THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
March 29, 2006
By Charlie Brennan, Rocky Mountain News
Clothier, 105, still going strong
Rockmount's Weil, who outfits the stars, celebrates birthday
Jack A. Weil, founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear, sits in the back of a horse-drawn carriage Tuesday, during a celebration of his 105th birthday in downtown Denver. Mayor John Hickenlooper renamed Wazee Street "Jack A. Weil Way" for the day.
Jack A. Weilcelebrated his 105th birthday Tuesday the way he celebrates just about every other business day, heading down to Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co., which has been in business at the same location, 1626 Wazee St. in Denver, since 1946.
But it wasn't just another day at the shop, what with Mayor John Hickenlooper and a passel of dignitaries, friends and just plain folks on hand for the festivities.
Hizzoner read a proclamation honoring America's oldest active CEO and renamed Wazee "Jack A. Weil Way" for the day.
There was plenty of cake, sandwiches and other refreshments for everyone.
Even the sun shined warmly for the occasion.
Fellow living legends, including Bruce Springsteen, Robert Redford, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, have all worn Weil's trademarked western shirts with snaps over the years.
Weil, who came to Denver in 1928, doesn't go to motion pictures anymore.
So he hasn't seen Brokeback Mountain, the big-buzz movie of 2005 about a couple of Wyoming cowboys and their star-crossed love affair, starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal.
But the plaid shirt with diamond snaps and sawtooth pockets Ledger sports through much of the film? Rockmount style 69-39, for the record.
The stonewashed blue denim favored by Gyllenhaal? Also from Rockmount.
"I guess we're survivors in this business," was all the birthday boy would say when the movie was mentioned.
His grandson, Rockmount vice president Steve Weil, attended the movie's premiere, and said the film's costuming director had contacted him in advance to find out if he'd be comfortable with the characters sporting his wares.
"When I heard Ang Lee, Larry McMurtry, Heath Ledger, that's all I needed to know," said Steve Weil. "Whether it's everyone's cup of tea or not, this is art."
Between posing with his many well-wishers and endless snapping of pictures, Tuesday's honoree showed his head hasn't outgrown the Resistol hat that sat squarely on his head throughout the proceedings.
"Don't you think this is quite a thing for a country boy from Indiana?" he softly said, as he was assisted by Hickenlooper and his grandson toward an awaiting horse and carriage for a ceremonial ride down "his" street.
Weil was asked for his tips to longevity in business.
One was, "I made a rule that I wouldn't sell anyone over $5,000 (in merchandise) at a time, so they wouldn't own me. If I lost 'em, I wouldn't be out of business," he said.
According to his grandson, Weil's been hospitalized only a couple of times in his life, so there's clearly more to it than that.
There is, Weil admitted.
"I thank the Lord," he said.
Brennanc@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2742
St. Petersburg Times
Famous Before the Movie
By MIM SWARTZ
March 28, 2006
DENVER - Walk into Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co. any weekday morning and you'll likely find a living legend behind the second desk on your left, papers scattered atop the battered wooden surface and a computer in front of him, an electric typewriter behind.
Jack A. Weil - who turns 105 today - will be wearing a bolo tie and one of his company's signature Western shirts. Weil, who founded Rockmount in 1946, is said to have introduced the first Western shirts with snap buttons - they could break away if the shirt got caught during ranch chores - and also to have made the first commercially produced bolo ties.
His signature shirt is said to have been favored by movie stars from Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan to Tom Hanks and James Caan, and by singers from Elvis Presley and Alan Jackson to Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen. But the shirt was designed for hardworking cowhands and mechanics, and one of the shirts is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
A $55 Rockmount shirt featured in the Hollywood hit Brokeback Mountain recently sold on eBay for an amazing $101,100 in a charity promotion.
Manufactured in the United States, the shirts are sold internationally; the company Web site includes a catalog of the apparel line as well as photos of celebrity clients in their Rockmounts.
Believed to be the oldest working CEO in America, if not the world, "Papa Jack" Weil is more than some prop like the other Western paraphernalia in the downtown Denver store and in its museum.
For instance, grandson Steve Weil, 48, a vice president of the company along with his father, Jack B. Weil, still turns to "Papa Jack" for advice.
"He is a pragmatist in the extreme," Steve Weil says of his grandfather. "There is nobody better I can go to for (answers to) the hard questions. He brings integrity and consistent ethics that are sadly lacking elsewhere."
Steve Weil says his grandfather brought computers to the company - way back in the 1960s - and has been a part of every technological change since. "He is Windows-literate," he adds, referring to the computer operating system.
Asked if he uses the computer at his desk, Papa Jack, blue eyes peering through wire-rimmed glasses, answers, "What the hell would I do without it?"
Later he shows his quick wit when a customer asks, "How do you feel today?"
"With my fingers," responds Papa Jack.
Weil's wife, Beatrice, to whom he was married 64 years, died in 1990 at age 89. She always said she felt as if Rockmount Ranch Wear was her husband's mistress, Steve Weil recalls. And who could blame her? Papa Jack is a workaholic who was putting in eight- to 10-hour days up until his 90s.
He has gradually reduced his workweek but still puts in long days.
Papa Jack drove an automobile until recently. Now, the nurse who fixes his dinner and stays overnight in his home drives Papa Jack to the office every morning.
It is obvious that a large part of Papa Jack's purpose in life is helping to run Rockmount Ranch Wear.
"People ask me, Why the hell are you working? Well, you have to have something to do," he said, before excusing himself to take a call on line 3.
Retired Denver Post travel editor Mim Swartz lives in Golden, Colo.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
March 10, 2006
Parker: Wazee becomes the street so nice they named it . . . thrice?
Jack A. Weil
On Thursday Mayor John Hickenlooper changed the name of Wazee Street to Tooley Street, in accordance with local St. Patrick's Day tradition, to honor Irish-American and popular former Denver District Attorney Dale Tooley.
At the end of the month, look for the street sign on the corner of Tooley and 17th Street to change yet again - this time to Weil Way - in honor of Rockmount Ranchwear founder Jack A. Weil, who is among the oldest - if not the oldest - living Coloradans.
He turns 105 on March 28. Hick mentioned the sign switch to Jack A. during the post sign-change VIP lunch at McCormick's. I asked Jack A. the obvious question: To what did he attribute his longevity? "Just lucky, I guess," he said, shrugging in his natty-looking Rockmount plaid snap-front shirt.
Jack A., flanked by his son, Jack B., and grandson, Steve, still reports for work every weekday for at least four hours, Steve said.
In honor of the patriarch's b-day, Rockmount has created a Papa Jack's 105 Broncs silk tie, which goes on sale for $30 in roughly two weeks. "It's a signature bronc design that he introduced in the '40s and I reinterpreted with various brands as a motif in the background," Steve said. The Papa Jack's 105 T-shirt, with the bronc logo, is available now for $17.50 at the retail store, 1626 Wazee.
Speaking of shirts, Rockmount has been basking in its newfound fame ever since the costume designer for Brokeback Mountain used several of the signature snap shirts in the movie. The film's pivotal tan shirt sold on eBay for $101,000 and change recently, with proceeds going to charity.
With five of those shirts left and tons of people asking for them, Steve opted to put the remaining ones on eBay with a starting price of $75. You can bid on them through Wednesday.
EAVESDROPPING on a man at the Celebrity Bowl-a-Thon: "I broke a nail and it hurts." Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Listen to her on the Caplis and Silverman radio show between 4 and 5 p.m. Fridays on KHOW-AM (630). Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Fashion Goes West
THE NEW YORK TIMES
How to Carry Off the Long, Lean Look
March 9, 2006
THERE is nothing wrong with letting your inner cowboy roam: Western wear has always been sold to guys who can't tell a hobble from a honda. Still, most men don't want to look like an extra in the "Westworld" remake or, as an old Western saying goes, "all dressed up like a sore wrist."
For many men the belt buckle is a good place to start, and stop. This season's Dsquared collection has several standouts, but they aren't subtle, and they don't come cheap. Montana Silversmiths makes a huge selection and does custom work (www.goldmountainmining.com). The buckle should be no more than three and a half inches wide. Bigger gets cartoonish.
The classic Western shirt, with its long, lean silhouette and snap closures, is a safe bet: it flatters a trim physique while suggesting that its wearer is above such vain concerns. Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren's RRL line and Calvin Klein all offer trimly tailored Western-style shirts this season, with more to come for fall.
Rockmount Ranch Wear (www.rockmount.com) sells more than 100 shirt styles, many classic. Look for the slim-fit shirts in faded plaid in the new vintage style collection — very "Brokeback," minus the tragedy. (While you are at it, you might check out Rockmount's weathered studded belts.
Boots get a little trickier. You can go for a classic pair from Justin or Lucchese with a pointed toe (which — cough, cough — you may still have in your closet). You can trade up and get a custom pair from the renowned bootmaker Paul Bond in Nogales, Ariz., or downshift and go for a version with a non-Western heel by a company like Frye. If you're more finicky, Dior Homme and Dsquared make citified takes of the classic and will silence fashion snobs faster than a Colt .45.
Then there are the jeans. Low-rise is all well and good, but it is not Western. If you want to look rodeo real, only Wrangler will do. (Aspiring bronc riders are in luck: Rockmount brought back colored shirts with fringe last year.) But for ranch-hand realness, it's Levi's or nothing.
on the hat: Don't.
by Penny Parker
WEIL HE WAS AWAY: Steve Weil, the Rockmount Ranchwear heir who spent Monday at a Las Vegas trade show, found out that the signature snappy Western shirt made famous in the movie Brokeback Mountain went for a cool $101,000 and change during an eBay auction that ended Monday. Yeehaw! (That hunk-a-chunk of change went to charity.)
"We always placed a high value on our shirts, but we didn't know anyone else did," Weil said.
The high bidder was Tom Gregory, a Los Angeles man who collects signed celebrity photos from Hollywood's golden age and lives in Gary Cooper's old house. The longtime gay activist told The Associated Press the shirts represent the ongoing plight of gays for acceptance. "They really are the ruby slippers of our time," said Gregory, 45.
THE DENVER POST
February 23, 2006
The shirts off "Brokeback" rope $101,000
THE DENVER POST
February 19, 2006
Movie makes Rockmount's shirts très hot
|Keep your shirt on.
Steve Weil at Rockmount Ranch Wear in Denver is happy that "Brokeback Mountain" is "like a catalog for our shirts," he says. But he never expected two of the duds to sell for more than $55,000.
The shirts worn by Jake Gyllenhaal play a pivotal part in the cowboy romance, especially at the end of the flick. They're now up for bids on eBay (#7589737258) and at press time they were going for $55,300. The bidding ends Monday, so it could go a lot higher. Or you can go to Rockmount in LoDo and buy one for $55.
All proceeds from the sale go to Variety, a showbiz charity for children.
"It's incredible," says Weil.
| THE DENVER POST
Sunday Style Jan. 15, 2006
Western wear on way to classic status
LOVE IT OR NOT, COWBOY COUTURE IS RIDING HERD ON FASHION'S MAINSTREAM
By Suzanne S. Brown Denver Post Staff Writer
Cowboy couture is riding a wave of popularity, but for every guy who loves his Lucchese boots and every gal who treasures her concha belt, there are a dozen more who wouldn't be caught dead in Western wear.
And the opposing camps are clearly visible when the National Western Stock Show is in town.
Those on the anti-Western side of the corral likely remember the cheesy polyester shirts and trophy buckle belts that stampeded into stores after "Urban Cowboy" hit movie theaters in 1980. Or they associate the clothing with a rural lifestyle at odds with their city sensibilities.
It's also generational. Older baby boomers grew up watching such TV shows as "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza," wearing holsters and toting toy guns.
Then they raised their children on "Star Wars" movies and Nintendo games, and - surprise - the new kids don't share their parents' nostalgia for chaps, spurs and the Wild West.
Fans of Western wear fall into a few categories, chief among them people who just live and love the Western lifestyle, whether they wear their jeans and snap shirt daily on the farm, ranch or rodeo circuit; or save them for stock show week, the dance floor of the Grizzly Rose or trips to the mountains.
The truth is that there are many facets to Western wear. "It means a lot of different things to different people," says Daniel DeWeese, editor of Western Lifestyle Retailer magazine. A New Yorker might look at a Colorado cowboy, rancher or rodeo princess' attire as a costume, "but it's never a costume to the core market," he says.
The Western market is getting a boost from such sources as Style.com, which dubs one of the top trends this season "New Frontier." And this month's Harper's Bazaar has a "Best Western" layout of items that promise to "kick-start your wardrobe." All proof, DeWeese says, "that Western wear is having a huge influence on mainstream fashion."
Popular culture continues to play a role too. The straw cowgirl hat Julia Roberts wore in "Runaway Bride" has been hot ever since the movie came out in 1999, and Madonna's sparkly rodeo queen hats and clothes in her 2000 "Music" album and videos had an impact too.
"Western wear has been a hip thing among models, TV and movie stars," and that filters down, DeWeese says.
"It will start with celebrities and boutiques on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, then everyone else follows them," says Steve Weil, vice president of Rockmount Ranch Wear in Denver. "A year later, it works down to the Wal-Mart in Texarkana." Rockmount recently supplied more than a dozen of its signature snap-front shirts to rock guitarist and composer Eric Clapton. The musician told Weil he was a fan of authentic Western wear but didn't know where to get it until he found a Rockmount shirt in an English boutique.
Clapton joins Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and even Elvis Presley as having worn Rockmount shirts. Western wear appeals to musicians because "there's a creative individuality to it, an edginess," Weil says. "It's a rejection of conventional fashion, the boring mainstream."
Rockmount shirts also are worn by the actors who portray gay cowboy lovers in "Brokeback Mountain," now in movie theaters. Was Weil concerned about the subject matter being too edgy? "We realize this is not everybody's cup of tea, but the real issue is that the movie is a work of art, and we love being associated with Annie Proulx, Ang Lee and Larry McMurtry," he says.
While companies such as Rockmount specialize in Western wear, few top American designers on Seventh Avenue regularly use Western motifs. Ralph Lauren is among the few to have done collections inspired by the West.
Rather it's the Europeans who tend to showcase it. The trendy label Dsquared paraded male models in ultra-low rise jeans, leather vests and string ties at its spring 2006 show in Milan, Italy. Female models wore calico and denim dresses, waist-cinching leather cummerbunds, embroidered suede jackets.
"The Europeans view (Western wear) from a distance that we can't," says Tyler Thoreson, executive editor at men.style.com, the website for GQ and Details magazines. "They're an ocean away and can look at American iconography and just go with it. We're too close to it to have that much fun with it."
But that's OK, because in America, Western is becoming a classic, Weil says. "It has earned a credibility and doesn't necessarily cycle in and out of fashion as it did in the past," he says.
"Parts of Western are staple and just as much in fashion this season as the next, whether it's a hat or boots or a belt. It's a firm part of the fashion scene and will remain so for the long haul."
Love it or loathe it, Western is here to stay.
January 8, 2006
THE DENVER POST
Instant expert: Stock tips
THE DENVER POST
Out here: Rodeo style
Stock Show 100th Anniversary Tie
Rockmount Ranch Wear,
1626 Wazee St., Denver
|It takes a village of old-timers to properly celebrate an anniversary the magnitude of the National Western Stock Show, Rodeo and Horse Show's centennial.
Third-generation Western-wear designer Steve Weil partnered with fifth-generation rancher and artist Duke Beardsley to create a bold red silk tie to toast the big rodeo.
Just 200 were made, and they are sure to be snapped at Rockmount's LoDo shop and at the National Western's logo booth. If you miss the $30 deal, you still can see Beardsley's original painting at the Coors Art Show this week.
THE DENVER POST
January 6, 2006
Cowboys, cowgirls and spectators owe the shirts off their backs to a Denver designer and John Travolta.
By George Merritt, Denver Post Staff Writer
Steve Weil sits inside Rockmount Ranch Wear, the clothing manufacturer and store on Wazee Street that his grandfather Jack opened several decades ago.
These days, the cowboy get-up is an icon of Americana. It's apple pie, cheeseburgers and blue jeans.
But as the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo looks back on 100 years, it's apparent that it wasn't always like that.
Oddly enough, we may all have John Travolta and one of Denver's native sons to thank for our cowboy - and cowgirl - chic.
"The original Western wear was very much the clothing of the time," said Keith Schrum, curator of "A Woman's Place ... Is on the Range," a cowgirls exhibit at the Colorado History Museum. "In the 1890s," he said, "people wore pretty much the same styles as what was worn in the East."
Schrum said his exhibit was inspired primarily by one picture from 1894 in the San Louis Valley. In the scene, three women in long Victorian skirts are branding a calf. Another image shows a woman attempting to break a bucking horse. "The most important thing about this picture is that you can't see her legs," Schrum said. "She's breaking this horse sidesaddle."
But Schrum said as the decades passed, Western fashion for men and women went from practical to the more exaggerated. Snaps - long popular because they could easily break free and prevent tears when working with livestock - got shinier. Boot stitching - originally sewn in for support - got flashier. And the broad- brimmed hat became a personal statement.
"Hollywood and tourism really capitalized on the image of the cowboy around the 1940s," Schrum said. "It was this whole idea of Manifest Destiny. People started to look back at how the country was settled and the role of cowboys. ... They became heroes."
Right about that time, Jack A. Weil opened a clothing manufacturing store on Wazee Street in downtown Denver and set out to make the quintessential cowboy shirt.
"Cowboys weren't going to wear it if there wasn't function to it, but it was an appeal to the flashy," said Steve Weil, Jack's grandson, in the same storefront where Rockmount Ranch Wear began. "You wore it when you went to town or to the rodeo. It was a dress-up shirt."
His grandfather brought the broad yokes on the shoulders and "sawtooth" flap pockets that are now the calling cards of the Western shirt.
For decades, the style stayed primarily in the Rocky Mountain West until Travolta jumped on a mechanical bull in the 1980 movie "Urban Cowboy."
"That movie really made the Western shirt a mass-market product," said Weil, who released the book "Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion" last year and designed the National Western's 100th-anniversary commemorative tie. "We had been popular with cowboys and rock stars for a long time, but we did not get in everyone's closet until 'Urban Cowboy."'
Today, dressing the part plays a big role in the stock show.
"Rodeo is the only sport where the spectators are dressed exactly like the athletes," said National Western spokeswoman Kati Anderson. "It's part of what makes it unique. How you wear the brim of your hat or the style of jeans says a lot about who you are."
Staff writer George Merritt can be reached at 720-929-0893 or email@example.com.
THE GAZETTE, Colorado Springs, CO
January 06, 2006
URBAN COWBOY REVISITED
Rockmount Ranch Wear, at 1626 Wazee St. in Denver’s LoDo district, is a bastion of Western garb, including shirts, hats, boots and belts. The company has been in the retail business for only three years. Before that, people would ignore the “wholesale only” sign and come in to buy merchandise.
Team GO! scoots north with boots in tow Western-wear Mecca on Wazee
By ANDREW WINEKE, THE GAZETTE
And you thought the urban cowboy died with John Travolta’s early movie career. Think again, buckeroos and buckerettes. As Denver kicks up its spurs for the National Western Stock Show, Team GO! guides you toward the best in cowboy fun — from the hot place to two-step to the most distinguished Western wear store this side of the Mississippi (and, hey, you know you won’t find nothin’ on the other side.)
DENVER - “You talk about the vanishing West, we’re it,” Steven Weil says, standing amidst the racks of Western shirts adorned with swirls, horseshoes and poker dice.
Weil’s family business, Rockmount Ranch Wear at 1626 Wazee St. in Denver’s LoDo district, is a bastion of Western garb and a reminder of the trendy neighborhood’s downscale wholesale past.
“There used to be a whole neighborhood of businesses like ours,” Weil says, “then there were three, then two and soon there will be one.”
Far from being an anomaly, however, Rockmount fits in nicely with Wazee’s rows of pricey boutiques and upscale bars. Its signature snap-button shirts remain as popular with urban night crawlers as they are with the rodeo set.
As Jack B. Weil, Steven Weil’s father and son of founder and CEO Jack A. Weil, says, “We sell to a lot of real cowboys, and we sell to a lot of wannabes. Thank God for the wannabes.”
There’s nothing ersatz about Rockmount, though. At 104 years old, Jack A. Weil still comes to work every day, sitting behind the counter in one of the company’s shirts and a bola tie — another fashion innovation he pioneered.
“How the hell can I retire when my dad’s still working?” Jack B. Weil jokes.
Upstairs is a miniature museum of past and present designs — Rockmount’s “640” shirt with sawtooth pockets and diamond snaps has been in production for more than 50 years. In the back is a collection of saddles Steven Weil has put together. The customers are as likely to be genuine ranchers visiting the city as they are hipsters who live here.
