The South is full of makers and creatives and vendors with bright ideas and interesting products. From jewelry to home goods to children’s accessories, there’s no shortage of talented Southern makers. We’ve recently encountered a few men’s brands that are must-knows for all guys and gals alike. The young men behind these companies stand out for their quality of goods, ingenuity of products and all-around upstanding customer service and care. We are excited to introduce you to these three outstanding Southern men’s brands.
Sometimes the world of cigars can be intimidating and hard to navigate, even for an expert. But Cigar Club makes this process easy and fun, by shipping customers a personalized box of handpicked cigars each month. The website, established by Jeff Zeiders and Chris Yokley, began only a year and a half ago but has already become a huge success.
“We help cigar smokers of all levels of experience through the cigar discovery process by pairing them with food and drinks that they love and providing them a really personalized product that can either help the novice figure out how to get into this world or help an expert branch out with things they haven’t tried,” says Jeff.
Jeff himself started smoking cigars with friends in college and quickly fell in love with the hobby.
“I find what I enjoy most about cigars is it almost forces you to slow down and take time,” he says. “To smoke a cigar takes 30-45 minutes, and you can’t usually walk inside, so it’s a nice forced outdoor relaxation period.”
This helped inspire Jeff to pitch the fledgling idea of Cigar Club at a Google-sponsored startup weekend in Mobile, Alabama, where it received tremendous praise. That weekend connected Jeff with Chris, and the two began to work out the details of their business.
Now, Cigar Club has happy customers across the country, because they ensure each package they send is truly tailored for each individual. When someone signs up for Cigar Club, the customer fills out a palate quiz that allows the Cigar Club team to pick out the perfect cigars for them based on the flavors they already love.
“People don’t really know how to describe what they like in a cigar, but they do know how to describe what they like in a wine or a chocolate or a food,” Jeff says. “So those are the questions we ask them, and then we have an algorithm that essentially translates their food and drink preferences into a cigar palate wheel.”
While getting this process started can be daunting, Cigar Club believes that they can provide even a true novice with a positive experience. In the first box Cigar Club sends to a customer, they include everything needed to enjoy a cigar, including a cigar cutter, packaging to maintain the product’s freshness and a card with easy-to-follow instructions on how to best smoke the cigars. To ensure further satisfaction, customers are able to rate each of the cigars they receive so that Cigar Club can continue to find even better options for them each month.
One of the ways Cigar Club is able to do so is through its tremendous access to far more cigars than one could find in a store. In fact, they even guarantee you will never receive the same cigar from them twice.
“We have access to 5,000 to 6,000 types of cigars so there’s a huge range and a huge amount of diversity, and we feel confident that we will be able to deliver a consistently new, unique and fun discovery process,” says Jeff.
As they move into their second year, Jeff and his team will continue to develop the company so that their customers can get right to the heart of what they love about cigars, without the hassle.
“Smoking a cigar really is that special moment with yourself or with friends where you’re transported out of day-to-day lifestyle and that’s great,” says Jeff.
Clayton & Crume, founded by Clay Simpson and Tyler Jury, began unceremoniously — in a dorm room at Western Kentucky University.
“Clay was really handy in college and realized the need for collegiate items at WKU. So he got a dog collar from the bookstore and turned it into a belt for tailgating,” Clayton & Crume Accounts Manager and Maker Parker Kuhn says.
The belt was an instant hit, so Clay teamed up with Tyler, his friend and fraternity brother, to make more. Since then, the Louisville based company has expanded to become an esteemed maker of high-end men’s leather products.
“What makes Clayton & Crume special is that there’s so much thought that goes into each product,” Parker says. “We don’t want to release anything that’s not 100% ready for the market.”
These high standards manifest in the materials chosen for Clayton & Crume’s products.
“Our leather is truly top grade,” Parker says. “That’s easily overlooked online, but once you see and feel it in person it really becomes evident that it’s not your everyday genuine leather. It’s full grain leather from one of the best tanneries in the country.”
All of the hides used in Clayton & Crume leathers are meticulously handpicked by Clay and Tyler at Horween Leather Co. in Chicago — the same tannery that makes the NFL’s footballs and the leather for many renowned shoe brands.
“We could outsource this and make this a lot quicker, but it always comes back to the main focus behind the business, which is making something that’s going to last a long time,” Parker says.
Luckily for ladies, the brand has begun to roll out some women’s items, including a stylish leather tote.
“We tell people when they buy the tote that they’re going to have it forever, and that the moment you buy it is going to be the worst it ever looks because it’s only going to look better with time,” Parker shares. “It’s one of those products that when you touch it or when you see it, you notice a major difference from a bag you get at a big store.”
However, transitioning into the world of women’s clothing wasn’t an easy task for the staff.
“As a bunch of guys in the shop, its hard to know what women’s needs are,” Parker says with a laugh. “But we recently released a women’s wallet that we’ve seriously been working on for 3 years to try to perfect and make sure it’s unique in its own way.”
Whether they’re producing for men or women, one thing is for sure. Clayton & Crume will continue to maintain the exceptional level of quality they have become known for.
“Everything we produce, we’ve laid multiple eyes on it before it leaves our shop in Louisville and we want to keep it that way,” Parker says. “We would never want someone to receive a product with our name on it that isn’t up to the highest standards.”
Collared Greens is known for producing colorful, high-quality menswear for every occasion. But Collared Greens President Mason Antrim believes the company is about something much more important — its dedication to remaining both environmentally friendly and 100 percent American made.
“At the end of the day, this company is a vehicle to support and add American jobs as well as support and raise money to give back to the great outdoors and conservation efforts across the USA,” Mason says.
Collard Greens, which is now located in Richmond, Virginia, began in Idaho in late 2009. As the founders realized much of their clientele was on the East coast, they moved their headquarters to North Carolina in 2011 and then to Richmond in 2014. Now, the company has 300 outlets through their wholesale channel, a flourishing business online and a storefront in Richmond.
“We’ve grown a lot, and we’re just kind of bootstrapping our way up the old-fashioned way,” says Mason. “We’re growing and now getting to a point where we’re ready to start taking bigger steps.”
The company started out selling neck and bow ties but has since developed into a full-fledged men’s clothing line, including t-shirts, button downs, polos and more.
“We’re a classic look you can wear when you’re teen or when you’re 90, so that’s part of the fun,” Mason says. “We’re selling stuff we grew up wearing and continue to wear. We’re not high fashion, but we’re lifestyle fashion.”
However, as they have expanded, Collared Greens has never sacrificed their mission of giving back to conservation efforts, and they continue practicing eco-friendly business policies, like using 100 percent organic cotton and donating a portion of their profits each year.
“We love being outside and want it to be there for our kids,” Mason says. “So we pick several conservation organizations a year and then let our Facebook and social media fans vote so everybody is involved and everybody knows what we’re doing and it’s fun. Those are the best checks I write all year long.”
While Collared Green’s cares deeply about their environmental efforts and has done a tremendous amount of good, they equally value their commitment to staying completely American made.
“Why are we supporting these terrible work habits in other parts of the world, subjecting people to child labor and unhealthy conditions, when we could be doing it here?” Mason asks. “Made in the USA is certainly not an easy thing but it’s definitely doable because we get satisfaction when we know that our suppliers have more jobs because of us. That’s why we do what we do.”
These three brands founded by Southern men are all carried in SB Shop! Their dedication to high-quality, useful and handsome goods makes them some of our favorite Southern men’s brands, so we’re excited to partner with them as vendors in our StyleBlueprint shop. Find them here!
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