If you’re like us, you live in your basketball shorts. You get home from work or school, and the first thing you do is put on a pair of your favorite hoop shorts because that’s who you are. You are a ballplayer.
If there’s one thing that always seems to elude you though, it is the fact that you can’t find quality retro game shorts of your favorite teams. Well, the founders of Retro College Cuts have you covered.
“People get nostalgic when they see a piece of clothing from a past great team,” says ‘Dave,’ one of the brand’s co-founders, who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity because the site he runs, www.retrocollegecuts.com, doesn’t exactly fall under the scope of his 9:00-5:00 technology research firm gig. “We kind of call ourselves ‘cultural anthropologists.’ We go out and we dig. We try to bring back these artifacts that are associated with these great teams. And for us, that’s what resonates with the customer.”
Through their website, authentic retro college shorts and t-shirts have been revived. The shorts of 17 classic teams (as of press time), which includes the teams mentioned and other greats such as the ’79 Michigan State Spartans, ’95 UMass Minutemen and ’89 Seton Hall Pirates, are all available for purchase.
There was a time when the company’s founders used to buy authentic game-worn college shorts off eBay, simply because they weren’t available anywhere else. But then the bidding war would start, and in typical eBay fashion the price would skyrocket. But out of that financial hit came the realization that there was in fact a market for this product – authentic, back-in-the-day shorts with that thicker, heavier, quality feel. Sitting alongside his future co-founder and former Division I teammate at the 2011 Sweet 16 in Newark, they decided to go for it.
“It just was cool,” says Dave. “From a design standpoint, I don’t really have a fascination with jerseys. I wasn’t going to get a lot of utility out of wearing a jersey. But I wear shorts to play basketball, I wear shorts to run in, I wear shorts at the gym, I wear shorts around my apartment, and for me it just seems like this was something the market was missing.”
It was a no-brainer, except neither partner had any real retail or licensing experience, especially concerning the NCAA. They eventually brought in an advisor from a major sneaker brand, who had worked in their collegiate department and licensing group, as a minority owner. But they still controlled which team shorts to sell.
“It’s a little guess work, a little gut feel,” Dave says. “We spent our lives growing up in basketball, so we’re pretty passionate about the product. That’s one of the reasons why we went down this path and are doing what we’re doing. So we look for teams that resonate with people.”
Thus far, the most popular teams have been the 1990 national champion UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, as well as the ’90 Loyola Marymount Lions.
But when Retro College Cuts first started out, the choices were limited because they only had access to certain management companies, who in turn only owned the licensing rights to certain teams. But once the business grew and management companies began opening their doors, the number of shorts grew and the word got out. With nearly 1,200 people following their Twitter account, @RetroCollegeCut, in only six months, Dave and his partners now know that the retro shorts market does exist. And now that they have a relationship with the largest licensing group, Retro College Cuts is looking to expand the retro shorts brand rapidly and immediately.
“We’ve got 10 verbal commitments, and we’re aiming to get about 10 or 15 more,” says Dave. “We’ll probably have 40 schools that will be all in on the shorts side of the business by October of this year. So we’ve got 17 now, so 23 more. We’ll probably add a few more around the March Madness timeframe, and by October of 2013, we’ll have a full compliment of 80 schools, or 80 varieties.”
But the expansion won’t stop there.
“With programs that have had a great history and a great tradition of basketball excellence, you can do multiple years,” Dave continues. “And you can also make the home shorts, and let that ride for six months, and then come out with the away shorts for that year. We just think there’s a lot of depth in the category.”
For $69.99, less than half of what Dave used to pay on eBay, the shorts can be yours. But besides the money, the real pleasure of the business stems from the overwhelmingly positive response Retro College Cuts has received from customers and college basketball fans.
“We get an e-mail a week from someone who’s passionate about it like we are, saying like ‘I can’t believe you guys decided to do this. I can’t believe you picked this team.’ When you get that type of response, that’s what makes it fun.”
As a gift to Dime readers, the RetroCollegeCuts guys are offering a 15% discount to anyone who makes a purchase on the site through the end of July. Just use the code “DIME” upon checkout at http://www.retrocollegecuts.com.
What do you think?
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