Despite its decades of history — Rockmount has owned the building on Wazee since 1946 — the company has been in the retail business for three years. Before, the Wazee building was just a warehouse and offices. People would ignore the “wholesale only” sign on the door and come in looking for Western wear. So the Weils decided to open things up and let people buy shirts, belts and boots.
Rockmount isn’t just a little family business. The shirts can cost up to $90 each, and they’re popular all over the world. Steven Weil — who wrote the book on Western shirts, “Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion” — tells of hand-delivering some shirts to rock legend Eric Clapton in England only to be interrupted by a call from Sweden.
“It’s more than just buying a shirt,” he says. “It’s about entertaining.”
||As featured in 5280 Magazine, classic Rockmount Chenille embroidered shirt for men and women. 100% cotton gabadine twill year around fabric weight. Imported. $85.
Men's #6719-Ivory Sm - XXL
Women's #7719-Ivory Sm - XL
Super singer Bonnie Raitt celebrated her 56th birthday Tuesday night with a sold-out performance at the Fillmore Auditorium. One concert-goer described the evening as "a love fest between her and the audience," but the crew took "love fest" to a new meaning. During the fourth song, the gang came on stage wearing white boxer shorts, with each (clothed) rear end bearing (not baring) a letter that spelled out "happy birthday." Raitt's love-in continued with kudos for the Fillmore. "I love these chandeliers," she said. "I wish I could redo my bedroom with one of them." She spread the love to Fillmore music man Chuck Morris. "I wonder if Chuck would give me one of them as a present? Do you realize I have worked with Chuck for over 30 years?" She ended the concert with a promise to return to Red Rocks in the summer.
IT RATES WITH RAITT: Rockmount Ranch Wear heir Steve Weil had his cake and ate it too after the rockin' Raitt concert.
The wily Weil wrangled an invite to the post-concert backstage birthday party from James "Hutch" Hutchinson, the band's bass guitarist, who spent a bundle on a bundle of shirts at the LoDo western wear shop. When Weil learned it was Raitt's birthday, he sent the singer a pink "girlie T-shirt" with a Rockmount logo designed by Jack A. Weil in the '40s. Raitt was fighting a cold so she skipped the shopping trip. "Hutch called and said she really liked it and she wanted to meet us after the show," said Weil who was treated to VIP seats by the band. "They were so nice to us, I was very touched."
Bonnie Raitt meets Steve and Wendy Weil. James "Hutch" Hutchinson, her bass guitarist for over 20 years is wearing Rockmount teal plaid #6930. Hutch has many Rockmount shirts which he wears both on and off the stage. He appears in more than 500 alblums and has worked with Willy Nelson, Willy Nelson, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, David Crosby, Delber McClinton, Kathy Mattea and many more.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
"TOP OF THE ROCKY"
Nov. 4, 2005
Top Western Wear
ROCKMOUNT RANCH WEAR
1626 Wazee St., 303-629-7777
When you shop Rockmount Ranch Wear, you’re shopping a Colorado institution. Founded in 1946, Rockmount is the oldest maker of Western shirts made in the U.S. This three-generation, family-owned business designed the first Western snap shirt, which today is the longest running shirt design in America. The first shirt retailed for $2.95; today’s snap styles range from $50 to $100 in more than 100 styles.
The "gay caballeros" were not spotted standing together at the Western Fantasy Gala, but both heard it through the grapevine that they had committed the fashion faux pas. "The saleswoman said, 'You've got a lot of confidence to wear that shirt,' " Hudson admitted. (I wonder why he didn't take off his jacket all night?)
"Did your wife approve of that shirt?" I asked White. "You don't see her here tonight, do you?" he said, laughing.
Country crooner Lee Greenwood was saved by a saxophone during rehearsal for Western Fantasy Saturday, where Greenwood was this year's headliner. "There was a gap in the stage and the sax caught his fall," said event founder Sharon Magness Blake, dressed in a lacy burgundy "Miss Kitty" gown. "He's bruised; the sax is crushed."
If Greenwood was in a world of hurt, no one could tell from the way he danced and jumped up and down during his set at the National Western Events Center. Greenwood, who in the past has performed his hit God Bless the USA as Magness Blake rides Thunder into the arena (this year was new Thunder's Western Fantasy debut), had never headlined the show.
To be honest, I wasn't exactly galloping to the event to see Greenwood, who many consider a one-hit wonder. But bust my buttons, he was marvelous singing both original and cover songs in a performance that was a real people pleaser. The event raised $1 million for Volunteers of America. Magness Blake is working on landing an even bigger country star for next year. I'll let you know as soon as the ink is dry on the contract.
EAVESDROPPING on a woman, speaking to a man who took off his cowboy boots at Western Fantasy: "You changed your shoes." "My heels were killing me." Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Listen to her on the Caplis and Silverman radio show between 4 and 5 p.m. Fridays on KHOW-AM (630). Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com.
RINGLING BROS CIRCUS
Meet Andre McClain, singing/gentleman cowboy, trick roper, rodeo cowboy, ringmaster, horse & camel trainer. Andre paid us a call while the circus was in town and we enjoyed meeting this tallented 3rd generation horseman and entainer. Under that great Nudi style suit is a Rockmount vintage embroidery #6706-Blk/Red.
Sept 2005 Gentleman's Quarterly
New York Times Review of Books "WESTERN SHIRTS" Sept. 4, 2005
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
September 29, 2005
by NORM CLARKE
NORM: Shirt style strikes chord with Clapton
Rocker Eric Clapton is collaborating on another cultural icon: the Western shirt.
His co-design will be unveiled this week at the MAGIC clothing expo by Rockmount Ranch Wear of Denver. The venture got its start unexpectedly in May when Clapton sent an e-mail to Rockmount boss Steve Weil.
"I love your shirts and I've been buying them while touring the states," wrote Clapton, adding that he wanted more of them for the Cream reunion, less than a week away. He added his phone number in case Weir thought the e-mail was bogus.
Weil responded and shipped the initial order, then another order. But when he realized that neither order might get to London in time, he contacted Clapton and offered to hand-deliver the shirts.
Clapton was so pleased that he said he'd make sure Weil got to the Cream reunion "if I have to drive you in the trunk of my car."
When Weil showed up at Royal Albert Hall, he and a friend were handed tickets and backstage passes. Afterward, they were escorted to the green room, where a small group of maybe 10 had joined Clapton. Among them: ex-Beatles Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney, former Rolling Stones member Bill Wyman and actor Tom Hanks.
The meeting led to the co-designing venture on the shirt, which features a guitar and lyrics from "Back Home," from Clapton's first album in five years.
An amazing experience got even better Sunday when Weil drove down the Strip to Mandalay Bay and saw his name on the marquee for his book signing Tuesday.
He'll be signing "Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion" at 7 p.m. at The Mandalay Bay Reading Room.
Las Vegas Book Signing at Mandalay Bay Aug 30, 2005
North by NorthEast………….Allen Wicken, PT, MS… June 16, 2005
A Conversation with a 104 year-old Icon of the American West
“You folks being looked after?” said the small, kindly shopkeeper approaching us as we sifted through a rack full of amazingly colorful and ornate western-style shirts. Thus began what would become an immensely enjoyable hour- long conversation I had last week with Mr. Jack A. Weil in downtown Denver, Colorado. Little did I know that he is one of the city’s most beloved (and most likely the oldest) citizens.
Judy sensed after the first few minutes that this conversation was going to take a while, knowing my penchant for drawing stories, opinions, anecdotes, and experience-based wisdom out of interesting elders. (I have long held that they are among our most valuable national treasures). She moseyed off exploring the store, and ultimately finding the fascinating “museum” on the upper mezzanine filled with newspaper and magazine articles, autographs, and artifacts that confirmed what I enthusiastically started telling her (an hour later) about this dignified, elderly shopkeeper wearing a leather “bolo” tie with a silver slide that graced a very handsome western-style shirt with “diamond snaps”.
We were in Denver spending a wonderful week visiting our younger son Chris, and exploring the mountains (and ski towns) that captured him almost a decade ago.
The morning after an enjoyable evening watching the struggling Colorado Rockies baseball team try to end another losing streak (they didn’t) at beautiful Coors Field, we returned to that same revitalized downtown warehouse district to do some serious morning moseying. Little did I know that the morning would be dominated, and highlighted, by a conversation with a 104 year-old gentleman who is most assuredly the oldest active business owner (of the country’s most revered western wear store) in America.
We got to talking about his early days and the job that brought him to the Rocky Mountain West from the cornfields of Indiana. He took a job as an elastic garter salesman (the kind used to hold up men’s socks). His territory soon included every cowtown from El Paso, Texas to northern Montana.
I asked about his familiarity with Great Falls, Montana, my birthplace. That question somehow evolved into a recounting of the purchase of his first new car, a 1928 Chrysler…the 33rd car off the first Chrysler assembly line, mind you. The story involved some humorous “horse-trading” with a Montana car dealer. He said he was 27 years old when he bought the car. I started doing the math, and calculated that if what he was telling me was true, he had to be 104 years old instead of in the mid-eighties as I had initially suspected.
The wide-ranging stories went from impressing a barefoot rural Louisiana “country darkie” (without a hint of racism in his words, he was simply using the terminology of the times) hitchhiker in his shiny new motor car, to early business dealings with a bootmaker in Lewiston, Maine…the latter forthcoming when he found out where we had traveled from. All were told with a sharpness of wit, and an endearing sense of humor.
“Papa” Weil, as he is known locally and to some of the most famous celebrities in the world, started the Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg.Co. in 1946 in that same location and building where, at the time, a sidetrack of the Union Pacific Railroad ran down the middle of the street.
I soon found that Mr. Weil was the creator of the first distinctively fancy western shirts with “diamond snaps” and “sawtooth” pockets. The snaps were created in the interest of early rodeo bull-riders so the pocket flap would pop open if the bull’s horn hooked into it. Mr. Weil developed the first commercially produced “bolo” string ties that have become a western-wear signature over the years. He noted that he first called them “bola” ties, but a language-based misunderstanding on the part of a business associate resulted in the now-familiar term “bolo”.
Unmistakingly the patriarch of three generations who have continued to grow the Rockmount Ranch Wear company, “Papa” Weil then recounted some of those who were, or are, his most loyal and devoted shirt customers…Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dylan, Robert Redford, Bruce Springsteen, Nicholas Cage…I later found that the list truly does go on and on. Recently, they flew a rush order of shirts to London for Eric Clapton who needed them for a world tour that was starting in March.
It is all matter-of-fact to this interesting man of many years…whose classic western attire that he first innovated and marketed years ago reflect his view of his beloved west…”The West is not a place, it is a state of mind”. It is clear that he has influenced that state of mind of many through his shirts, bolo ties, cowboy hats and his personality, to bring that affinity for his distinctive western wear to admiring customers from cowhands to musicians and movie stars…and to at least one U.S. president.
I would encourage you to go to www.rockmount.com to read more about this one-time garter salesman and his enduring business and to see the shirts that have become a western art-form and have inspired the coffee-table book co-created by his grandson, Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion. It may not get many of us Mainers to forsake our wool plaid shirts for flowery diamond-snapped, sawtooth-pocketed cowboy shirts…but I guarantee you will find Mr. Weil’s story, and his enduring western-wear innovations, a fascinating read.
Allen Wicken, PT, MS, is President of the DownEast UpCountry
Company…”Enjoyable Ways to Wellness from Maine” www.downeastupcountry.com Comments, per usual, are always welcome firstname.lastname@example.org
Rockmount business and building undergo rebirth
By Linda Black, Special to the News
July 30, 2005
Steven Weil, vice president, Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co., 1626 Wazee St., Denver
Steven Weil's office at Rockmount Ranch Wear is perched on a mezzanine above colorful racks of the Western apparel that his family has been manufacturing for three generations. Light floods through the windows of the renovated historic LoDo building, and he can watch city life go by on Wazee Street.
But it wasn't always thus. Not so long ago, the 1908 building was just another old building that had undergone a number of slapdash changes since Weil's grandfather, Jack A. Weil, started the business in 1946. There was an entry, a small showroom and the business office, walled off with partitions, where Weil's desk was crammed in with other employees' desks.
"In my whole adult life, I never got to look out the window because there were partitions," says Weil, who in 1981 joined his grandfather (now 104 and still working) and his father, Jack B. Weil, in running the business after receiving his bachelor's degree at Tulane University in New Orleans and a master's degree in law and politics from the University of Bristol in England.
Steven Weil, vice president of Rockmount, has followed in the footsteps of both his father and his grandfather in the family business.
Photos by Matt Nager © News
A shirt made by Rockmount Ranch Wear is displayed in the downtown Denver office.
But the building, like the business, has undergone a rebirth. Formerly a wholesale operation only, Rockmount found itself challenged by the growing trend of apparel manufacturers moving overseas to cut costs.
He says the business had to find a way to go from being "a traditional apparel manufacturer to an apparel manufacturer that had a future."
And they did it by branching out into retail, targeting upscale customers. They started by setting up a small retail space.
When that was successful, they decided 14 months ago to renovate the building to expand the retail space and make it more attractive.
"We removed 90 years of bad remodeling," Weil says. "The crucial issue was to come up with a way to retain its authenticity and roots. The idea was not to become chrome and shiny like the Gap."
The pressed tin ceiling was restored. Linoleum was removed from the wood floors, and original brick and wall paneling were uncovered. The covered leaded glass transoms were replaced, letting in light.
Weil's office shares space on the new mezzanine with a small museum that includes the antique saddles he collects from around the world.
"It's an obsession," he says. "I think of a good saddle as fine art."
He points to four Western shirts mounted on cardboard easels that were used as advertising in the 1950s. He found them behind a wall during the renovation, had them framed and hung them on the wall.
Behind his desk is a collage of shirt patterns put together by students at his 7-year-old son Colter's school, after he taught them how patterns are made. In fact, Colter's artwork plays a large role in the décor, hanging in several places.
Oriental rugs cover the floor, and a Navajo rug hangs on the wall.
"I love the simplicity of Indian art."
There's the book Weil wrote, Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion.
Researching the history of Western shirts took him all over the world. Any place he traveled on business, he would scout out collectors and vintage shops in search of the shirts.
"Many of the shirts started here on Wazee Street and have now ended up across the world."
Weil says he wrote the book in large part "in honor of my father and grandfather, without whom none of this would be here."
ROCKMOUNT TRUNK SHOW & BOOK SIGNING AT COUNTRY GENERAL, VAN NUYS, CA JUNE 18, 2005
George Kochaniec Jr. © News
Jack Weil, 104, left, CEO of Rockmount Ranch Wear, and Majon Huff, 93, chairman of Colorado Serum Co., chat over lunch at Colorado Serum on Wednesday. Weil may be the oldest working chief executive in the U.S.
George Kochaniec Jr. © News
Majon Huff, 93, left, chairman of Colorado Serum Co., meets Jack Weil, 104, chief executive of Rockmount Ranch Wear, at Colorado Serum on Wednesday. The venerable executives, who go to work every day, got together for lunch because, as Huff joked, "We probably don't have much time left." 6B
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
JUNE 2, 2005
Uncommon executives in session
Denver patriarchs, 104 and 93, share histories over lunch
By James Paton, Rocky Mountain News
June 2, 2005
Jack Weil and Majon Huff are perhaps the oldest top executives in Denver's corporate community.
While they belong to a select club, the two men have toiled for years without meeting each other.
Weil, who is 104, and Huff, who isn't far behind at 93, finally shook hands Wednesday after an odd chain of events brought the two proud patriarchs together.
The story began about three years ago when Weil's grandson, Steve, spotted a bundle of mail in the street while cycling in Park Hill. The address on the letters: Colorado Serum Co. on York Street.
Most people probably would have kept going.
"But I'm a nosy guy," said Steve Weil, who works with his grandfather at Rockmount Ranch Wear, the maker of Western apparel based in LoDo.
"If I see something in the street that looks interesting," he continued, "I'll grab it."
Steve Weil phoned the company, left a message, and heard back from a relieved and grateful Huff, who accidentally had driven off one day with the letters resting on top of his car.
Later, Huff pulled up, in a distinctive Checker car, to pick up the mail he had lost.
The chairman of Colorado Serum, a maker of animal vaccines and instruments for veterinarians, sent a fruit basket to say thanks.
And the two went on their ways.
They would meet again, however. Just last month, Steve Weil noticed a circa 1972 Checker car parked outside a Rite Aid on Colfax Avenue.
"I thought, 'Who do I know who has a car like that?' " said Steve Weil, 47.
So he waited, and Huff and his wife eventually emerged. The three talked briefly, and Steve Weil suggested a more formal family meeting to introduce Huff to his grandfather, who is regarded as the oldest working chief executive in the country.
"We probably don't have much time left, so I said, 'Let's do this soon,' " joked Huff, who goes by Majon, a blend of his mother's name, Mabel, and his father's name, Jon.
On Wednesday, Huff, his son, Joe, and his grandson, Dave, hosted a lunch on their 22-acre Denver property for three generations of Weils.
Over steak, vegetables and chocolate cake, the two elders learned that they have a lot in common.
The two men show up for work every day, Jack Weil getting a lift from his son, also named Jack. Majon Huff rolls in around 4:30 a.m. in one of the family's five Checker cars.
While they make vastly different products, Jack Weil's Rockmount Ranch Wear, opened in 1946, and Majon Huff's Colorado Serum, started in 1923, are family-run manufacturers that export all over the world.
"Everywhere except Antarctica," Joe Huff declared.
Steve Weil replied: "We actually exported to Antarctica once. A guy ordered a shirt, and his address was Lawrence of Antarctica."
Steve Weil, whose company sells shirts, ties, hats, belts and other items to 1,500 stores in roughly 30 countries, reflected on the series of events that led to Wednesday's lunch.
"I've had the unimaginable joy of working with my grandfather and father all these years," he said. "And I don't very often come across people in that same scenario. What I take away is that Denver is not always such a big city, and that it's amazing two families with such deep roots could meet each other by chance."
Steve Weil's grandfather, who wore one of his company's cowboy shirts and bolo ties, seemed to take comfort in the fact that his son and grandson, whom he referred to as "young whippersnappers," had stuck around to succeed him.
Majon Huff, who said that the only other job he has had was fighting in Europe in World War II, concurred.
"I'm glad a younger generation comes along because things do change," he said. "It's a tough business with more regulation, and I don't have the strength.
"But he does," Huff added, pointing to his 57-year-old son before turning to his 30-year-old grandson. "And he does."
About the CEOs
• Colorado Serum Co.
• Age: 93
• Rockmount Ranch Wear
• Age: 104
patonj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2544
May 21, 2005
American icon that refuses to hang up its boots
By James Doran
Our correspondent looks at the durability of Eric Clapton's favourite cowboy shirt maker
STEVE WEIL was about to turn off his computer after a long week of selling cowboy shirts from the shop his grandpa founded almost 60 years ago, when an e-mail arrived from Eric Clapton.
“It was a Friday night, I was about to go home and an e-mail arrived from this rock legend asking me to get him some shirts for the big Cream reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I bounced off the 15 foot ceiling,” says Weil, 47, who runs Rockmount Ranch Wear, which invented the modern western shirt, the ready-made bolo tie.
Within a week, Weil was on an aircraft to England to deliver a dozen “Sawtooth 640s”, Clapton’s favourite shirt. In return the guitar legend gave Weil two VIP backstage passes to the concert. Weil — an Anglophile educated at Bristol University and owner of an old Austin Healey and a clapped- out Bentley — gushes as he tells of partying after the gig with Sir Paul McCartney, Bill Wyman and Ringo Starr.
But the Weils — Steve, his father Jack and his 104-year-old grandfather “Papa” Jack — are no strangers to celebrity, having dressed stars such as Gene Autry, Elvis, David Bowie and Johnny Cash.
Rockmount is an American icon that has survived the 50-year decline of the industry. It has prospered while giants such as Levi Strauss have suffered. “Levi Strauss was a good friend of mine,” says Papa Jack, who is believed to be America’s oldest working company president. “He got too big for his britches is what happened to him. I knew John B. Stetson, too,” he adds, referring to the maker of cowboy hats. “He’s the same. They made too much money. You forget where you come from and you forget what you are doing when you don't have to work for a living.”
The painstakingly restored 1908 store front in Denver is lined with racks of bright western shirts, tall hats and cowboy boots. Papa Jack still sits behind his desk every day, telling stories of his days as a travelling elastic salesman on the western frontier.
The western outfitter was once as common on main streets in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Utah and California as Starbucks and Gap are today. "In the years since my grandfather started this business we had more than 240 competitor labels in this country,” says the youngest Weil. “Now we are one of a few more than 20. Over 90 per cent of our industry has been destroyed.”
