run up to me, ‘Those are awesome, where did you get those pants?’ So I decided to start the company.”
To Woodworth, men’s golf clothing was plain, boring. Why not have some fun?
“If you go back to the 1970s, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, they were all wearing stripes and plaids on the golf course — all colourful,” said Woodworth. “There’s the old joke, ‘Those are like my uncle’s golf pants.’ When I started playing more golf in the 1990s and early 2000s, I wanted to be like that. I wanted to be that caricature.
“Golf pants were khakis or black, you couldn’t even find navy blue. It was so boring, golfers were so serious. To me, it was about making mischief. To do something like this, it’s disruptive.”
He pushed ahead without much of a business plan. The first 60 pairs of pants cost him maybe $6,000 to make. He created a website, then put a 10-word classified ad in the back of Golf Digest. He started selling six, seven, 10 pairs of pants a week. The first year, he probably ordered 300 pairs of pants.
“I remember meeting a guy at the post office, he said: ‘Hey, how’s your stupid pants thing going.’ I said, ‘Not bad, I sold $10,000 worth this month.’ I thought if I could average that, it would be $120,000 a year. I didn’t calculate how many pants I needed to sell every day to replace my salary from the freelance design business so I could quit that and just do this. When that point came, that’s when I thought I could make it.”
Developing a synergy with golf bad-boy John Daly 10 years ago was a watershed moment for the company. It was a match made in heaven. Asked what it meant to the company to have Daly as the poster boy for the wild and crazy splashes of colour, Woodworth said: “It’s like a high-speed elevator. We started on the first floor. We went up the stairs and we were on the second floor. JD gets on the elevator and all of a sudden we’re up to the 24th floor. We didn’t know what kind of effect he would have. He showed up at his first tournament in Europe at the pro-am day in the raspberry sherbet pants – bright orange, bright pink argyle – there was a picture on the Yahoo home page, it was the shot of the day. They got more comments on that picture than any other picture all year. Our website traffic spiked, stores that thought it was too crazy when we had called previously said, ‘You know what, maybe we’ll bring a few pairs in.’ ”
Among those who have worn Loudmouth: The U.S. men’s Olympic beach volleyball team, the Norwegian men’s Olympic curling team, plus celebs Alice Cooper, Bill Murray and Will Ferrell.
Loudmouth introduced some of its new wacky and wonderful designs at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando in January. Available over the next few months are designs like Magic Bus, Bambooz, Broad Strokes, Loudmouth Soup, Golf Camo, Baker’s Dozen (yep, colourful donuts), Blasterpiece, Skull Grotto, Eye Candy, Lawbstiz (with that Boston accent) and an awesome Canadian design called Canuck (included are a moose head, maple syrup, skates, a beaver, a maple leaf, a bear and the CN Tower).
Where do Woodworth and his crew of designers come up with the ideas?
Said Woodworth: “It’s like asking a classical musician, ‘How do you come up with those melody lines?’ I don’t know. A lot of it is trial and error, I don’t have a plan design wise. One thing leads another. There are patterns all around you when you walk around — scarves, rugs, wallpaper, anything – I just happen to pay attention to them.”
With sales increasing each year, there’s been more of an acceptance of the product – which not only includes pants, there are polo shirts, skorts, caps, visors, socks and belts. And YES white belts are for guys too and just add to the fun!
Loudmouth has a licensing deal in place with Major League Baseball. Some might ask, ‘Why would I ever wear that?’ But Woodworth sees it through a different lens in his kaleidoscope of an imagination.
Said Woodworth: “Remember what it was like being in fourth or fifth grade? You wanted to conform, no one wanted to get singled out. But now we’re adults, we can do whatever we want. Some people are so afraid (to wear crazy designs). They say, ‘I can’t pull that off.’ But when they put it on, they’re thinking, ‘This isn’t really as scary as I thought. People are smiling at me, people are talking to me, and this is fun.’ There are some people who look at you and run the other way. But it’s just an icebreaker, it’s a great way to make friends.
My often traveling partner Little Dog, also known as the Traveling Golfer, loves to wear his Loudmouth even in a business environment stating, “When I leave the room everyone knows I was there!”
“Let’s face it, we all stink (on the golf course). You might as well have fun, you aren’t going to make any money off it. Why dress like you’re a serious golfer? I mean, c’mon.”
Switching his pants to a stretch-tech poly fabric a year ago has been a game changer. They don’t wrinkle, shrink or fade.
Loudmouth also has put in place partnerships with New Era for hats and Etonic for shoes.