When Jack Weil started Rockmount in 1946 the cotton he used to make the shirts was grown in the southern states, woven in Massachusetts, and the garments were stitched together in Georgia. Today the company still has factories in Georgia that make its trademark western shirts, with jagged or “sawtooth” pockets and diamond shaped press-studs.
“Most clothing sold in this country is made in China or Mexico, or elsewhere in Asia or Latin America,” says Weil. “It is very sad. The high street has also changed as many of the independent retailers that carried Rockmount’s clothes have gone out of business.”
The decline of America’s rag trade has led Rockmount to reinvent itself. The company was a wholesaler for more than 50 years but has moved into retail. “We never did retail because we didn’t want to damage our customers,” Papa Jack says. But now one giant retailer, whose name may not be spoken inside Rockmount’s store, has forced most of their customers out of business.
“Its all Wal-Mart these days,” says Papa Jack. “I can’t stand the sons of bitches. I know all about that Walton fellow from over there in Arkansas who started it. He was nothing but a hillbilly.”
But it was JC Penney who started the retailing trend that finished off America’s manufacturers and wholesalers. “James Cash Penney was his name, I knew him too,” Papa Jack says. “His trick was never to buy a store. He would come into town and take over the most successful store by offering a fellow JC Penney stock. Then he would give him more stock if he managed to open a store of his own.”
Papa Jack also has a thing or two to say about the US Government’s refusal to help the dying rag trade. And as for the North American Free Trade Agreement: “Almost as bad as Wal-Mart,” he says. “In the end you have to adapt to survive,” says the youngest Weil, who spearheaded the drive into retail, came up with the idea for Eric Clapton’s signature shirts and developed Rockmount into an international business.
As Papa Jack returns to his work a familiar looking fat man with a large white beard emerges from a fitting room in a bright red tasselled cowboy shirt and a red cowboy hat. “Ho, ho, ho,” he booms.
“It’s great Steve,” he says. “But I would prefer the shirt with some embroidered holly and berries instead of the flowers — can you do that?”
“Sure we can, Santa,” says Weil before saying again behind his hand: “You have to adapt to survive.”
May 21, 2005
Old timer with a hatful of ideas
By James Doran
PAPA Jack Weil sits behind a large wooden desk at the front of the Rockmount Ranch Wear store, his tiny frame almost obscured by a mountain of paperwork as he hunches over a clacking typewriter.
“Pull up a chair, I'll be done with this presently,” he says, before explaining how he is writing to a customer who owes the store some $1,600 for consignments delivered more than three months ago.
Papa Jack, at 104, gets to work at 7.30 each morning and chases up unpaid accounts for the company he founded in 1946. He is a first-generation American. His father, who died aged 91, came over from France in the 19th century.
Jack A Weil was brought up on the plains of Indiana but, like so many young men, went West to seek his fortune.
He was an elastic salesman for the biggest supplier to the clothing industry and drove an early Chrysler all over his territory. “My patch went from El Paso, Texas, down on the border with Mexico there, to the Canadian border,” he says with a chuckle. “That’s the whole country, you see.”
He gave up smoking at the age of 60, drinking at the age of 90 and eating red meat when he was 100.
As for his success in business, he advises staying out of debt — Rockmount has always been self-capitalised — helping others to succeed alongside you, and constant innovation.
The trademark cowboy shirt with bright colours and press studs was Papa Jack’s invention, as was the bolo tie and the cowboy hat with the curled brim.
“I was always thinking of something new,” he says. “But that’s me. I’m a dreamer. And I never stopped enjoying myself, not for a minute.”
THE DENVER POST
May 12, 2005
Western shirt just the ticket for Clapton
By Bill Husted
Denver Post Columnist
Rockmount Ranch Wear's Steve Weil is just back from London and Friday night's closing Cream concert at Royal Albert Hall. He flew over on a moment's notice to bring some of his famous Western shirts to Eric Clapton, who had requested them via e-mail. Weil wrote back that he could hand-deliver them, but how 'bout two tix to the concert? Done deal.
"It was incredible," said Weil, still jet lagged and loopy Wednesday morning. "We were in row seven, the band was flawless. And Eric (Clapton) is living art."
Clapton met Weil before the concert to get the shirt and thank him for the extra effort. After the concert, Weil returned to the green room, where he walked in with Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney and Bill Wyman. He was a little nervous talking to the Brits, so he was happy when Tom Hanks came up to say, "Hi, I'm Tom."
You certainly are.
Weil returned home with snapshots of him with Hanks and Clapton - and a deal in the works to create an Eric Clapton signature shirt.
Parker: Rockmount Ranch Wear scratches Clapton itch for Western duds
May 5, 2005
If Sir Eric Clapton is looking "snappy" these days, Rockmount Ranch Wear heir Steve Weil knows why.
Clapton, who flipped over a Rockmount signature snap-front shirt at a London shop, started an e-mail correspondence with Weil last Friday seeking more shirts.
"I recently bought some of your shirts from a friend of mine on Kings Road in Chelsea, England, and was knocked out," the initial e-mail said. "I've always loved real Western clothes and have found it increasingly hard to find them, even though I have toured extensively across the states for the last 40 years."
The rock icon figured that Weil would suspect a hoax, so he included the phone numbers of his assistants, so Weil could determine the veracity of the correspondent.
"The second I saw (Clapton's) name, I started bouncing off the walls," Weil said.
The e-mail exchanges continued until Clapton had ordered 16 shirts and one black fringe leather jacket. (And, yes, the guitar god paid for the goods.)
Sunday's e-mail from "e.c." (no caps): "You'll be pleased to know that we just played the first of four Cream reunion gigs in London at the Royal Albert Hall, and I was wearing one of your shirts. The last show is on Friday, so with any luck I can wear one of the new ones."
Rather than trusting "luck" to an overnight delivery service, Weil offered to deliver the shirts personally in time for the concert. Clapton guaranteed Weil and his pal Gerry Engle tickets to the London gig.
Today, Weil and Engle board a flight to London loaded down with Rockmount Western wear.
"In terms of the bouncing off the wall factor, this is way high," said Weil, whose company's shirts have been worn by many celebs, including David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Ronald Reagan, Nicolas Cage and Bob Dylan.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
April 12, 2005
BELATED BIRTHDAY: Western wear whiz Jack A. Weil turned a whopping 104 on March 28.
His grandson and third generation Rockmount Ranchwear tycoon Steve Weil reports that "Papa Jack" is doing just fine, thank you.
"People come into Rockmount all the time and ask Papa Jack if he has lived in Denver all his life," Steve said.
"He replies, 'So far.' "
His secret to a long life?
According to Steve, "He does not overeat, and gave up smoking when he was 60."
THE SEEN: Caramelo author Sandra Cisneros (whose book was chosen for the One Book, One Denver reading program) buying snappy shirts Thursday at Rockmount Ranchwear in LoDo
Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Listen to her on the Caplis and Silverman radio show between 4 and 5 p.m. Fridays on KHOW-AM (630).Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com
THE DENVER POST
104 and counting
Willard Scott wished Rockmount Ranch Wear's CEO Papa Jack Weil a happy 104th birthday on the "Today Show" on Thursday morning.
His grandson, Steve Weil, was surprised when I told him and says he didn't make it happen. "I'm not exploiting my grandfather's birthday," he said. "We're just thrilled he's well and comes to work every day."
Papa Jack is often saluted as the oldest CEO in America. Steve says, "We're now under the impression that he's the oldest CEO in the world."
THE DENVER POST
April 8, 2005
Author Sandra Cisneros reads from her acclaimed book, “Caramelo,” on Thursday night in Denver at North High School. The story took nine years to write.
She is wearing Rockmount lurex plaid shirt #7722-Grey
Her book was selected by Mayor John Hickenlooperfor the community to read and discuss in his"One Book Inniative". Cisneros maintains "The more we expand libraries, the less we'll expand prisons".
THE DENVER POST
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Arts & Entertainment/books
From practical to collectible
Denverite helps write Western look book
By Sandra Dallas
Special to The Denver Post
Bronx-born Ralph Lauren was in Denver on business in 1977 and decided to buy himself some Western duds. But to his disappointment, he couldn't find a single authentic Western shirt. Or so he told Vanity Fair in an article published the following year. He had to design his own and in the process reinvented Western wear, he claimed.
Why didn't the trendy designer check the Denver yellow pages? asked Steven E. Weil in a follow-up letter to the magazine. Lauren would have found some 30 Western shirt retailers and manufacturers in Denver, including Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co., whose founder, Jack A. Weil, invented the snaps used on almost all Western shirts, including those now made by Lauren.
Steve Weil, who with his grandfather, Jack A., and father, Jack B., runs Rockmount, has been writing about Western shirts since he sent that letter. So little wonder he and G. Daniel DeWeese, an industry magazine editor, have put together "Western Shirts," a gorgeous book an American homegrown fashion.
Denver's origin as a Western shirt center goes back to 1919 when, in a classic Colorado story, Philip Miller, an Easterner with tuberculosis, came to Denver to die, but instead got well and set up a branch of the family hat business. He quickly expanded into other apparel, including Western clothing. The company became Miller Stockman. Over the years, employees left to start other companies, including Rockmount.
Western wear is a close-knit industry made up of family-owned firms, and much of the business is done on a handshake, but that is not to say there hasn't been a bit of piracy over the years. Jack A. Weil recalls a visit from a competitor who spotted a sample Rockmount shirt made of mattress ticking. Rockmount decided against producing the shirt because the fabric flaked. Later the competitor phoned Weil to say, "You SOB, why didn't you tell me that shirt was no good?" The man had copied the mattress-ticking fabric, "and every one came back."
Western shirts are one of America's few unique clothing styles. (Levi's are another.) Slim-fitting with long, narrow cuffs, they were designed so cowboys wouldn't catch their shirts while working cattle or doing other chores. Jack A., who started Rockmount in 1946, replaced buttons with snaps so that shirt fronts and sleeves would snap open, not tear, if the shirt got caught in barbed wire or animal horns. He recognized that cowboys liked to dude it up, so he added embroidery and fringe, fancy yokes and bright fabrics.
Until the late 1970s, the shirts were sold mostly to ranch and farm hands and a few people who liked casual Western wear. Then came the Urban Cowboy craze, and everybody bought Western shirts. Manufacturers geared up, only to find themselves with unsold inventory when the trend ran its course. Several went bankrupt, but not Rockmount, which had been conservative about expanding. Those who survived faced other problems, including NAFTA, and more went bust in the 1990s. But thanks in part to Lauren, who promoted high-priced Western designs, and to the nostalgia craze, Western shirts remain popular.
So do the old ones, and that's the real reason for this book. Steve Weil is a collector, and "Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion" is not just a history of the Western shirt in America, it's the bible for collectors.
Here are the stories of the manufacturers, a glossary of Western shirt terms - shotgun cuff, smile pocket, scalloped yoke - pictures of labels, catalogs, ads and counter cards. And there are wonderful full-color photos of the shirts themselves in all their splendor. In short, everything is here for the shirt collector, including interviews with collectors themselves.
Not everybody understands the collector craze, including a few of the manufacturers. Browsing through a Los Angeles antiques store some years ago, Steve came across a brown gabardine Rockmount shirt with fancy yellow embroidery and told the dealer it was one of the first Western shirts his grandfather had made.
Touched, the dealer told Steve to take the shirt and send him a couple of new ones. Steve was so excited at the find that he didn't wait until he got home but found a phone booth and called his grandfather. "What?" Jack A. exclaimed. "You traded two perfectly good new shirts for an old one we sold for three dollars 40 years ago?"
Sandra Dallas is a Denver author. Her newest novel, "New Mercies," is scheduled for release next month. ... Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion By Steven E. Weil and G. Daniel DeWeese Gibbs Smith, 176 pages, $39.95
Colorado Matters on Western Shirts: A Classic American Tradition
Colorado Public Radio,
December 20, 2004
Steve Weil, president of Denver’s Rockmount Ranch Wear, on his new book, Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion.
Shelter from the swarm
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
December 13, 2004
Shoppers can search in secret at local businesses' 'hidden' stores
This time of year, medication for headaches and sore backs must sell well. Consider how many evenings you've come home exhausted and cranky after shopping at some supersize discount store. Wouldn't it be better to shop in uncrowded, relaxed settings and know that the money you spend supports the local economy and culture?
This year, discover the joy of shopping at the metro area's "secret stores," many of which are hidden in corporate offices, factories or warehouses.
When you shop at these locally based businesses, some of them internationally known, you have a chance to meet the people who make the products and tell them what you think. You'll also gain the satisfaction of knowing that your money is staying in the neighborhood.
For example, when you buy soup mixes and gift baskets at the Women's Bean Project shop, you support an organization that's celebrating its 15th year of helping displaced and unemployed women get back on their feet.
If you visit the just-renovated retail store in the downtown headquarters of Rockmount Ranch Wear, you might be able to say hello to founder Jack Weil. At 103 years old, the man who invented pearl snap buttons and introduced them to Western shirts still comes by every day.
"When we opened the retail store, it was secondary to the manufacturing company, which has been at this location for 60 years," said Weil's grandson, company vice president Steve Weil. "It was very successful, however, and we found we really enjoyed talking to the people who wore the clothing we designed and made."
This month, Rockmount unveiled its "new" look, a renovation that puts the emphasis on retail and restores many of the building's original 1909 features, including leaded-glass transom windows, wooden columns and a pressed-tin ceiling.
The Rockmount store sells at retail prices, as do many of the other stores on this list. But at several of these lesser-known shops, you'll find terrific deals. At the factory outlets for Hammond's and Stephany's candies, for example, you'll pay considerably less for the same treats featured in such catalogs as Harry and David, Williams-Sonoma and Dean & DeLuca. And at the Twice Upon a Time warehouse, you'll be able to buy children's clothing for half its retail price.
Denver's hidden shopping treasures
Local stores that offer quality products without the crowds ...
• Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co., 1626 Wazee St., 303-629-7777, www.rockmount.com
The Weil family has been shipping Western wear from its Denver headquarters for 60 years. Retail is the building's new emphasis, and the setting shows off Rockmount's shirts and artist-designed silk ties and scarves. There's also a store at Colorado Mills.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
simonsj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-2547
Collaring a Western Classic
THE DENVER POST
December 13, 2004
The scion of a longtime Denver ranch-wear family charts the colorful history of the cowboy shirt
The grandson of Rockmount Ranch Wear founder Jack A. Weil, and son of its vice president, Jack B. Weil, Steven E. Weil grew up living, breathing and wearing his family's Western wear.
Post / Lyn Alweis
From left, at Rockmount’s LoDo headquarters, now a retail store as well as offices, are the three generations of the Weil family: Steven E., Jack A. and Jack B.
At 18 months he modeled a tiny gingham snap-front shirt and white cowboy boots. In high school, he raided his grandfather's closet for cool clothes to wear.
Weil prizes vintage styles, their history and the iconic figures who sported Rockmount: Elvis Presley. Ronald Reagan. Robert Redford. Bruce Springsteen.
"In fashion there are few classics that have remained as popular over such a long time as Western shirts," says Weil, author of "Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion," just published by Gibbs Smith of Salt Lake City ($39.95).
His 103-year-old grandfather doesn't understand all the fuss. He remembers when shirts sold for $45 a dozen and can't fathom why someone would spend $100 for an old one.
In the book, Steven describes displaying some Rockmount classics after joining the family business in 1981 after his graduation from Tulane University in New Orleans.
"My desire to preserve history by hanging Papa Jack's shirts in our lobby museum ran counter to his desire to stay warm; on cold Colorado winter days, he would take my exhibits home to wear," Weil writes. "For him they were meant to be worn; for me, to preserve."
Co-written with G. Daniel DeWeese, the book chronicles the cowboy shirt's rise, fall and renewed popularity in fashion circles, and documents the companies that made Western shirts. Denverites will remember names such as Miller and Karman (now Roper), but there were other local companies, including Prior, Hillbilly Westerns and Ranch-Man Westernwear.
For the connoisseur, the tome deconstructs the garment's elements, describing yokes, collars, cuffs and ornamentation; and also pictured are 240 labels that will help collectors determine the age and authenticity of a shirt.
"The last thing we wanted was for it to be a vanity piece on Rockmount. We wanted it to be a scholarly study," Weil says during an interview in the company's LoDo headquarters.
Recently renovated with help from a State Historical Fund grant, the 1909 Fisher & Fisher building at 1626 Wazee St. features its original fir flooring; the tin ceiling has been antiqued to burnished gold; and a full assortment of Rockmount Ranch Wear merchandise is displayed on antiques and new steel fixtures in the front room. Offices were moved to the side and back rooms, which are still being renovated.
Many of the shirts for sale are reproductions of styles from Rockmount's early days, including the floral embroidered style featured on the book's cover. It was designed in the 1950s by Jack B., who often drew a design on a shirt in chalk and then had the pattern embroidered to see how it looked.
Weil attributes some of the renewed interest in vintage styles to the popularity of Western shirts in countries such as Japan and Australia.
Stateside, Gap and Diesel are among the companies that have put Western shirts in their lines in recent seasons, and the snug fit appeals to a new generation.
"When Western fashion came into being it was mainly popular with young, slim men," Weil writes. "...Now slim-fit, retro-Western is appealing to young men again."
The early days
Western wear was popularized by early rodeo cowboys and actors who wore flashy costumes made by Hollywood tailors. Novels romanticized the West, as did traveling shows, thus building an appetite among Americans to experience it for themselves. Soon both working cowboys and the public wanted those colorful shirts, fancy hats, dungarees and boots.
"While the movies captured the public's imagination, dude ranches helped facilitate the spread of Western fashion after World War II," Weil writes, noting that the industry grew steadily from the 1930s to the 1970s.
Then "Urban Cowboy" almost killed it. When the movie starring John Travolta came out in 1978, the industry got a big boost. But many companies rushed to get into the business and overloaded it; by 1981, the boom became a bust.
When the fad was over, "the core Western market reacted against flamboyant Western styling," Weil writes, and conservative looks came back into play. The trend continued until 2003, when the bulk of Western brands went retro.
The one good thing to come out of the "Urban Cowboy" craze was that Western style reached the mass market for the first time. Weil gives Ralph Lauren credit for popularizing it.
But Weil has a gripe with the famous designer stemming from a remark Lauren made to Vanity Fair in an interview published in 1998. "He made the dubious claim of having reinvented Western because, he said, on a (1977) trip to Denver he could not find a real Western shirt," Weil writes, adding that the comments were "patently wrong, obviously self-serving, and offensive to many in the Western apparel industry."
(At the time, there were more than 30 Western wear retailers listed in the phone book, according to Weil.)
Weil misunderstood Lauren's remarks, says Nancy Murray, senior vice president for public relations at Ralph Lauren. The designer was on a quest for a Western shirt with original styling.
Lauren, she says, "went to four or five stores looking for a 100 percent cotton shirt with a shorter collar, but what he found were the 1970s versions, which were in a polyester blend and had longer collars."
Weil acknowledges that what Lauren did "turned out to be a gift ... mainstream Americana - and the rest of the world - was introduced to a look, which, had it been in a traditional Western store, they would never have bought," he writes.
Weil realizes that he sometimes sings the praises of Western wear at his own peril. His designs have been copied repeatedly by other manufacturers, and he recently rushed several vintage Rockmount styles into production before the book was printed to keep knockoff artists from beating him to it.
Western-shirt popularity is cyclical, like everything else in fashion, but for now, he's happy the vintage styles he discovered as a teen are finding a new audience.
"They're all selling," he says, gesturing to the floor filled with colorful shirts and silk scarves. "In this day and age, you can't afford to produce bad inventory."
Staff writer Suzanne S. Brown can be reached at 303-820-1697 or email@example.com .
Steven Weil of Rockmount Ranch Wear will talk about "Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion" at noon Tuesday at the Denver Press Club's Book Beat Luncheon, 1330 Glenarm Place. Sponsored by the Denver Athletic Club, the event is $20 (those wearing a Western shirt will get $1 off admission). For reservations, call 303-571-5260
America's Oldest CEO
9 NEWS - KUSA, DENVER
December 9, 2004
written by : Jinah Kim (9NEWS Reporter)
DENVER - He's believed to be America's, if not the world's, oldest CEO.
Jack Weil - known affectionately by his employees and family as "Papa Jack," is 103 years old, but he still clocks in at his company in LoDo every single day.
"I came to Denver in 1928," Weil says. "It was a wonderful place for a young man to come. There was every opportunity in the world."
Weil used his experience as a regional salesman for a clothing manufacturer to begin Rockmount Ranch Wear, headquartered on Wazee Street in downtown Denver. His clothing captures Denver's early Wild West spirit - and it's one of the longest running businesses in the Rockies. For more than 60 years, he's been the CEO and he's not about to quit anytime soon.
|"Papa Jack," as he's known, introduced snaps to Western style shirts so they would be safer for bullriders.
Dec. 9, 2004.
"Well, if you like what you do, it isn't hard," Weil says confidently."He's one of those people whose existence is defined by his work," says grandson Steve Weil, who helps run the family business along with his father, Jack B. Weil. "My grandmother always said his business is his mistress."
Besides his longevity, Papa Jack is most famous for being the first to commercialize snap button western shirts. Weil thought it would come in handy with cowboys who, instead of getting their buttons caught on a bull's horns during a rodeo, could just snap their shirts off.
"My father and grandfather are among the people who popularized western fashion," says Steve Weil. With three generations working daily together, they can get on each others' nerves. "My big job now is to keep peace between my son and my grandson," chuckles Papa Jack. But they consider working with each other a blessing.
This Saturday, December 11th, Rockmount is launching a new book written by Steve Weil about the history of Rockmount and western wear. The public is invited to Rockmount, on Wazee between 16th and 17th Streets, from 12 pm to 3 pm. For more information, call 303-629-7777.
(Copyright by KUSA-TV, All Rights Reserved)
Rocky Mountain News
December 3, 2004
By Patti Thorn
Steve Weil, the third-generation boss of Rockmount Ranchwear in LoDo, told several star-encounter stories during a signing earlier this week of his new book, Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion, at the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek.
One tale involved a certain British rock star. "My father comes to the office on a Saturday after closing because he left something there," Steve said. "There's a guy at the window looking in at everything. The guy says 'I'm from out of town and every time I come here you're closed.' "My dad says, 'OK, come on in.' The guy buys some shirts. The next day my father says to me in his naive-ish way, 'Some musician came in and got some shirts yesterday. His name is David Bowie.' " Steve shrugged off the shirt story, thinking his dad had the customer's name wrong. "On the following Tuesday, a woman calls who's David Bowie's secretary and she says he wants more shirts," Steve said. "He ordered 15 shirts and wore them on stage in New York for the next concert."
STAR SEARCH: Nashville Star, USA Network's grass-roots search series to find the next country music star, will be showcasing eight Colorado wannabes from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Bender's 13th Ave. Tavern, 314 E. 13th Ave. The public is invited to watch and cheer on the contestants. TIM TIME: Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Saturday for country music hunk Tim McGraw in concert on July 23 during the 109th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days. Tickets are available at www.cfdrodeo.com or by calling 1-800-22-RODEO or 1-866-464-2626. Tickets: $10 to $24. THE SEEN: Avalanche hockey hunk Dan Hinote yukking it up at Comedy Works on Friday. EAVESDROPPING on a man and a woman at The Palm: "She looks great but she has issues." "Sounds like half the women you know." Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Listen to her on the Caplis and Silverman radio show between 4 and 5 p.m. Fridays on KHOW-AM (630). Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com.
The West Is Best
Steve Weil thinks it's a tired old joke: "Western wear is in my jeans," he says, fearfully ejecting the line and fully expecting a groan. But in Weil's case, it's absolutely true. He followed his father and his grandfather into the family business, LoDo's Rockmount Ranch Wear, and it's no wonder he can, as he readily claims, sniff out a good vintage cowboy shirt from across the street.
Weil also cares about tradition: "During the golden age of Western wear, from the '40s to the '60s, Western shirts were just as wild and crazy as the cars with big fins and huge grills. And that's been lost: Everything's generic in fashion now."
Although he'd beg to differ ("Some of the collectors I've met know more about company history than I do," he notes), no one is more qualified to author a book on the duds than he is.
And he did: Weil will sign Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion, a gorgeous coffee-table tome co-written with C. Daniel DeWeese, tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street. For information, call 303-436-1070, and for more about the book, visit www.rockmount.com. -- Susan Froyd
HOT TYPE: Lassoing Fashion History
Rocky Mountain News
November 19, 2004
By Patti Thorn
||On a 1985 trip to Los Angeles, Steve Weil spotted an elaborately embroidered Western shirt, hung high over the transom in a store on a tony street. As it turns out, the shirt was practically a member of the family - designed years ago by his grandfather, founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear.
Weil struck a deal with the store owner, and before you could say Wild Bill Hickok, he had snagged a collectible.
"Excited, I hurriedly called my grandfather from a pay phone on the street," he writes. Unimpressed, his grandfather scolded him.
"What!" he said. "You traded two perfectly good new shirts for an old one we sold for $3.40 years ago?"
Such is the thinking of a practical man, in the practical world of Western wear. But what was once practical has now become classic Americana, and Western shirts are now as much a part of our history as crafted saddles and Western movies. Who better to tell the story than a third-generation Rockmount hand?
Weil, who helms the company previously run by his grandfather and father, is the author, with G. Daniel DeWeese, of Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion (Gibbs, Smith, 176 pages, $39.95). The intriguging new coffee-table book details the history of Western shirts, replete with photos dating to the 1920s and chapters on the heavy hitters in the business, including companies with local roots, such as Karman, Inc., Miller Stockman and, of course, Rockmount.
Best of all, it's peppered with amusing Rockmount anecdotes. Readers can't help but chuckle at the story of grandfather Weil's now-legendary idea to use snaps on Western shirts - an idea the snap manufacturer didn't take to initially. "Misapplication," they sniffed.
Said Weil: "Dammit, if I bought and paid for them and ate them as Post Toasties it's none of your business!"
That feistiness served the elder Weil (now 103 years old) through the years. His grandson's tribute to the business may be more measured, but it's bound to wear well with readers.
Steve Weil will appear at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 29, 2004 at the Tattered Cover Cherry Creek, 2955 E. First Ave., Denver.; noon, Dec. 11, at Rockmount Ranch Wear, 1626 Wazee St.; and noon, Dec. 14, Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Western Author's Panel
Nov 12, 2004
By Stephen MacMillan Moser
||Masters of the rodeo (l-r): Prolific author of books on Western wear, Tyler Beard; author of How the West Was Worn, Holly George-Warren; author and vice-president of Rockmount Ranch Wear, Steve Weil; and local expert on Western wear and seller of vintage cowboy boots Evan Voyles at the booksigning reception at Blackmail during the Texas Book Festival
photo by Mary Sledd
|MASTERS OF THE RODEO I was so excited about moderating the Texas Book Festival panel I See by Your Outfit: The History of Western Wear that I rehearsed for days in front of the mirror, prancing back and forth in a variety of outfits, brandishing a hairbrush like a microphone as I pointed out into the invisible audience, taking questions, "Yes, ma'am. You in the orange chiffon ..."
When it came time, I was smooth as shorn sheep. A brief technical difficulty inspired us to present an impromptu fashion parade, making the "models" (authors) take a spin to show off their authentic finery. I did actually get to take questions from the audience; my favorite interaction was with a little girl who said that the reason she was there was because she liked sparkly things.
The panel was very cool. It was especially fun to meet lovely Jamie Nudie, granddaughter of Nudie, the most famous rodeo tailor of all. He was the man behind Elvis' legendary gold laméé suit in 1957, Porter Waggoner's star-crossed threads, and was the first to put a rhinestone on a Western shirt. Jamie was wearing one of her grandfather's own suits that had been altered to fit her; the detailing was breathtaking. She's an amazing and modest woman who is truly Western-wear royalty. Her new book, Nudie: The Rodeo Tailor, is a wonderful history of Nudie's empire as well as a loving tribute to her grandfather. Ms. Nudie laughed as she told the story about how her grandfather's original Russian name had been mangled by immigration officials and how the appellation stuck. She was accompanied by her (also) splendidly dressed co-author Mary Lynn Cabrall.
The charming Steve Weil of Rockmount Ranch Wear is also Western-wear royalty, being the grandson of Rockmount's founder (the elder Mr. Weil is 103 and still goes to work every day). Steve's comprehensive book Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion is enchanting.
Boot expert Tyler Beard discussed his newest work Cowboy Boots, along with the effervescent and deeply knowledgeable Holly George-Warren, author of How the West Was Worn, which inspired the marvelous exhibit of the same name at the Bob Bullock Museum. Beard, Warren, and Weil also appeared for a booksigning and receptionat Blackmail, which had just unveiled its brilliant sister-store-next-door, Vivid (1202 S. Congress, 326-3095) the night before. Gail Chovan scores another, as the store is delightfully chic and brimming with colorful merchandise, from fresh flowers to feather headdresses. Vivid, like Blackmail, also carries Rockmount Ranch Wear as well as Evan Voyles' expert collection of vintage boots.
After A Fashion
Austin Chronicle, October 22, 2004
By Stephen MacMillan Moser
Vintage boots and Rockmount Western shirt at Blackmail, where three leading authors of books on Western wear will be signing books
|THESE BOOTS... Spit shine those Luccheses, and get yourself to Blackmail on Sat., Oct. 30, 4pm to meet the fascinating Tyler Beard. The author of The Cowboy Boot Book, Art of the Boot, and new book Cowboy Boots, will be on hand for a booksigning along with Steve Weil of the wonderful Rockmount Ranch Wear. The Denver author will be present with his book Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion (and a few Rockmount giveaways), and Holly George Warren, who wrote the fabulous How the West Was Worn. Of course, Blackmail is the pre-eminent place to buy your vintage cowboy boots (connoisseur Evan Voyles will assist), and you might even get a peek at Blackmail's new sister store, Vivid (it's all about color). Call 326-7670 for more info...
FOREVER YOUNG: After decades, Western-wear 'trend' holds on to its looks
Rocky Mountain News, October 14, 2004
By Dahlia Jean Weinstein
|In the old West, cowboy clothes had a purpose: to shield ranch hands from the rigors of their job. Sturdy shirts protected their arms from rope burns, and leather saved their bodies from bruises.
In the 1940s, Western wear started seeping into the American fashion culture. More than 60 years later, urban dwellers in Colorado who have never ridden a horse, baled hay or swept a stall sport Western boots and jeans, cowboy shirts and Stetsons.
But don't be quick to label Denver a cow town. Today's Western shirts and accessories can be paired with contemporary pieces, adding sophistication and style to one of the longest-running fashion trends in American history.
Examples are easy to see at Western-inspired fashion events such as Volunteers of America's annual Western Fantasy fund-raiser, which will be held Saturday. The event attracts plenty of fashion-forward women who wear everything from fringed suede suits and slacks, to boots and bustiers to formal ball gowns, all with a distinctive Western flair and giving life to the term cowgirl-chic.
Even mixing and matching simple vintage cotton cowboy-print shirts with lavish velvet pants or a contemporary leather vest gives a modern look to what was once a traditional fashion statement.
Add a big-buckled belt with a contemporary design and some glamorous velvet and satin-accented stilettos or suede boots and the sexy side of Western wear comes galloping through.
Just ask Steve Weil, the third-generation owner of Colorado's Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co.
Rockmount, which invented pearl snap buttons and introduced them to Western shirts, also commercially produced bolo ties and helped popularize Western wear throughout the United States and abroad.
Weil has spent the past three years traveling throughout the United States, Europe and Asia researching and photographing Western shirts and accessories produced by Rockmount and more than 250 other Western labels for the book Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion.
"The romance of the West is why Western wear is classic," Weil said. "The cowboy is an icon, which explains why Western wear is the longest-running fashion statement in popular culture. It used to be worn by ranchers, farmers and cowboys only.
"Now, an amazingly cool array of people wear it - rock stars, truck drivers, lawyers and doctors. It is a protest of the mundane."
- Rockmount shirts have adorned movie stars such as Elvis Presley, in Love Me Tender; Clark Gable, in The Misfits; James Caan, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, in Flesh & Bone; and most recently Chris Cooper, in Silver City. The late President Ronald Reagan wore Rockmount, and Robert Redford's staff at the Sundance Resort in Utah wear Rockmount shirts as part of their uniforms. Rockmount music stars include Bob Dylan, Alan Jackson, Don Henley and Bruce Springsteen, who have each been featured in a Rockmount original on an album or magazine cover.
Ellen Jaskol © News
A hand-embroidered chenille steer peeks out from the back of a vintage Rockmount reissue "Steer" shirt. The style is based on the 1940s original made for women and men ($75).
Ellen Jaskol © News
Cowboys riding bucking broncos adorn Rockmount's yellow vintage Western- print shirt with signature sawtooth pockets and diamond snaps ($56), worn with Burberry's double-belted pleated jean skirt from Burberry ($360).
Fashion calendar, October 14
Slide show: Forever young
- The coffee-table book Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion (Gibbs Smith, $39.95) will be released Nov. 15. The book features more than 450 photographs of vintage shirts and a label index of more than 250 brands made from the 1920s to the present. It chronicles the history of the classic designs of Western shirts that pioneered a lifestyle, the people who made them and the original brands. A book-signing with co-authors Steve Weil and C. Daniel DeWeese will be held Nov. 29 at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Cherry Creek. For more information, call Rockmount, 303-629-7777, or visit the site at www.rockmount.com.
Find out more details on this exciting book by going to out catalog.
Just click here.
COLORADO ORIGINALS: Snap-style Western shirt
The Denver Post, Sunday, August 22, 2004
Rockmount Ranch Wear is credited with designing the snap-style Western shirt. But there's more to the shirt and the story than snaps.
Founder Jack A. Weil wanted to "create a fashion that was distinct from shirts of the day," said his grandson, Steve. "Cowboys wanted their own fashion identity, something distinct from what city slickers wore." That meant stylized yokes, a tailored cut, flap pockets - and snaps.
The shirts were first sold in feed stores and boot stores. Jack A., still Rockmount's chief executive at 103, was the visionary. Jack Jr. sold the East Coast on Western fashion in the 1950s. And two decades later, Steve took business overseas to Europe and Asia. But Rockmount, still based in a Wazee Street warehouse, earned celebrity status long before all that.
In 1961, Clark Gable wore the company's shirts in "The Misfits." Then came Elvis, Bob Dylan, Ronald Reagan, Nicolas Cage and others. The Weils won't put numbers to that success, except to say Rockmount has sold millions of snap-style shirts.
-- Kelly Pate Dwyer
Denver TV Station Channel WB2 KWGN
|Denver TV Station Channel WB2 KWGN broadcasting morning news from Rockmount, July 13, 2004. from rt: Rick Trujillo(WB2), Dan Daru (WB2), Papa Jack, Jack B. & Steve Weil
Cowboys & Indians,
James Garner in Rockmount's No. 6940-Peri Pima Cotton, Cowboys & Indians, July 2004
THE DENVER POST
Monday, June 21, 2004
Western-wear CEO still a snappy dresser at 103
By J. Sebastian Sinisi
Denver Post Staff Writer
Lyn Alweis / Post
Jack A. Weil founded Rockmount Ranch Wear in 1946, relying on his invention, the snap button.
At age 103, Jack A. Weil, entrepreneur and Western- wear patriarch, is one of the oldest chief executives in the nation.
Weil is the founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear, the last "old line" Western clothing firm that still manufactures its garb in the U.S. He opened the Denver business on Wazee Street nearly 60 years ago.
Today, he remains an active leader of the company, though he admits that time has slowed him down a bit. He now arrives at 8 in the morning instead of 7.
"I'm not as young as I used to be," he quips.
While his son and grandson manage major components of the company, Weil still works five or six hours a day, handling accounting duties and other administrative chores.
"Know of anyone else over 100 who's still working as the head of his company?" asked his grandson, Steve Weil.
Like Jack Weil himself, the office, located in a 1908 building, is a curious blend of old and new - posters of 1940s Western movie stars mix with computers, desks and other equipment that comes with a modern corporate office.
As in life, Weil says, Rockmount's success comes from a "feel" for the business as much as any kind of marketing strategy.
"You also have to like what you do," he said. "I'm still around at 103 because I love what I do."
Wearing cowboy boots and a Rockmount shirt with the snap buttons he invented, Weil recalled driving to Denver in a Chrysler Roadster with his bride, Bea, in 1928, when U.S. 40 was mostly unpaved.
When Weil wearied of traveling as a Denver-based road salesman in 1935, he became a partner in the Stockman Co., which sold jeans and hats to farmers and working cowboys.
But he realized the business wasn't going to make much money from cowboys.
"If they had any, they wouldn't be cowboys - especially during the Depression," he noted.
Weil then persuaded chamber of commerce and rodeo officials to promote their towns and events by wearing Western clothes.
"I wasn't promoting a product, but the romance of the West," he said.
The strategy worked, and the firm, now Miller Stockman, prospered.
Weil cashed out and launched Rockmount in 1946, with the innovation of metal snaps in place of buttons on Western shirts.
The snap buttons, which became Rockmount's signature, were designed with practical authenticity.
"If a cowboy's buttoned shirt got hooked on a steer's horn, it would hold," he said. "But the snap would pop open."
When his son, Jack B. Weil, joined the firm in 1952, he took over design and expanded Rockmount's apparel, hat and accessories lines. He also introduced Western shirts for women.
Steve Weil came on board in 1981 with a business degree from Tulane University and extended Rockmount's reach to stores in Canada, Europe, Japan and Singapore.
Today, showrooms display photos of celebrities - Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Jodie Foster - all wearing Rockmount shirts.
In an era of corporate giants and big-box retailers, Rockmount continues to succeed as a family-run anomaly. Jack Weil takes pride that, despite the company's success, it remains more of a "mom-and-pop company."
"I love the personal contact I've had with all kinds of people. For me, that's what always made it fun," he said. "And it never hurt to be a bit of a 'ham."'
In business, Weil always offered the same price to big stores as he did to "mom and pop" firms. And he never sold to discounters.
Friends and colleagues say Weil's personality and business acumen remain a strong component of Rockmount's legacy.
"He's smart, witty and has a wonderful Western sense of humor," said Bob Levy, former vice present of Fashion Bar, a leading Denver clothing retailer until it was sold in the late 1980s. "And he has a huge number of friends."
His independence and energy continue to amaze his friends, said longtime pal Joe Silversmith, an insurance broker.
"I'd like to patent and bottle whatever it is that makes him tick," Silversmith said.
Personal Email to Rockmount - They even wear Rockmount at the South Pole!
Subject: Good morning from Lawrence
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004 10:14:36 +1200
From: "Ahlin, Lawrence"
Can I buy some of your shirts and have them sent via mail? Currently I am stationed overseas so it would have to be USPS if I can order.
Thanks for your time and response.
Lawrence Ahlin, Jr
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What a treat to hear from Antarctica. My 6 year old will be very impressed. He has studied the poles, but I am afraid he seems more focused on the north one, something to do with Santa...)
Anyway we would be glad to receive your order but suggest you may prefer long sleeves. Also we have to find out what you do there!
Just email your order with visa or mc to firstname.lastname@example.org. How long does it take to receive something via USPS in Antarctica? I hope it is faster than here in Denver!
Their reply with pictures:
||Aurora Australiaus at
South Pole Station, Antarctica
|Lawrence Ahlers at Mt. Erebus, Antarctica
(before receiving his new Rockmount shirts).
Tack 'n Togs - Shirt Book All Buttoned Up
Tack 'n Togs - Papa Jack 103rd Birthday & Cowboy Poetry Gathering
The Denver Post - City Spirit
Thursday, May 27, 2004
By Bill Husted
Denver Post Columnist
... The London Times coming to town to interview Rockmount Ranch Wear's Jack A. Weil, at 103 probably the oldest CEO in America ...
Bill Husted's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Husted also appears on Fox 31 News. You can reach him at 303-820-1486 or at email@example.com.
Associated Press Syndicated Article - Venerable Western Clothier Bucks Trends
(AP syndicated article appearing in newspapers across USA)
April 25, 2003
Venerable Western Clothier Bucks Trends
By CATHERINE TSAI
The Associated Press
Jack A. Weil, center, the founder and president of Rockmount Ranch Wear stands in the showroom of his Denver store on Friday, April 23, 2004, with his son, Jack B., right, and grandson Steve. The senior Weil turned 103 in March and the company is throwing a public birthday party for him on Sunday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
DENVER (AP) - Though most wholesalers have fled the once run-down but now trendy Lower Downtown district in Denver, Rockmount Ranch Wear is staying just where it has since 1946. And that's not the only way the company is defying trends in an industry that has largely moved overseas.
"Who knows how long it'll go?" founder and president Jack A. Weil says. "I think it'll go forever if you just play it right."
Weil, who turned 103 in March, still goes to work every day to run Rockmount with son Jack B. and grandson Steven. The company threw a public birthday party for "Papa Jack" Sunday in its store in Golden, Colo.
The apparel manufacturer known for innovating Western shirts with snap closures and commercially produced bolo ties today is now known for its fierce loyalty to tradition. It continues to refuse to sell through chain stores or discounters.
"We'll never be the richest people in the cemetery, but we'll have a business we like," Weil said.
Rockmount in the past five years has started selling its own hats, accessories and signature shirts with diamond snaps and sawtooth pockets after decades of being strictly a wholesaler. It finally launched a Web site in 2001 and grudgingly allowed some production of new products, like silk ties, to be done in Asia.
This summer, renovation work at its historic, five-story headquarters building downtown will add a mini-museum and give retail operations more space.
"The only way a company stays in business is reinventing itself over time," Steven Weil said. "My role in recent years has been to retain the foundation my father and grandfather built, which is our integrity and personality, but reinvent our products and the way we sell it."
The company can't afford mass advertising but has attracted customers like Kiss front man Gene Simmons. Blues and rock veteran Al Kooper ordered shirts this week.
"One of the biggest impressions on me is Elvis Presley. He wore Rockmount shirts," Kooper said.
Jack A. Weil first moved to the West in 1928 to sell elastics products in a territory from El Paso, Texas, to the Canadian border. He saw swift demand for Western wear that a friend was selling but decided it would be better to manufacture than to sell.
Thus began Rockmount with a philosophy that every customer is important.
"On the invoice, they're the only ones who say `Hi, how ya doing.' They're your bud," said Nadine Nelson, owner of Nelsons' Tack Shop in Downsville, N.Y.
The company has roughly 100 employees.
The Weils won't release dollar figures, but Steven Weil said sales have been up 15 percent over the last two years after steep declines due to the recession and effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The elder Weil said his grandson, who expanded sales overseas, should carry the business well.
"As long as I have my health and I'm able to come to work," Weil said, "I'm thankful I can do so."
On the Net: www.rockmount.com
Appearing in the following newspapers as of 4/25/04:
||Grand Forks Herald, ND
||Akron Beacon Journal, OH
||Monterey County Herald, CA
||Jefferson City News Tribune, MO
||The State, SC
||Worcester Telegram, MA
|Kansas City Star
||Springfield News Sun, OH
||Rapid City Journal, SD
||Ocala Star-Banner, FL
||In Forum, ND
||Biloxi Sun Herald, MI
||Saginaw News, MI
|Seattle Post Intelligencer
||Charlotte Observer, NC
||Bay City Times, MI
||Lakeland Ledger, FL
||Ann Arbor News, MI
|ABC 7 News
||Myrtle Beach Sun Times, SC
||Grand Rapids Journal, MI
||Duluth News Tribune, MN
||Muskegon Chronicle, MI
||Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN
||Kalamazoo Gazette, MI
|San Jose Mercury News, CA
||Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, GA
||Free Lance Star, Fredericksburg, VA
||Centre Daily Times, PA
||Hampton Roads Daily Press, VA
||Montgomery County Record, PA
||Hartford Courant, CT
|Fort Worth Star Telegram
||Times Daily, AL
||North County Times, CA
|San Luis Obispo Tribune, CA
||Bradenton Herald, FL
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
April 24, 2003
PAPA'S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG
By Penny Parker
Rocky Mountain News Columnist
PAPA'S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG: Rockmount Ranchwear founder "Papa" Jack A. Weil will celebrate birthday No. 103 with a cowboy poetry reading. The icon of Western fashion will be honored from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Rockmount's Colorado Mills store.
Local cowboy poets will spin yarns about Papa Jack, the man who created the first shirt with snaps.
Info: Rockmount LoDo, 303-629-7777, or the Mills store, 303-590-1708. MUSICAL NOTES: It's an invasion of the Canadians. Alanis Morissette is teaming with Barenaked Ladies for a full U.S. tour, including an Aug. 2 stop at Red Rocks. Watch for ticket details soon. Also, Prince has added a second show at the Pepsi Center. The Aug. 28 date will go on sale May 3 through Ticketmaster.
Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com.
The Rocky Mountain News, Dress Code, April 15
In celebration of Papa Jack Weil's 103rd birthday, head on over to Rockmount's Cowboy Poetry Reading to honor this icon of Western fashion, who created the first commercially made shirts with snaps. The event runs from 2 to 5 p.m. April 25 at the Colorado Mills Rockmount store.
Tack n Tog, February 2004
The Denver Post Thursday, January 29, 2004
If style is all about the personal choices we make — what we wear and eat, the way we entertain ourselves and others, how we express our identities — then the Denver area offers an array of great options.
This list recognizes the most interesting among them, from old standbys to undiscovered gems. And it does so in two ways. First, it honors the places that keep our options invigorating: clothing stores both trendy and traditional, groceries that make our diets varied and our dinner parties fabulous, restaurants with menus that propel our palates forward. Second, it identifies the places and people who help define Denver's overall style on their own: museums, parks and eateries, along with artists, theaters and promoters, that shape our collective character while edging us toward a broader perspective of ourselves. Together, their style is our style.
62) Their ranks have dwindled, but Denver still can boast a few manufacturers of Western wear.
Stepping into the LoDo headquarters of Rockmount Ranch Wear is like time traveling to the early 20th century. Some of the company’s designs from the 1920s to the 40s are displayed on the walls, along with faded newspaper clippings.
The company’s founder, Jack A. Weil, 102, still comes to the office every day, while his son, Jack B. Weil, and grandson, Steve Weil, run the show. They’re best-known for their snap-front shirts, but have started offering silk scarves as neckties with designs from works by such artists as Donna Howell Sickles.
Rockmount began retailing shirts from the downtown location a couple of years ago and now touring musicians as well as downtown office workers can pick up a shirt or hat.
Rockmount Ranch Wear, 1626 Wazee St., 303-629-7777; www.rockmount.com
The Denver Post Thursday, January 22, 2004
Council to mayor: Can it!
Local charities reap benefit of officials' friendly food fight
A friendly competition between Denver's elected leaders to collect canned goods for local charities has erupted in a food fight at city hall.
Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero launched the campaign last month by challenging the mayor's office to a can-collecting duel.
But the final tally of which group - the City Council or the mayor's staff - collected the most food has boiled down to a war of words.
The council collected 1,340 pounds of canned goods and other nonperishable boxed foods, while the mayor's office claimed 2,086 pounds.
Photo of Judy Montero, Denver City Council,wearing Rockmount embroidered shirt #7703
Westword December 18th 2003
He's gone country
Calling Alan Jackson!
If ever clothes made the man, it's apparent in the makeover of new Denver City Council representative-at-large Doug Linkhart.
We mean no disrespect. We're fond of the councilman known as "Leftie Linkhart," as fellow makeover victim Charlie Brown (Off Limits, December 11) swears the other council reps refer to the former state legislator. But his suits and ties? Bo-o-oring, with a capital B. No style, no flair, no panache. He could just as easily be selling real estate or pushing insurance as organizing the city. But put a cowboy hat on that man, and he out-Charlie Browns Charlie Brown, the man who has vowed to get other councilmembers dressing more Western.
We never thought we'd say it, but Linkhart looks hot! We'd jump the man behind Jumpstart, the city's new economic push. Suddenly that smile seems oh, so slyly Marlboro Man. He looks like "a man of vision" out of Lonesome Dove, not just another glad-handing politician. And the jeans certainly show off his 33-inch waist and other, ahem, assets a helluva lot better than a suit coat and slacks. Hell, we're thinking he'd even get some wolf whistles on the rodeo circuit!
That wouldn't surprise Steve Weil, the third-generation owner of Rockmount Ranch Wear. Founded in the '40s by Jack A. Weil, who first put snap buttons on Western shirts and still comes to work every day at the age of 102, Rockmount recently added a retail store. That's where Steve Weil engineered Linkhart's transformation from city slicker to range rider, a businessman who's singlehandedly trying to "make the world safe for Western wear."
"You don't have to dress up like Howdy Doody to be part of the Western lifestyle," Weil says. "It's for people who have the personal security of who they are and what kind of image they wish to project. I learned this a long time ago from GQ: The beauty of Western fashion is that it can be the whole deal or just an accent."
In jeans, fiery yellow boots, buttery suede fringe jacket and vintage purple snap-down with floral embroidery, Linkhart went whole hog. And he wore it all well -- no surprise, really, because Linkhart's originally from Tucson, where, he likes to report, people are given a full week off from work during the city's world-famous rodeo.
Linkhart's certainly not the first celeb to get the Rockmount treatment. The LoDo headquarters is full of pictures of stars such as Bruce Springsteen wearing Rockmount garb. Locally, the boys of Davis, Graham & Stubbs are regulars, and John Hickenlooper got his belts from Weil (no hats, though, since Hick's "not a hat kind of guy," according to Weil) before he even considered running for mayor. And once he did, Weil had some thoughts about that, too.
"I told the mayor he needs to dress in a way that reflects Denver," says Weil. "This is also true for the councilmen.
We are not J Crew. This is not the East Coast. We have our own identity. The beauty of the Western ethos is that it appeals to both the people from here and people moving here. We lost our identity there for a while, particularly during the early '80s. People are celebrating it now."
Lest those people celebrate it a little too heartily, Weil offers these words of wisdom:
1. You're always safe with classics. Good Western wear is classic. It does not bounce around like a Ping-Pong ball from season to season.
2. For public times, don't wear the whole getup at once. Think accents, not Howdy Doody.
3. Western belts are good anytime. Coordinate them with your outfit rather than always wearing black.
Linkhart listened closely to Weil, just as he would to any constituent. "I almost bought a few things," he says. "If I'd had any money, I probably would have. I've got to go back. I've got some Western wear, but I don't wear it that often. I liked that blue shirt, and I like boots, except that they hurt. I'd rather be barefoot."
But he'll be back in the saddle at the January 5 city council meeting, where all the representatives are supposed to dress Western in honor of the National Western Stock Show, which begins that Friday. "As part of the economic forums I held, one of the recommendations was to get people to wear Western wear during the Stock Show," Linkhart says. "So we probably will encourage that as part of the Stock Show being here. Anything we can do to enhance the value of an activity like that to help our economy is good. I don't think Denver's as much of a cowtown as it used to be, but a little more Western wear can't hurt."
Spoken like a true cowboy. You'd better watch out, Charlie Brown.
Meanwhile, any ladies whose hearts were set aflutter over Linkhart's makeover can settle down: He's happily married to Dorothy Norbie, aide to councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie. But that doesn't mean you can't get in the councilman's pants. Here in the Off Limits office, we have a pair of 33-34s worn by ol' Leftie for his photo shoot. Want them? Send us a compelling reason why you need his jeans, and they could be yours. And while you're setting the keyboard on fire, Off Limits is taking nominations for our next makeover victim. Send any and all suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Denver rocks: It's been relatively quiet at Red Rocks Amphitheatre since October, when John Tesh closed the concert season with the sound of Muzak. But there's been plenty of noise surrounding the place's burgeoning product line. On Monday, the city's Office of Art, Culture & Film threw a bash to dedicate A Thread Through History, Academy Award winner Donna Dewey's documentary on Red Rocks, as well as eight public artworks commissioned for the million-dollar Red Rocks Visitor Center, which opened this past spring. Carved in Stone, a live compilation of cuts culled from Red Rocks performances of yore, has been a steady seller at music retailers city-wide, and the companion book, Red Rocks: From Dinosaurs to Rock 'N Roll, is a nice piece of memorabilia dedicated to the Morrison venue and park.
It's also a nice piece of memorabilia that shows how fast things can change in Denver, since the press run was split to allow the welcome from then-mayor Wellington Webb to be replaced with a more generic greeting page that would have a longer shelf life. Beyond Webb, the slender volume of historical information and archival photographs (some of which were not shot on the Rocks, by the way) name-checks everyone from the Diplodocus, beast of the Jurassic era, to Gregg Allman, beast of the modern era. (We love the title's double-entendre dinosaur reference.) A project launched by Fabby Hillyard, former director of Denver's Division of Theatres and Arenas, and Erik Dyce, the department's marketing maven, Red Rocks was penned by local historian Tom Noel, George Krieger -- "a dentist addicted to rock and roll" -- and G. Brown, the former Denver Post music critic who was ousted for plagiarism in November. (Unlike Webb, it wasn't possible to remove Brown's contribution from the book.)
Too bad the eagle-eyed reader who caught G. Brown's latest -- and last -- Post slip wasn't hired to proof the commemorative plaques in the Visitor Center. Because among the typos blasted into posterity in the celebratory sandstone are listings for Buddy Buy (we're assuming that was supposed to be Buddy Guy, who first appeared at Red Rocks in June 1997) and Stevie Ray Vaughn (the late, and much misspelled, master guitarist Vaughan played the park shortly before his death in August 1990).
We can only hope that -- for the sake of the spellchecker, at least -- Me'Shell NdegéOcello never takes the stage in Morrison.
Ted-wetters: The year's not quite over, but winner of the best marketing campaign in 2003 has to be Ted. No, not the campaign touting United Airlines' new discount airline, but Colorado Ski & Golf's look-alike ads in the Denver dailies that mock United's efforts with messages like "Ted...Skier or Snowboarder?"
"We've had tremendous fun and response," says Kat Jobanputra of Specialty Sports, Colorado Ski & Golf's parent company. "But nothing from United." Then again, Specialty's founders know just what's in a name: They're Ken and John Gart, scions of the family that started the Gart Bros. chain -- and whose flagship store on Broadway still bears that name, even though the Garts sold the company years ago.
westword.com | originally published: December 18, 2003
KBDI Channel 12, Denver
Jan 2, 2004
Political Panel Discussion
left: Aaron Harber, Alison Taylor - marketing maven, Jake Schroeder - Lead Singer, Opie Gone Bad,
Steve Weil - Rockmount, Louis Johnson - comedian
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
December 18, 2003
102-year-old Denver Man Remembers His First Airplane Flight
By Penny Parker
Rocky Mountain News Columnist
Wednesday's 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight brought back a fond first-flight memory for 102-year-old Denverite Jack A. Weil, founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear.
Papa Jack, as third-generation Rockmount wrangler Steven Weil calls him, took his first flight in 1930 aboard a two-seater Stinson Detroiter mail plane from Billings to Denver. The airport in Billings was - and still is - up on a butte overlooking the Yellowstone River.
"Papa Jack asked the pilot, 'What happens if this thing don't take off?' " Steven said. "The pilot said, 'The river would break the fall.' "
At one point in the flight, the pilot pointed out the Crow Indian Reservation below. "Papa Jack slid open the window to see better, and his glasses flew off," Steven said.
The plane made three pit stops (Sheridan, Casper and Cheyenne) to refuel. "At the Cheyenne stop he called my grandmother, Bea, to meet him at the airfield in 30 minutes," Steven said.
"Bea said, 'Don't drive so fast. If you drive 110 miles in 30 minutes you'll kill yourself.' "
BIG BANG: Two fireworks shows will light up the sky above the 16th Street Mall on New Year's Eve. The identical shows, at 9 p.m. and midnight, will blast off from two sites along the mall and run for 12 minutes.
The shows, mostly financed by downtown hotels, aim to bring big business to restaurants and hotels. You can find dining and lodging info at www.downtowndenver.com.
HE'S GOT HEART: Following a command performance at the Arizona Heart Hospital, piano man Gene Johnson is back tickling the ivories at Maggiano's Little Italy in the Tech Center. Johnson, who suffered a heart attack while vacationing in Phoenix in October, is back at work with the blessing of his Denver cardiologist. The piano man performs from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
SNAPSHOT: Denver-based photographer Rich Clarkson is the poster boy for Nikon cameras. In the January-February issue of American Photo Magazine, on newsstands now, Clarkson is caught in a two-page ad for the camera company. The layout includes the shutterbug's famous photo of Olympic diver Greg Louganis knocking his noggin on the diving board during the 1988 Olympics.
THE SEEN: The Colorado Symphony Chorus spontaneously singing Christmas songs and entertaining dazzled diners at Josephina's in Larimer Square Saturday night.
MUSICAL NOTE: Soulful singer Lou Rawls kicks off the new year in his first appearance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra Jan. 2 and 3. Tickets start at $12; call 303-893-4100 or visit www.colora dosymphony.org.
DOINGS: Radio sports talker Lou From Littleton will be joined by injured Bronco Steve Beuerlein for the annual auction fund-raiser for Samaritan House during a live broadcast from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday on 950-AM The Fan.
You can bid on sports memorabilia at www.fan950.com. More information: 303-294-0241.
EAVESDROPPING on two women at The Palm: "Your glue gun has more miles on it than your Jag."
Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Listen to her on Scott Redmond's radio show at 4:45 p.m. Fridays on KHOW- AM (630). Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@Rocky MountainNews.com.
THE DENVER POST
Friday, December 12, 2003
Denver man bags a Mantle home-run ball
By Dick Kreck
Denver Post Columnist
Going, going, gone: Marshall Fogel scored. The Denver attorney came away from the New York City auction of
Mickey Mantle memorabilia for "only" $25,000. "I bought one of his home-run balls, number 532," says Fogel,
who owns a Mantle jersey and glove. Mantle, the Yankees slugger who died in 1995, hit 536 homers in his career.
Is 532 special? "Any of them are, because of who he is. It's a treasure." (The tater came off California Angel
George Brunet on Aug. 12, 1968.) Top of the auction food chain was Mantle's 1957 MVP Award, which netted $275,000.
The auction of 300 items, conducted by Guernsey's at Madison Square Garden on Monday, raised $3.25 million
for Mantle's widow and two sons. Fogel is awaiting his prize. Even at 25,000 big ones, he says,
"it's a better investment than the stock market."
Calling all blabbers
Ever want to be producer of a TV show? Here's your chance.
Aaron Harber, affable host of Channel 12's "Aaron Harber Show," is looking for help for his New Year's Resolution show.
His last show of the season tapes Monday and he wants the public to nominate four people "who might be fun to
have on the show, people people would like to see." He's open to all. You try booking a whole season of
interesting people who can talk. No shouters, please. "In the TV world, they like wrestling matches.
I've always gone a different route." I have a few who aren't regulars on the talk-show circuit: actor John Ashton,
hotel flack Susan Stiff, nightclub owner David Clamage, federal Judge John Kane, pub owner Chris Black and
cowboy-shirt maker Steve Weil. Send your suggestions to Harber at his website,
Try to keep Mayor Hick at bay.
.... Quotable: "The world is divided into people who think they are right." - Anonymous.
Dick Kreck's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He may be reached at 303-820-1456
The big boxes take a hit...
THE DENVER POST Thursday November 20, 2003
Colorado's Economic Realities
By Steve Weil
The New York Times ran a story headlined "Winners and Losers, Economically Speaking" on Nov. 9, rating Colorado with Mississippi as having one of the five worst economies in the nation.
The Rocky Mountain News on Nov. 15 stated that bankruptcies are up 24 percent this year in Colorado. And The Denver Post editorial of Nov. 16, "The Sour side of subsidies," drove the message home: We have serious problems that will get worse unless we address the challenges faced by our existing business base.
Denver's mayor has done more for the city in his first 100 days than other mayors have done in their entire tenure. However, a subsidy to Wal-Mart, the largest corporation in the world, would be a blot on an otherwise stellar record. The city's argument is that the Alameda Square site is 40 percent vacant and needs to be redeveloped. It is unacceptable that the city is willing to sacrifice several businesses that occupy the remaining 60 percent of the site.
Furthermore, we have a 25 percent to 40 percent commercial vacancy rate in Denver, depending on the area. So a 40 percent vacancy on Alameda Square fits local economic conditions.
The argument that the ends justify the means is a dangerous threat to a free market. The fallacy in the city's thinking is that the subsidies will be repaid by tax revenue. This ignores the cold reality that Wal-Mart is a neutron bomb that decimates the local small business base, leaving the shell of their buildings and a lost way of life for thousands.
How many pharmacies, small groceries, pet stores, sports and clothing retailers close around the epicenter of every new Wal-Mart? If you want a global village where the only retailer is Wal-Mart or other multinational big boxes, then you will love the generic-homogenous product range made in third-world countries.
Let's look at what can be done to support the real source of economic development: small business. Most economic growth in terms of employment and consumer-purchasing multipliers comes from small businesses, not large ones. Let's support our locally owned firms and make it attractive for some to open or expand at Alameda Square and elsewhere.
Finally, we need to look at the property-tax burden on businesses. We have a constitutional mess created by the Gallagher Amendment. No city leader had any idea of the unfair burden it now places on businesses, small or large. Our taxes at Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co. went up 33 percent this year, and 20 percent the year before. This is the largest increase we have ever seen in 60 years.
In the 20 years since voters passed the Gallagher amendment, the disparity between commercial and residential property taxes has swelled to the point that businesses pay almost four times more property tax than for a residence worth the same amount. Property is property. This system is unfair, detrimental to job creation and in need of change. The problem is especially unfair when you consider that commercial property is only 25 percent of the total real estate base.
This is not a big-business issue. It is an employment issue. It is a consumer-cost issue. Property taxes are a cost of doing business that must be figured in the prices set by businesses. My company's tax increase means we cannot hire new staff, and there is less profit to share with existing staff. It cripples our ability to invest in our business. We are not alone.
Additionally, downtown businesses pay an assessment to maintain the area. This has gone up 200 percent in three years. Despite the fact that lofts are a major portion of the buildings downtown, they pay nothing toward this maintenance on the same streets they occupy. How fair is that?
So instead of wooing corporate villains with subsidies, let's do some good for those who have carried the load all along. Also, we need to fix the constitutional tax disaster and restore a structure that does not arbitrarily cause huge increases with every assessment. What is fair for homeowners likewise should be fair to businesses.
Steve Weil is vice president of Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co. in downtown Denver.
BOYS IN THE BAND
November 15, 2003
ON THE TOWN
By Penny Parker
BOYS IN THE BAND: Lucinda Williams band members lassoed a corral's worth of shirts, boots, belts and T-shirts from Rockmount Ranchwear in LoDo before the concert. "I knew them from when they worked for Dwight Yoakum, and they have stayed in touch whenever they come to Denver," said Steve Weil, Rockmount's third generation Western wear wrangler.
Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday.
Amend. 32 garners business backing Initiative alters property-tax ratio
Mike McPhee, Denver Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 30, 2003 -
Some Denver-area businesses have put their time and money in support of Amendment 32, a statewide ballot initiative that would alter property taxes.
"This is not a business-versus- homeowner issue. This is for the economic health of Denver," said Steve Weil, whose family has owned a 30,000-square-foot building on Wazee Street since 1946.
But the measure has drawn its share of high-profile opponents as well. Gov. Bill Owens on Wednesday declared his opposition to the property tax change in a radio address.
"I'm going to oppose the referendum, it's 32," Owens told a caller. "Referendum 32 would in fact lead to higher taxes."
And state House Majority Leader Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, claims it won't do much to solve the state's fiscal woes.
The statewide measure would effectively gut the Gallagher Amendment, passed in 1982. Gallagher forces owners of commercial property to pay 55 percent of the state's property tax bill, which the owners say is grossly unfair. Amendment 32 would eliminate the 55 percent commercial, 45 percent residential tax ratio.
It also would freeze the assessment rate of residential property at 8 percent. The assessment rate is the percentage of a property's market value that assessors can tax. When Gallagher became law, the residential assessment rate was about 21 percent. It has steadily dropped to the current rate of 7.96 percent in order for residential taxes to remain at 45 percent of the total. Commercial property is assessed at the permanent rate of 29 percent.
Weil, vice president of Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co. in Denver, goes so far as to claim that Gallagher is hurting the entire economy because it forces businesses to raise prices.
"If you work, live or shop in Denver, you now have to pay more because of Gallagher," he said. "I can't hire more staff because my taxes have gone up 50 percent in the past two years. I had plans to reconfigure my business, which I can't. The economic health of the community is being hurt by Gallagher."
But some Amendment 32 opponents say it not only won't solve the state's fiscal problems, it will result in tax increases.
"I don't think you can solve the state's current fiscal situation in light of looking at just fixing the residential assessment rate at 8 percent," King said.
"It will save some money out of the state education fund, but it doesn't solve the more complex issues."
Tom Clark of the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce claims that the imbalance between residential and commercial properties has grown to an unacceptable level because it now is affecting funding for public education.
In a campaign contribution report filed Wednesday, the supporters of Amendment 32, Citizens for Property Tax Reform, reported another $10,000 in contributions.
Contributors include the Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers, $2,500; Colorado Association of School Executives, $2,500; and Special District Association, $5,000.
Opponents of Amendment 32, Coloradoans for Fairness in Taxation, reported an additional $1,160 in contributions, including a $250 donation from former state representative Ruth Wright.
Property taxes are used almost exclusively for funding public education. But school funding is mandated to grow annually at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent. As school budgets have grown faster than property tax revenues, the difference by law must be made up from the state's general fund, a process known as "backfilling." When Gallagher was passed, property taxes paid roughly 60 percent of the funding for education, and the remaining 40 percent was "backfilled." Today, property taxes pay about 40 percent, and the remaining 60 percent is "backfilled."
"Residential property owners have enjoyed a $7 billion tax break since Gallagher was passed in 1982," the chamber's Clark said.
Charlie Wooley's St. Charles Town Co. is one of the largest renovators of historic commercial property in Denver, including the Equitable Building at 17th and Stout streets.
"As a downtown guy, our business environment is not so much large headquarters as it is small businesses. Our average (commercial condo owner) has about 4,000 square feet," Wooley said. "Most of them have had tax increases of about 250 percent in the past few years. One guy in the Equitable had his taxes jump $500 a month for a 2,000-square-foot condo. A big part of it is because of Gallagher."
The Denver Post, Tues Oct. 28, 2003
Amendment 32 will save overtaxed businesses
Re: "Vote 'no' on Amendment 32," Oct. 19 editorial.
As a local businessman, I could not be more disappointed with The Post's decision not to support Amendment 32, a freeze on commercial property rates. Granted, this amendment is a temporary stop measure when what is needed is a complete reworking of the constitutional mess created by the Gallagher and TABOR amendments. However, no one is taking action and we need relief immediately.
The taxes on my company's building went up more than 30 percent this year, 50 percent in two years. This is the worst increase we have faced in 60 years.
We are an endangered species. Do you wonder why there are only three of the original wholesale commercial businesses left in lower downtown?
Running any business has gotten a lot harder, and excessive taxes have made it worse, particularly downtown. If you want more generic, minimum-wage-paying chains, just raise the taxes and watch more colorful local businesses die.
This is not natural selection of the marketplace. The 1982 Gallagher Amendment is a badly conceived law that we were bamboozled into thinking was a good thing at the time to cap residential property taxes during a period of rising property values.
Taxes on commercial property, assessed at 29 percent of market value, have risen about 400 percent in 20 years. Meanwhile, residential assessment rates declined from 21 percent to 8 percent. Gallagher's intentions were partly good, but the consequences have been disastrous. Twenty years later, it is crippling our economic health and prospects for future growth. Gallagher is not simply bad for existing businesses, it is bad for future ones, too. Is this going to help attract businesses to Colorado?
Under Amendment 32, commercial property will continue to be taxed at a much higher level than residential, but the difference will not get any worse.
The writer is vice president of Rockmount Ranch Wear.
THE DENVER POST, Tuesday October 28, 2003
Western Fantasy Gala
Steve Weil of Denver's ROCKMOUNT RANCH WEAR
is with wife Wendy, who wears a newly reissued
shirt from ROCKMOUNT's 1954 line
A high-kicking fashion roundup
by Suzanne S. Brown, Denver Post Fashion Editor
Fringe by the yard, suede that clung to every curve, hand-tooled boots and fancy beaver hats were a few of the ways guests at Saturday's Western Fantasy gala interpreted the invitation's request to dress in "elegant Western attire."
The event is in its 10th year, and during that decade, Denverites have learned how to gussy up for a good time and good cause - Western Fantasy has raised $12 million for Volunteers of America.
Some of Saturday's 1,200 partygoers saw it as an occasion to dress in costume, while others merely took a dressier take on clothes they wear every day.
Most of the outfit ogling took place during the reception that preceded the dinner, auction and performance by Jo Dee Messina at the Western Events Center.
Stylish socialites such as Carylyn Bell, Annabel Bowlen and Holly Kylberg had their cowboy couturier Gabriel Conroy whip them up some outfits. Bell's was in hand-painted Ultrasuede, Bowlen's long ivory gown was embroidered with roses, and Kylberg's top and pants were accented with handpainted metallic lace.
Pants outfits were favored by Neiman Marcus honchos Christel Dikeman and Nancy Sagar, both in figure-hugging suede; and Qwest's Joni Baird, who wore an ivory jacket and pants with cutwork and beading.
Those who don't typically dress Western have learned the power of accessories. In her white fringed Monique Lhuillier dress, Valere Shane could have glided through any cocktail party, but with a white cowboy hat and boots, she was stylishly riding the range. Jean Galloway confessed that she's not much of a cowgirl - even though she co-founded the gala 10 years ago with Sharon Magness - but with a bold turquoise necklace accessorizing her black St. John and Escada outfit, she fit right in. "This necklace is very special because it was a gift from Sharon," Galloway said.
"Something old, something new, something borrowed..." might be a phrase usually applied to wedding attire, but it also an apt description of what gala-goers wore. John Huggins, Denver's new eonomic development director, sported a vintage H Bar C jacket with white embroidery, and a bolo tie he bought in Idaho Springs, while his stylish wife Patricia wore a Robert Danes top and skirt.
It's all about having fun, said Rollie Jordan, who dug into her closet and found a vintage Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress that looked more saloon girl than gunslinger. Perfect for a night that was about kicking up your heels.
Suzanne S. Brown is fashion editor of The Denver Post. Call her at 303-820-1697 or e-mail email@example.com.
THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
October 10, 2003
HOLLYWOOD HICK: Before John Hickenlooper jetted to La-La land for the premiere of the movie Veronica Guerin (his wife, Helen -Thorpe, wrote the story that became the screenplay), the mayor shot a scene Tuesday for the John Sayles' movie Silver City filming here. Hickenlooper and Stephen Montez, host of Channel 12's Colorado OutSpoken, taped for three hours at Washington Park.
SILVER CITY TURNS SHIRTS TO GOLD: Rockmount Ranchwear, the LoDo-based Western wear manufacturer, has a starring role of sorts in Silver City.
Sayles and his live-in love and producer Maggie Renzi scouted LoDo's oldest clothier for duds for dudes and dudettes in the political thriller.
Chris Cooper (Seabiscuit) wears a dressy cotton blue herringbone in Rockmount's signature vintage quarter horse design with sloping pockets. His silver bear claw bolo is also by Rockmount.
Penny Parker's column appears Tuesday through Saturday. Call her at 303-892-5224 or e-mail parkerp@RockyMountainNews.com
The Denver Post
Oct 5, 2003
Bill Husted Column
After a late lunch at Il Fornaio, Kiss Rocker Gene Simmons dropped into ROCKMOUNT RANCH WEAR LoDo Wednesday with
Playboy's Miss October, his Denver galpal Audra Lynn.
He got the leather shirt, she got the leopard velour number.
Colorado Matters on Rockmount Shirts
Colorado Public Radio,
Wednesday, Sep. 24, 2003
Steve Weil with Denver’s Rockmount Ranchwear talks about the family company that was founded nearly 60 years ago. (First broadcast Jan. 15, 2003.)
THE DENVER POST
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Western Design Saddles Up
Fashions, furnishings on view in Wyoming
From deerskin to denim and rawhide to wrought-iron, Western-style fashions and furnishings will be given a high-end howdy this week at the 11th annual Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyo.
More than a dozen Coloradans will be among the roughly 70 artisans represented in the event's juried exhibition, which showcases some of the finest Western-style furniture, apparel, jewelry, lighting and home accessories now on the market.
The conference, which runs Wednesday through Saturday, also includes a runway fashion show, a tour of the historic home of Buffalo Bill, and seminars taught by nationally known architects and interior designers. It's timed to coincide with a benefit art show and sale also taking place this weekend at Cody's renowned Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
This year's conference is the first to be presented under the auspices of the new Western Interiors and Design magazine, a glossy bimonthly whose owners bought out the financially struggling operation last March - just two months before the event's founder, Cody furniture maker Mike Patrick, was killed in a car crash.
Conference director Thea Marx says the magazine's involvement, together with national sponsorships by SAR Furniture and Sikorsky Helicopters, should heighten interest in the event among designers, architects, collectors and craftspeople.
The Colorado exhibitors include fashion designers Steve Weil of Denver and Deborah Davis and Stephen Sanders of Steamboat Springs, jeweler Karl Hoffman of Craig, potter Tim Preston of Greeley, metalsmith Will Kohler of Boulder and furniture makers Christina Chapman and David Struempler of Carbondale, Peter Lynn of Alma, Gary Burditt of Fort Collins, Pat Olson of Grand Junction, Greg Race of Leadville and Stephen Winer of Timnath.
For details on the conference, go online to www.westerndesignconference.com or call toll-free 1-888-685-0574. For information on the Buffalo Bill art show and sale, go to www.buffalobillartshow.com or call 307-587-5002.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS, June 19, 2003
Clothes Make the Mayor
Memo to: John Hickenlooper, mayor elect Re: Polished politician fashion tips
Congratulations on your victory in Denver's recent mayoral race. We're sure the election will bring with it scads of advice from your constituents, but we'd like to be the first to bring you some guidance from the fashion front.
Word has it that you own one good suit, and frankly, that's just not gonna cut it. You're going to need several ensembles to get you through a wide range of events, so we asked some local retailers to help get you started.
As Steve Weil of Denver-based Rockmount Ranch Wear points out, what you wear reflects on the city, and in turn, the city should reflect on what you wear. "Choose things that don't wear you," Weil says. "Classic is always good."
And don't worry, we'll get rid of that self-described "geek" status in no time.
Hickenlooper, it's time to dress for success.
Photos by Ellen Jaskol © News, Styling by Tobie Orr
Event: Stock Show, Western Fantasy or other Western soirees.
Clothier: Rockmount Ranch Wear, 1626 Wazee St.
Advice: "When off duty, denim is comfortable, as are plaids," Steve Weil says. For public times, though, don't wear the whole get-up at once.
"Think accents, not Howdy Doody," he says.
"No big hat. You are not a hat kind of guy. However, hats are great gifts for visiting dignitaries."
And Western belts are good accents any time. "You already wear a Rockmount belt. Is this your only belt? It was OK pre-mayor, but now you need two as coordinates: brown and black," Weil says.
Ensemble: Rockmount tie ($26.50), plaid shirt ($60), and belt ($31.50)
Shirt on their backs
THE DENVER POST
Dick Kreck's column, 4/9/03
It took 60 years to go retail and another year to be open on Saturdays but things are happening fast at Rockmount Ranch Wear in LoDo.
Founder Jack A. Weil celebrated his 102nd birthday on Sunday, and grandson Steve is co-authoring a book on the history of the cowboy shirt.
Not to mention that Steve and his father, Jack B., recently completed a family transaction to acquire the company's 1908 building at 1626 Wazee St., opened as a wholesale western wear outlet in 1946 by the eldest Weil.
Steve's book, tentatively titled "A Shirt Story," is being written with his long-time pal Dan DeWeese and will cover cowshirts from the 1930s forward, and not just those made by Rockmount.
"What I'm looking for are stills of movie cowboys since the '30s," said Weil, who has photographed more than 300 shirts around the world and is staring at a June deadline.
Why the book? Steve told his son, Colter, who is 5 and the next in the Weil line to join the company, "We've got a little history here, and we're going to put it into words. We didn't think of it as historical, but it's become historical."
Dick Kreck's column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He may be reached at 303-820-1456 or DKreck@denverpost.com
Western wear tips its hat to the world
Denver show corrals international buyers
By Suzanne S. Brown
Denver Post Fashion Editor
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 - They are line dancing in Singapore, wearing Stetsons in Sydney, shaking their fringed suede jackets in Trieste and showing off Indian jewelry in Osaka.
Post / Glenn Asakawa
J. Ram, right, stocks his Singapore store JR Texas with western wear from the Denver market. Here, he inspects a Rockmount Ranchwear shirt with company vice president Steve Weil.
Fans of the American cowboy are not confined to the rodeos and ranches of the West, judging from a sampling of retailers in town for Denver International Western/English Apparel and Equipment Market, which ends a five-day run today at the Denver Merchandise Mart.
While there are other Western apparel and equipment markets, Denver can claim the most exhibitors and an equally large number of attendees placing orders for goods that will be delivered to stores dotting the globe this fall.
More than 7,000 buyers from the United States and 34 countries annually attend the market.
"Buyers tell us this is the only place to see all the new fashion items, as well as equipment," said Bill Shackleford, president of Western English Sales Association, the organization that has produced the market since 1922.
This year, 214 foreign buyers pre-registered for the show. Canada and England sent the most buyers, with 39 and 14 respectively, while Switzerland, Germany and Japan each sent a dozen or more.
"We're seeing an interest from the Europeans in the shooter market," Shackleford said, "guys shooting from horseback. We're also finding an increase in interest in the English riding market."
Carol and Phillip Hirst, who own Hooked on Country (www.hookedoncountry.com) on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales, have been attending the Denver market for five years.
They say their customers like line dancing to country western music and want to wear Western clothing when they dance. Shady Brady hats, popularized by actress Julia Roberts in "Runaway Bride," Roper and Wahmaker shirts and Cattle Kate clothing are among the brands they carry, Carol Hirst said.
"We want it to say 'Made in America' on the label, because it's more authentic, but it's getting harder to find," she added.
That's because manufacturing has increasingly moved to countries where labor is cheaper than in the United States.
Foreign attendance at the Denver market fluctuates, depending on how well a country's currency is trading against the American dollar, as well as such things as individual quotas, tariffs and trade policies, Shackleford said.
But even when a country's economy has been challenging, as Japan's has been for several years, there's still a demand for cowboy accoutrements, said Nobu Hirota, who owns a store called Johnny Angel in Osaka.
Hirota first came to the United States in search of vintage clothing. He now orders new items and works with manufacturers to produce exclusives, such as shantung silk Western-cut shirts and Western-styled bowling shirts. He also travels to New Mexico in search of Chimayo blanket jackets and Native American jewelry.
Another set of Japanese buyers was looking for Western souvenirs and gifts, as well as apparel for the shop they operate in a Tokyo theme park. Teruo Saiki ordered dozens of silver charms from the Siskiyou Gift Co., in feather and wolf motifs.
|Post / Glenn Asakawa
Teruo Saiki, left, ordered dozens of silver charms in feather and wolf motifs for the shop he operates in a Tokyo theme park. Saiki said Western boots and apparel items are popular with Japanese teens, who mix them with other styles of clothing rather than wearing a head-to-toe Western ensemble.
In Singapore, people want to buy hats, boots and everything in between, said J. Ram, whose JR Texas store has been catering to cowboys there for 20 years. He said the store's name comes from his initials and has no connection to J.R. Ewing, the Texas ranch owner fictionalized in the long-running "Dallas" television show.
"People go to parties, dinners and dances and like to dress up," Ram said as he shopped for shirts at Rockmount Ranchwear.
Stefano DePonte has a business called American Western Store (www.americanwesternstore.com) in Trieste, in northeast Italy.
He calls Western style "a passion I have had since I was a child." His interest wasn't spurred by a certain Western movie or music, but from the freedom the style represents. Visiting Jackson Hole, Wyo., and Yellowstone National Park on his honeymoon made him even more convinced to open a store.
"People said I was crazy; there are no horses or cowboys (in Trieste)," DePonte said. But he wasn't deterred, and 10 years later he has three businesses - one that sells clothing, another that sells boots and a third with motorcycle merchandise.
Among the brands DePonte was shopping for in Denver: vintage-look shirts at Rockmount, rugged outerwear from Panhandle Slim, Wrangler jeans, Montana Silversmith jewelry and Stetson hats.
Glenys and Terry Donohue are also fans of Western hats. They own Just Country, a distribution company that supplies apparel to more than 400 stores in Australia and New Zealand.
With 4 3/4-inch crowns and 4-inch brims, Stetsons are the top hats with cowboys down under, Terry Donahue said. Rockies clothing, Ariat footwear, gifts and home items were also on their shopping list this year.
Aussies might have a rugged appeal all their own, but according to Donahue, the American cowboy continues to ride high.
"Whatever is happening in the United States is what people want to wear in Australia," he said.
Suzanne S. Brown is fashion editor of The Denver Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rocky Mountain News, August 1, 2002
by Leslie Kennedy, Fashion Editor
Actors and musicians have been wearing Rockmount clothes for years, but with the opening of the Denver company's first retail store, stars are stopping by to pick up a few things for themselves.
For nearly 60 years, LoDo's Rockmount, the country's oldest snap western shirt company, was only open for wholesale.
"People have been walking in for years and we sent them to the closest store," says Steve Weil, Rockmount vice president. "Now, there is no Western store convenient to downtown so we needed to respond."
Recently, director Robert M. Young and actors Xander Berkeley (Shanghai Noon, Air Force One) and Robert Knott (Pollack), in town filming Below The Belt, stopped by to purchase several shirts, straw hats and jackets.
Other celebs spotted in Rockmount: Bob Dylan, Robert Redford, Jeff and Beau Bridges, Alan Jackson and Aidan Quinn.
By Suzanne Brown
Denver Post Fashion Editor
Thursday, July 04, 2002
Back at the ranch, musicians and movie stars have been stopping by the LoDo headquarters of Rockmount Ranch Wear before hitting the stage this summer. Last week, before heading for Colorado Springs and his annual Westfest concerts, Michael Martin Murphey picked up a shadow plaid shirt, a denim one and a style in vintage gabardine with a piped yoke. Singer, songwriter and rancher Joni Harms also brought her singing pals R.W. Hampton and Mickey Dawes in to shop for shirts, silk ties and scarves. They were in Colorado to perform and promote their new album, "Real West."
Another recent visitor to Rockmount, at 1626 Wazee St., was actor Robert Knott. In town filming "Below The Belt," Knott stopped by to purchase several Rockmount shirts, a straw hat and a jean jacket. Steve Weil, Rockmount's vice president for marketing, says he recognized Knott from his recent role as Ed Harris' brother in "Pollack". On a break from the New Deal Pictures project, Knott and director Robert M. Young visited the shop two weeks earlier and had coffee with Jack A. Weil, the company's 101-year-old founder.
Western clothier says turning customers away isn't fitting any more
By Rachel Brand, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
Walking into the offices of Denver's Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co. is like stepping into cowboy history.
Vintage Western shirts made by the company decorate the walls. The shirts were salvaged by third-generation Rockmount owner Steve Weil from thrift stores across the country. Hundred-year-old hand-tooled leather saddles line the hall, as do bull-horns, steer antlers and photos of Gene Autry wearing the company's signature embroidered yellow shirt.
The Western clothing manufacturer claims to have contributed the snaps on Western shirts, the bolo tie and the smile, or "slash," pocket to cowboy fashion history. Even Bob Dylan wore a Rockmount shirt on the cover of his Grammy-winning album, Love and Theft. Through innovation and quality, the firm has survived half a century in its offices on 1626 Wazee St. while similar companies have gone bankrupt.
Although Western wear retailers have long carried Rockmount's line, until recently, passersby couldn't buy a shirt at the company's museum-like offices in LoDo.
But more important, he says in order to keep this label alive, "We have to roll with the flow." It defies logic that company would turn customers away. But for years when visitors stopped in, the manufacturer stuck by its guns. If you wanted a shirt, you'd best visit a nearby Western wear store, owners said. But as decades passed, the number of retail outlets shrank. "There used to be 5,000 stores that carried Western wear," Weil said. "(But now) in many communities there are no more." Weil estimates the number of stores carrying Rockmount Ranch Wear at 2,000.
Then came the Web. Customers around the world send the company e-mails when they hear its lore. Inquiries blossom when Rockmount is featured in fashion magazines such as Marie Claire. Customers can order from the Web site, although many would prefer to try on the garments first at a store.
For Steve Weil, it's just horse sense: "Running a business in 2002 is not the same as it was 50 years ago," he said. "We're a niche. We need to satisfy each and every customer who wants our product, one way or another."
March 5, 2002
copy by photo:
Marie Clarie , March 2002 "American Beauty" fashion feature with ROCKMOUNT hat "Cowboy Magic #1870
Bob Dylan wearing Rockmount Pink Gabardine shirt in connection with his just released album "Love & Theft", Denver Post, 10-19-2001
CNN NEWS STORY (text)
AT 100 YEARS OLD...JACK WEIL STILL DRIVES THE SAME ROUTE TO WORK. BUT, SOME THINGS HAVE CHANGED A BIT...
Jack A. Weil, Founder, Rockmount Ranch Wear, driving to work:
"My first car was a model T Ford..."
...AND HE ADMITS HE NOW COMES IN AT EIGHT INSTEAD OF SIX.
Jack A. Weil walking into Rockmount building:
"I'm not as spry as I was 50 years ago..but I manage.
Gina London, Denver
MR. WEIL IS TRULY A "SNAPPY" OLD MAN. WHEN HE FOUNDED THE ROCKMOUNT RANCH WEAR MFG. CO. BACK IN 1946, HE WAS THE FIRST TO PUT "SNAPS" ON THE QUINTESSENTIAL COWBOY SHIRT.
Jack A. Weil:
"if a guy got his shirt hooked on the horn of his saddle, with a button and a button hole, he'd get dragged... but the snap would break away and get loose..."
BUT HE DIDN'T STOP THERE...HE WAS THE FIRST TO MASS PRODUCE THE BOLO TIE.
Jack A. Weil showing various Rockmount bolos:
"I called it a Bola because bola in Portuguese means lariat...but I didn't write very plain and it came out "bolo". This was the beginning of the bolo ties."
AND YOU DIDN'T THINK THAT COWBOY HATS ALWAYS HAD THOSE ROLLED EDGES, DID YOU?
Jack A. Weil:
"The reason was...so you could ride three across in a pickup! (laughs)
AND NOW THREE GENERATIONS OF WEILS ARE SELLING WESTERN WEAR. THE COMPANY GOING AS STRONG AS "MR. WESTERN" HIMSELF.
Shot of 3 generation of Weils: Jack A., Jack B., Steve
Jack A. Weil:
"The secret is you have to have something that is different from run of the mill...
you have to be somewhat of a ham, to tell you the truth...
Jack A. Weil:
"well, I'm afraid so..."
"AND WHAT MAY BE THE KEY TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MAY ALSO BE THE TRICK TO LIVING A LONG AND SUCCESSFUL LIFE."
Gina London, CNN, DENVER
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Rockmount Ranch Wear Ropes In Clients by Bucking Retail Trendiness
Apparel: Jack A. Weil, 100, is still king of the cowboy-clothes makers. Upholding tradition is key.
Sunday, April 1, 2001
Los Angeles Times (Orange County Edition)
by Colleen Long
DENVER -- Jack A. Weil is a baron of the West.
Instead of running a vast cattle ranch, Weil runs his empire from a five-story, careworn brick building in trendy lower downtown, surrounded by upscale restaurants and nightclubs.
For nearly 50 years, the founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear has manufactured clothing emblematic of the Old West, including the first shirt that closed with snaps and bolo ties.
On a gray spring day, Weil, his son and grandson, all Rockmount executives, bickered playfully in an office covered in material swatches, ties, silver, hats and the famous snap shirt. Celebrity photos, saddles and vintage Rockmount gear line the walls.
As they stood together, three generations of Western design stood with them--Jack A. Weil with his traditional plaid saw-toothed shirt, son Jack B. Weil in a brownish rough cotton shirt with "smile" pockets, and grandson Steve with embroidery around his sea-green shirt.
Jack A. Weil, who turned 100 Wednesday, leaned back in his chair, wearing a plaid rayon shirt with diamond-shaped snaps, a silver-dollar bolo tie that dates to the year he was born, and cowboy boots.
His wrinkled hands tugged at his cowboy hat as he summed up Rockmount's history. "People want to wear something unique. And we provide it," said Weil. "The idea never ages."
His traditional clothing line has remained a consistent seller, despite newer design trends, said Mark Nowlen, who owns three Western stores, one each in Texas, Florida and Colorado.
"Their product has stayed true to Western fashion when other Western companies went for trends," he said.
Born in Evansville, Ind., Jack A. Weil started his career in 1928 as a salesman, peddling men's garters and other latex products. He opted for a territory that stretched from El Paso to the Canadian border.
He arrived in Denver in the 1930s in a Chrysler Roadster, and soon began helping his friend Phil Miller, who owned Miller-Stockman, sell cowboy hats. Miller persuaded Weil to market and design shirts.
"I learned fast you can't sell to cowboys; they have no money. You have to appeal to the cowboy in everyone and sell to them," he said.
After World War II, Weil bought metal snap buttons to add to his signature shirts.
"People ask me why I never patented any of these things. Well, when I created them, a patent wasn't worth anything unless you spent millions of dollars in court," Weil said. "And people know our merchandise is the real thing. That's why they buy it."
Today, his privately owned company has 200 employees, with five factories scattered throughout the United States. The company sells shirts, bolo ties and hats to about 1,500 retailers around the world.
"We just started carrying their shirts a few weeks ago," said Kristine Dellavechio, who works at Sunneshine, a swanky Boulder, Colo., boutique. "The cowboy look is in again, and the shirts sell pretty well considering we don't sell anything else like it."
The Weils believe they have created a true American style, offering shirts in different materials and patterns, even a Hawaiian print.
Their traditional cotton diamond-snap shirt with saw-toothed pockets has the same impact on Western-wear shirt consumers as do Levi's 501s on would-be cowboy jeans' buyers, said Steve Weil, who oversees designing and marketing. Their shirts have been worn by Dennis Quaid, Jodie Foster and Bruce Springsteen.
Steve Weil said Robert Redford specifically requested Rockmount shirts for the movie, "The Horse Whisperer."
The price of a shirt has gone from about $2 in the 1940s to more than $55 today, mostly because the Weils refuse to manufacture overseas.
Business is steady, but the Weils decline to specify sales figures. "More companies are selling lower-quality clothing, and we don't. It really helps to do things right," Steve Weil said.
Rockmount remains the only wholesale clothing company in downtown Denver.
Because costs have increased, Steve Weil recently decided to rent one floor as office space and put a garage in the basement.
"We started right here because my grandfather loves this city, and we'll stay here because that's where our history is," Steve Weil said.
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Rocky Mountain News
March 29, 2001
At 100, Weil's still working
|Jack A. Weil celebrated his 100th birthday Wednesday the same way he's celebrated every other weekday he's woken up alive: He went to work at Rockmount Ranch Wear. Work is glad to have him. He founded the company in 1946 and is still president. His son Jack B. and grandson Steve are vice presidents. He gets no hints that maybe it's time to retire.
To be sure, Jack A. doesn't show up until 8 a.m. these days. Until a couple of years ago he arrived at 6:30 and opened the office. "I've slowed down," he confessed. But he still brings the doughnuts and the sweet rolls for the staff.
How does he get to the company at 1626 Wazee St. from his home at 1200 Humboldt St.? He drives himself in an old Dodge.
Weil lives by himself in a high-rise, a couple of blocks from his son, the secretary of the state Republican Party. Jack B. is 72, and his father has seconded his nomination both times he's run, promising to crack the whip if
the kid gets out of line. How can Republicans resist a line like that?
Dad walks without a cane and does his own grocery shopping and cooking. Forget the Meals on Wheels. And if you try to help him with his coat, he'll get quite insulted.
|He and tobacco have had a weird history. He didn't start on cigarettes until age 40, chain smoked until 60 -- then quit when the doctor told him the habit could cause the stitches from his recent hernia operation to pop.
As for other vices, Weil doesn't play poker anymore. "I'd have to go to Fairmount to get the guys I play with," he explains.
He's a creature of habit, lunching daily at his reserved table at the Denver Athletic Club and breakfasting every Sunday with Jack B. and a friend at Pete's Kitchen on Colfax at High Street, where he orders waffles and crisp bacon.
He's got five grandchildren but they're in their 40s and long past dandling. Even the 10 great-grandkids are too big for that.
He celebrated his birthday by appearing on Good Morning America and taking calls from friends. Of course he's getting letters from fellow Republicans like Gov. Bill Owens and Colorado's two U.S. senators.
We'll draw these lessons from his life: If you like whatever it is you're doing, don't stop. And try to avoid working for other people.
Happy birthday, Jack A.
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How a snap decision led to a long love affair with the West.
By Patricia Calhoun
March 15, 2001
Jack A. Weil shows how the West is worn.
Jack A. Weil surveys the street outside of Rockmount Ranch Wear. He's been doing business here for 55 years, since the days when Wazee Street was lined with warehouses, shops and factories rather than restaurants and offices and lofts. The five-story Rockmount building at 1626 Wazee, built in 1908, housed a plow factory and then a drugstore before it became the headquarters of a wholesale Western-wear empire.
A great deal has changed since 1946 -- including the street's name. At the moment, it's "Jack A. Weil Boulevard," the title it acquired, at least temporarily, earlier this year to honor Jack's contributions to Denver. He's the man who showed us how the West was worn.
But while Jack is a man who understands the importance of image, a master of marketing, a peddler who knows how to sell the sizzle and the steak, even he is surprised by what's happened to this neighborhood, a neighborhood that didn't get its fancy new nickname of "LoDo" until Rockmount had been part of it for forty years. "Nobody could have foreseen what's going on down here," he says.
And Jack A. Weil has seen a great deal.
Today he's wearing his usual cowboy boots, a black-and-white Western shirt with the snap buttons that he invented, and a bolo tie featuring a shiny silver dollar dating from 1901 -- the year Jack was born in Evansville, Indiana.
His first job, back in high school in 1918, was at a factory in Chicago, inspecting Navy dungarees that would soon be shipped out to sailors fighting The Great War. Ten years later he was a salesmen for Paris Garters -- a Chicago company that offered not just men's garters, but just about anything made of latex -- when he was given the choice of trading his Memphis-based territory for a new office in Denver, covering everything from El Paso to the Canadian border. So he and his wife got in their brand-new Chrysler Roadster -- "That was a hot car," he remembers, unlike the Plymouth he drives from his home in Cheesman Park to his office five days a week -- and headed west. They drove into town from Topeka on unpaved (but graded) Highway 40, and "we fell in love with this country," he says. "To see all the wide-open space, to see the future, I knew I was home."
But Weil soon stretched far beyond the elastic business.
Along the way, he became friends with Phil Miller, who'd moved to Denver to get help for his tuberculosis, leaving brothers and a hat business back in New York. At one point those brothers sent along a load of cowboy hats that Phil was going to try to sell at the old Denver Dry, which had a spanking-new Western department in its 15th Street addition. But the hats didn't move -- not even when 25,000 Elks came to town. No marketing, Jack pointed out. "What the hell do you know about cowboy hats in Indiana?" Phil asked.
Jack knew enough to get a directory of county newspapers in Kansas, and they placed ads in a few for the Stockman Farmer Supply Company, "selling ten-dollar hats for five bucks," Jack remembers. "Sold every hat." And not just hats: Ranchers were soon asking for belts, gloves and all kinds of gear.
When Jack suggested that Phil grab the reins and manufacture his own shirts, his friend issued a challenge of his own. "I've got the money if you want to come and make the shirts," he said. And Jack, who was ready to stop traveling, did just that, taking a one-sixth ownership in Miller Stockman. "The first thing I did was get rid of the 'Farmer,'" Jack says.
Jack might not have known much about Western wear, but he knew about marketing -- and he also recognized that you couldn't make much money off of cowboys. "If they had any sense, they wouldn't have been cowboys," he points out. "But I thought there was a tremendous future in promoting this thing." So Jack went up to Cheyenne and convinced the chamber of commerce not only to link its Cheyenne Frontier Days with the Union Pacific Railroad that stopped through town twice a day, but also to fine its members when they didn't dress Western -- in a Miller Stockman shirt and hat, perhaps? -- at the proper time of year.
"I didn't know anything about the business, but I knew what I wanted," he says. "In my love for the country and its potential, I figured we had a product. I knew how I felt about it. I knew about the romance of the country."
And soon he knew about snap buttons, an innovation he added to Western shirts after the Second World War, as soon as the metal shortage eased. In 1946, Jack used those snap buttons as the basis for his own business: Rockmount Ranch Wear.
Since then, Rockmount snap-button Western shirts have been spotted on celebrities across the country and around the world. The Rockmount office is filled with photographs of people wearing the shirts -- Jodie Foster, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Hopper -- as well as original garments dating back to the '40s, some procured by Weil family friends at thrift stores. That's not all the cluttered Rockmount office holds, of course. There are also blowups of the 1988 Esquire cover featuring Bruce Springsteen in a Rockmount bolo -- "made in the USA." More bolos line the cluttered wholesale sample room, along with neckties, string ties, bandannas, hats covered with fake fur, hats made of straw, hats made of wood, belt buckles with portraits of John Wayne, belt buckles with American coins ("I knew those would go over well with people from other countries," Jack says). Hanging from the walls are still more clippings, and cards from fans around the world, and awards for Jack A. Weil: a 1986 Pioneer Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 1995, even though Jack was nowhere near done with his achievements. And there's even a signed photo of President Ronald Reagan. "When he was elected, he started talking about a 'service economy,'" Jack remembers. "I wrote back that when I was growing up in Evansville, only a hundred miles from where he grew up in Dixon, 'servicing' was what happened when we took the mare to stud."
Still, Jack's a good Republican who regularly offers the final nominating speech when Jack B. Weil, his son and a Rockmount vice president, runs for yet another position with the state Republican Party. Jack B.'s son, Steve, joined the company twenty years ago, bringing with him an MBA and marketing ideas of his own (those are his snap buttons you click on Rockmount's Web site). Steve's now pushing a plan that will help keep Rockmount -- one of lower downtown's last undeveloped warehouses, and its oldest, if not only, manufacturing company -- in officially historic LoDo. "It's our concession to changes in the neighborhood," Steve says. "It's a compromise that allows us to stay." And so the Weils are now looking for an office tenant to take over the second floor, a move that will help fund the long-term preservation of the building -- and the Weil business.
A living, breathing monument to our past, and our future.
"Everyone likes this stuff," Jack says. "It's the romance."
As the Rockmount slogan proclaims, "Styled in the West by Westerners since 1946." Even if those Westerners started out in Indiana and arrived here not on horseback, but in a hot Chrysler Roadster.
On Thursday, the sign that changed Wazee Street to Jack A. Weil Boulevard will come down, replaced by one honoring the late Dale Tooley, a Denver district attorney of the Irish persuasion. St. Patrick's Day revelers will drop by the bars that have sprung up since Jack A. came to town, and they'll eat in the fancy restaurants -- "The food's better," says Steve, "and more costly," says Jack -- and, if they have any sense at all, they'll raise their glasses and toast the old brick warehouse.
Because even if his name disappears from the signs at the end of the month, this will always be Jack A. Weil's street.
When he turned 95, Jack was honored by Denver City Council and asked what he wanted to do when he turned 100. To appear there again, he replied.
And so he'll be back in front of city council on March 26, two days before his hundredth birthday. "And what the hell," he wonders, "am I going to ask for now?"
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© WESTERN & ENGLISH TODAY MAGAZINE-MARCH/APRIL 2001
Rockmount Ranch Wear : Founder, Jack A Weil
by Corinne Brown
Becoming a legend in your own time is no easy feat in the manufacturing industry but Jack A. Weil, founder and CEO of Rockmount Ranch Wear in Colorado, has made it look easy. After all, when you've had 85 years of experience in the same business, there's not much competition. "I came West in 1928 while working for the Paris Garter Company as a salesman," Jack A. reminisces, a far-away look in his chambray blue eyes. "Driving through Colorado with my wife Bea in our Chrysler roadster, we discovered the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. I loved the way the sun glistened off the snow-capped Rockies and the more I saw, the more I knew I wanted to stay." In a few years Weil would join forces with Phil Miller to make and sell western clothing for the company that would later become Miller Stockman. Heeding a clear difference in business philosophy, Weil however broke away to form Rockmount Ranch Wear (named after the Rocky Mountains) in 1946. That year, Jack moved his company into a vintage brick building in the heart of lower downtown Denver at 1646 Wazee. In spite of Denver's tremendous urban growth and change, the company has held on to this special landmark designed by noted architects Fisher and Fisher, maintaining a well stocked showroom and offices, plus some production space. The charming five-story building looks and feels like a veritable western museum. One glance at the photo-covered walls, antique saddle collection and colorful assembly of awards and honors bestowed upon Jack Weil and his family, and one can deduct that a rich story about 20th-century western manufacturing lies within.
Jack's father, immigrated to America from France in 1870 and settled in Indiana ,eventually going into the cattle business. Born in 1901, young Jack was no stranger to its demands. When the business he created provide him the opportunity to create a working ranch man's wardrobe, Jack believed that the cowboy could make great use of shirts with longer tails and sleeves. Furthermore, he decided to use snap fasteners on shirts instead of buttons, at that time a novel idea in the clothing industry. Jack had trouble at first finding a snap supplier that would agree to produce the snaps for him, but thanks to his perseverance, the world can credit Jack A Weil for this imminently clever solution. The snap fastener, not a fashion statement like today , but that breaks away if the shirt ever catches on a steer horn or other object, made clothing more practical. Needing a marketing gimmick to stimulate business, Weil knew he had to align more than the ranch hand to buy his product. He came up with a brilliant marketing plan targeted to western towns with major rodeos, beginning with Cheyenne's Frontier Days . "I suggested that everyone in the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce or affiliated with the rodeo should wear something western: that is, boots, hats , jeans, or a western shirt. A kangaroo court would be set up to monitor the execution of the plan, and anyone not complying with the festive dress code would be fined. The money would go to a designated charity." Amazingly, the idea caught on and theme dressing at western events took off. With Frontier Days' success, the idea spread as Rockmount Ranch Wear positioned itself firmly behind a promise to supply goods for the transformation. Jack saw the need to diversify his inventory and have something for the retailer to complete an entire wardrobe. In addition to fancy and everyday western styled shirts, Rockmount added hats, belts, bandanas and even ties, a large part of the business today. An innovative designer, Jack A. also created the first bolo tie as we know it, modifying the original design from the three-pronged closure to the sliding catch. The two simple styles first offered over 50 years ago have blossomed today to over 200 different types of bolo ties-one for every customer imaginable. From product concept to consumer need, from manufacturer to retailer, Jack A. built his product line and customer base over decades, one community and one retailer at a time, slowly developing the kind of close personal relationships that, in a world of mass merchandising, are almost unknown today.
Years ahead of the TV-Western phenomenon, Jack Weil actually helped define the look that later became so much a part of popular American culture, the western entertainment and leisure wardrobe. From the silver screen to the ranch to the home front, Western clothing eventually found its way into America's closet, bearing Rockmount's brand. The signature shirts, many with sawtooth pockets, yokes, smile pockets, and often fancy embroidery are immortalized in the photos of icons like Roy Rogers and others, right down to a contemporary roster of popular film stars who today wear Rockmount in films and off- screen. Celebrity fans include favorites like Nicholas Cage, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson and Aiden Quinn to name a few. Jack A. credits Hollywood for maintaining the popularity of western wear but adds that from his point of view, " I've always believed we were never selling just the cowboy-we were selling the romance of the West. That's so much more."
Rockmount today is led by three generations of Weils, proudly headed by Jack A, soon to celebrate his 100th birthday in March; Jack B, his son and current company President, Steven Weil, and the founder's 43 yr. old grandson. In 1952, Jack A.'s son, Jack B. came into the business for what was initially to be one year, working as a sales rep. With marriage and children, the job turned into a lifetime commitment. A creative individual with an instinct for merchandising and product development, Jack B. expanded many of his father's innovations, broadening the company's design repertoire in apparel, hats and accessories. Most importantly, also created the first western shirts for women. By using brighter colors and fabrics, he added a feminine touch and an exciting new "his and her collection" was born. In addition, Jack B saw the huge potential of the hat business, especially the straw product, and sales expanded radically under his direction. "For example," adds Jack B, "back in the Sixties, I discovered feathered bands-no one had ever made a feathered hat band before, or put one on a cowboy hat, but I loved the look. We launched it and before the trend exhausted itself we must have sold several thousand-dozen hats with these fancy bands. And with all our success and consumer demand, Rockmount continues to be primarily made in USA." By 1960, Jack B. had become the buyer for raw materials and the primary Rockmount stylist. A trend setter, not a follower, he is also a man with a tremendous appreciation for beauty and design. Well-traveled, an avid collector of Asian and contemporary art, and a talented artist himself, Jack B is leaving a special legacy which Steve Weil will continue. Today, Jack B. works less hours, enabling him to hold the esteemed position of Secretary for Colorado's Republican Party, sharing his gradually acquired free time with this and other worthy causes.
Steve Weil, the youngest leader in the company, came on board in 1981 and is a product of a rapidly changing business culture linking sales to technological innovation. At a recent company party during WESA 2001, honoring Jack's 100th birthday, Steve and Jack B. opened the evening by introducing customers of the firm from as far away as Holland, Japan, Belgium and Italy. Such international clientele are a testament to the company's staying power, the design of the products; their quality and universal appeal, and most importantly, the convenience of, and commitment to doing business in an electronic world. The revolution Steve points to started with the fax machine about fifteen years ago and has evolve even more dramatically with the Internet. He says, "we were able to speed up communications, confirm stock availability, and receive orders the same day. But the web has seen this explode now so that we can be contacted by anyone anywhere, anytime and share a wide array of information." In terms of growth and the company's position today, Steve confirms that the figures speak for themselves. Since it's inception , Rockmount has produced over several million shirts, one hats and accessories over the years. They have customers in all fifty states and most developed countries- totaling about 2500 retailers around the world. "Sales have been in a strong upward trend since May of '99," confirms Steve, possibly reflecting the success of his move to upgrading the product line and moving toward higher- end goods. "The year 2000," says Steve, "our sales were up approximately 60%. While this is a major increase, we don't expect it to last. It reflects a decline in the mid-nineties, now regained." " There is an interesting parallel in Rockmount's three generations to that of the western wear industry in general: The business was strictly regional during my grandfather's early years (the 30's and 40's) and later became national during my father's era, (the 50's through the 70's,) and has grown international during my leadership, from the 80's onward."
Jack A Weil, founder, patriarch, is an extraordinary man, approaching a century this March with dignity. He drives to work everyday and enjoys staying connected to the business. He's a spellbinding story teller with an eye for detail and a photographic memory, plus a ready laugh that is both hearty and sincere. When complimented for his sharp memory, he responded, "I have people tell me all the time that my memory is excellent. Who the hell is going to contradict me?" "My father is a self made man and very independent," states his son Jack B with a warm smile. 'He genuinely loves people. I am very glad we have both lived long enough to share this special time in our lives." When asked how this special family business has survived where statistically others have not, Jack B. did not hesitate to credit the mediating talents of his late mother Bea who was a steadying force behind the company's success. "When we weren't getting along, mom always knew how to bring us back together."
When asked precisely what he has loved most about the business all these years, founder Jack A. answered, "The type of people that we serve. Individual merchants for the most part, interested in their communities, and interested in quality." An early encounter in Jack A's career with a large chain store taught him to be wary of the big chain store and to this day, such businesses are non-existent in the company's customer base . In fact, he believed then as he does now, that the future of America lay in the small independent businessman. When asked about the secret to his success, Jack A confirmed that three major business principles have guided his business philosophy: 1) never allow any one customer to have more than 5% of the business, 2) Never set minimums, and encourage the widest selection possible 3) never play favorites--all prices are the same to everyone.
As an advice to today's new generation of western store owners, he was quick to add, "Stay with quality. Know your customer by name, and maybe even his dog's name. And buy carefully, in minimum quantities. Let your supplier carry the stock for you-no one has ever failed from not selling enough, but from buying too much." Besides his hundreds of loyal friends and customers, Jack A. is surrounded by family. His blessings add up to a son and a daughter, of five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. The Mayor of Denver recently renamed Wazee Street Jack A Weil Boulevard through March of 2001, in honor of Jacks' 100th birthday. For this spunky many of his old friends who are no longer here to celebrate with him. "It's been a satisfying life," he smiles, his eyes lighting up. " My friends are my greatest accomplishment." founder of Rockmount Ranch Wear, life is good, in spite of the fact that he misses many of his old friends who are no longer here to celebrate with him." It's been a satisfying life," he smiles, his eyes lighting up. " My friends are my greatest accomplishment." Steve, so full of respect and appreciation for the legacy he has inherited, adds this about his admirable grandfather. " Jack A's accomplishments have stood the test of time. I seek his advice often. I kid that Jack is our secret weapon and wish we could clone him. But the thing that's really different about Jack Weil. is his philosophy, his core beliefs. He refers to them every single day. And they revolve around the fact that some business people think that the dollar is almighty, but my Grandfather believes there are higher issues, both in business and in life. We make business judgments here that might not always be the most profitable, but too us, especially through his eyes, they seem proper and right. " Congratulations and Happy Birthday, Jack A. Weil-truly, a legend in your own time.
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ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS
JANUARY 11, 2001
Romancing the West
Western clothier Jack A. Weil puts his brand on Wazee Street
By Mark Wolf, News Staff Writer
Jack A. Weil, founder and president of Rockmount Ranch Wear, sits at a crowded desk waiting for a customer to return a phone call.
He works within roping distance of his son, Jack B., and within branding distance of his grandson, Steve. Both are vice presidents in the tri-generational family Western-wear manufacturing business.
The founder will work until about 2 p.m., run errands, then home. It's not the 10 to 12 hours that once were his norm.
Then again, it's more of a workday than your average 99-year-old puts in. And it begins every morning when he drives himself to work. (Continued below)
|Jack A. Weil
Occupation: president, Rockmount Ranch Wear
Family: A son, Jack B. Weil, and a daughter, Jane Romberg of Steamboat Springs, five grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren.
On retirement: "I think I'm retired now when I work four or five hours a day instead of 10 or 12 hours."
On longevity: "My father lived to be 91. My genes are good. I was athletic as a kid. I grew up in a town with a lot of Germans, and there were several turnvereins (gymnasiums). I didn't smoke until I was 40, and I quit when I was 60."
Honored: He received the first Pioneer Award from the Western/English Retailers Association. He will be honored for his contributions to the industry Friday during the Denver International Western/English Apparel and Equipment Market, an international wholesale trade show that begins Friday at the Denver Merchandise Mart.
"How else do you think I'd get here?" retorts the man who turns 100 on March 28.
There was a time in his life when an automotive commute seemed downright suspicious.
"My father was in the cattle business and we had a horse and buggy," he said. "We'd ride beside the river to cool off, and here would come one of those horseless carriages with a spare tire. My father would say, `I never needed a spare leg for my horses.' "
His father was an immigrant from France, and a copy of his naturalization certificate hangs on the wall in Jack Weil's office.
Leaving the family spread near Evansville, Ind., he entered the business world and worked for the A. Stein company out of Chicago, selling Paris Garters in several Midwestern cities before the company sent him West in 1928. He and his late wife, Bea, drove a Chrysler Roadster (serial number 33) out old U.S. 40, arriving on the outskirts of Denver on a sunny day.
"I saw the afternoon sun shining on the Rocky Mountains and turned and said to my wife, `This is it.' Denver was a great city, about 200,000 people. There were cops on the corners directing traffic," he said.
Weil opened an A. Stein office on Champa Street with a newfangled neon sign that flashed "Garters" and "Suspenders." By 1932 he'd partnered with Phil Miller in the Western-apparel company that eventually would become Miller Stockman. He left in 1946 to form Rockmount, intent on making distinctive, high-quality wear for ranchers and cowboys.
"They wore overalls when they worked, but they wanted colorful stuff when they came to town," he said.
Weil began to put snaps on his Rockmount shirts instead of buttons.
"It was a breakaway," he said. "If your shirt got caught on the saddle, the snaps would let you loose."
The innovation caught on, but he realized his market had to expand beyond working ranch hands.
"The cowboy business wasn't an industry," he said. "There wasn't enough of them, and they didn't make enough money. They'd come to town, get drunk and the next month do it again. I felt there was a market from Middle Westerners and Easterners and we could take advantage of the popularity of Western movies. In the East you had to make it casual wear. I saw an opportunity to make a difference."
He had shrewd marketing and promotion ideas for the Western look.
"I thought the market was rodeos. I went to Cheyenne and talked to the Chamber of Commerce and said they had to dress everybody up Western (for Frontier Days). If they didn't dress up, they could have a kangaroo court, fine them and give the money to charity," he said during his daily lunch at a corner table of The Tavern in the Denver Athletic Club, where he sips ginger ale from a wine glass.
Stories from the old days bubble up, told with a ready laugh.
There was the time when a man from Biloxi, Miss., found himself in possession of a lot in Denver and wanted to trade it for a saddle.
"It was out on Ninth Avenue, a block from Monaco. Three of us said we'd trade a $250 saddle for it," he said.
And there's the set of longhorns displayed prominently in the showroom. Jack B., who joined the business in 1954 and is secretary of the Colorado Republican party, took them to settle a debt from a merchant in Oklahoma.
He said he started the style of rolling up the sides of cowboy hats "so four cowboys could sit side by side in a pickup."
"You can deduce that I like this business," he said. "You could make more money at something else. I'm humble and thankful I had this opportunity and that I had the acumen to take advantage of it."
Rockmount's shirts, skirts, hats, bolo ties, belts and other Western wear are sold at more than 2,500 stores in the United States and around the world, from swanky shops on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles to small-town clothiers. They have been worn by actors in numerous movies, including Robert Redford in The Horse Whisperer, Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan in Flesh and Bone, Nicolas Cage in Red Rock West and Aidan Quinn in Practical Magic, and by musicians as diverse as Bruce Springsteen and Loretta Lynn.
The company has been in its Wazee Street headquarters since its opening in 1946. What is now trendy LoDo -- Rockmount sits next to Mongolian Barbecue and across the street from Il Fornaio -- was once a wholesale and warehouse district.
Wazee Street has been renamed Jack A. Weil Boulevard through March to commemorate the longevity of both the founder and the business. Rockmount is committed to staying in its historic 1908 building and recently put the building's second floor on the office rental market.
Jack A. has always been mechanically minded. He bought an automated billing machine back in the 1950s and today works on a desktop computer. If there's a business disagreement with someone, the founder has the trump card: "I tell them I was in the business before they were born and I'll be in the business after they're gone."
Many years ago, he told a reporter: "The West is not a geographic location. It's a state of mind."
And it's firmly Jack A. Weil's state of mind.
"There's a feeling in the West of youth, new country, the possibility of expansion and growth.
"To me, coming to Colorado was a romance."
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HOW THE WEST IS WORN
Combining classic, new wears well at Rockmount
By Suzanne S. Brown
Denver Post Staff Writer
Jan. 10, 2001 - The Weil family of Denver is as enduring as the snapfront shirts and bolo ties they've been manufacturing for 55 years under the Rockmount Ranch Wear label.
This week at their LoDo headquarters, they're preparing the lines they'll show at the Western apparel and equipment wholesale market, which starts Saturday at the Denver Merchandise Mart. Buyers from hundreds of stores throughout the United States and Europe will find some new things in the line, such as microfleece shirts and silk scarves, but much of what they'll see is classic Rockmount: cotton shirts with "sawtooth pockets," wool hats and silk ties.
They'll be greeted by company founder and president Jack A. Weil, who will be 100 years old in March and who still comes to the office every day; his son, Jack B. Weil (who won't divulge his age), vice president; and grandson Steve Weil, 43, vice president and merchandiser of the line.
Before and after market, you'll find the Weils and their 20 employees at 1626 Wazee St., the 1908 brick building they've occupied since 1946 and owned since 1961. To walk through its doors is to step back in time. Shirts from various eras hang from wood paneling. Posters and magazine clippings of actors and musicians wearing Rockmount goods are tacked to the walls.
A set of creaky stairs in the back leads to the sample room on the third floor and warehouse space on the fourth and fifth floors. The second floor is vacant, awaiting a tenant whose lease will help the younger Weils afford to buy the building from the rest of the family.
Even though the warehouses that used to share the block with Rockmount have largely been replaced by trendy restaurants and expensive lofts, Rockmount plans to stay put. "This building is kind of like the ranch," Steve Weil says. "We feel the same way about it that a ranching family might feel about their land. It's our home."
"You have to like this business," says Jack A., who's trying not to make a fuss out of the attention he's getting for his 100th birthday (Wazee is being temporarily renamed Weil Street for the occasion). "Other endeavors would be much more lucrative, but this is what we live, eat and sleep. We have our friends, and what the hell else is there?" Go west, young man
Weil first came West in 1928 as a salesman for the Paris Garter Co. of Chicago. He and his wife drove to Colorado in his Chrysler roadster. "When we got to the Eastern Plains and I saw those mountains with snow on them, I loved it," he says. "The more we drove around, the more I was enthralled." His territory covered all the Western states except California. After a few years, he joined forces with Phil Miller to make and sell Western clothing for the company that would later become Miller Stockman. Weil started Rockmount Ranch Wear Mfg. Co. (the name was a simple abbreviation of Rocky Mountains) in 1946, after deciding that cowboys would appreciate having shirts with special yokes, longer tails and snap fasteners. He had trouble persuading a company to manufacture snaps for shirts but finally got his way. His business savvy went beyond creating the iconic Western shirt; he found ways to promote it throughout the West by meeting with merchants and chambers of commerce. "I told them that every merchant should be wearing something Western during rodeo season and those who didn't should have a penalty assessed in kangaroo court that they'd give to charity," Weil says.
Weil credits Hollywood for keeping Western wear at the forefront of popular culture. "The concept we're selling is not cowboys, it's the feeling of the West and the romance of it," he says. The business took off in the 1960s, when many Americans enjoyed Western vacations and visit ed dude ranches. After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Jack B. Weil came home and agreed to spend a year in the family business before striking out on his own. To his surprise, he found that he liked Rockmount, and when he subsequently married and had children, he decided to stay with it. Whereas Jack senior built the business throughout the West, Jack B. expanded it east. Within a couple of years, he began styling the line as well. He added ruffles to women's shirts, created "companion" outfits that featured the same fabrics for men and women and built the company's tie business.
"As my father has often said, there are a certain number of people who would like to be cowboys or gentleman ranchers. We will never be Coca-Cola, but if we are on the ball and can figure out what people like, we'll be in business," he says.
The task of deciding what people want has now passed on to the third generation and Steve Weil, who's savvy about design and popular culture.
"It's wrong to characterize Western as one narrow market, because the business is made up of a broad range of customers," Steve says. "There are the core horse people, the Western business people, the truck drivers and the visionaries." "Something for everybody" The latter category encompasses actors, musicians and fashion leaders such as Madonna, who set trends that others follow.
What do these various groups have in common? "Deep down, I believe the appeal is to the individual," Weil says. "Western has had the longest run in American fashion of any look because there's something for everybody." When he was starting in the business in the early 1980s, Weil loved rediscovering the early Western styles, with their smile pockets and gabardine fabrics. He returned some of those styles to the line, introduced the relaxed fit shirt that appeals to baby boomers, and expanded the business to Europe and Asia.
He also readily admits that what Rockmount sells isn't necessarily what's doing well throughout the industry. "Our necktie business has been a good area," Steve says. "What we've figured out is that boring neckties aren't doing well, but fun ones are." He has commissioned Western designs from such artists as David Parker, and the resulting silk ties "stand up to museum and consumer standards; it's a creative mix." For spring, the company is adding silk scarves.
In the almost two decades he's been at Rockmount, Weil has seen trends come and go, and he says business is emerging from a slump that began at the end of the 1990s. "We are really fortunate that business has improved substantially over the past 18 months. It was hard up to that point." Experience has taught him that "consumers are choosy," and for Rockmount to succeed "we make it a very definite point to do something different from everyone else, because the overall marketplace is inundated with clones." But he makes it a point not to stray too far from Rockmount's roots. "I hope I'm building on stuff that my father and grandfather have done. There's a strong continuity in our family, our design and how we run our business." And that suits customers like Nathalie Kent, who owns Nathalie, a store on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.
"They sell like hotcakes," Kent says of Rockmount styles she carries for men, women and children. "I like the fact that they are traditional. The real cowboy likes them and so does the wannabe cowboy.
"I could go to France with a suitcase full of them and sell them all," says Kent, a native of France.
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Jack Weil Blvd.
Denver Post Columnist
Jan. 9, 2001 - SIGNS: Jack A. Weil turns 100 in March - and today Mayor WWebb changes the name of Wazee Street to Weil Street. Weil has been on Wazee Street since 1946 making Rockmount Ranch Wear - and now he's joined by his son Jack B. and grandson Steve. Fifty-five years on the same street making the same stuff qualifies Jack A. as the Legend of LoDo. He still goes to work every morning, lunches at the DAC, Weil then back to work, to the bank at 2:30 p.m., then home for a nap. They'll change the street sign at 2:30 today, then Jack A. can take that nap. "I think it's a lot to do about very little," Jack A. says. "But do you think we'll still get our mail?"
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by, Dan Deweese
Rockmount, which claims to have been the first shirt maker to use snaps on production run shirts on the 1940's, reports that snaps are, have been, and always will be the mainstay of their business, according to Steve Weil, vice president of Rockmount.
"Snaps have always been the dominant feature in Rockmount's shirt line," Weil says. "We have done button shirts over the years, but they have been a minor part of our business."
Weil says that his snap-shirt sales have been steady throughout the last decade when other western manufacturers promoted buttons over snaps. "It never ceases to amaze me when a customer is looking for snaps.' As far as Rockmount is concerned, snaps have always been the major part of our business, so we don't see them going up and down. We see them as very, very consistent over many years.
"For 40 years, virtually all men's western shirts featured snaps," Weil says. "Snap buttons on western shirts began to lose favor in the early 1980s. Now they are riding a new wave of popularity driven by three identifiable consumer groups: Hispanics, core western lifestyle consumers, and trendy, young urbanites...."
"We've demonstrated at Rockmount that you can do dress shirts with snaps very well," Weil says of the upgrade trend. "That's a very strong part of our line - fine cottons with snaps. We offer high-count cottons that were only available in very expensive designer lines prior to our adopting them...."
"Our shirt business is very steady," Weil adds. "I think because we are well established in our market, we don't see the cycles become life-or death issues. We certainly see trends, both up and down, but we're still doing it after all these years because it's selling."
...Weil's points seem to be reinforced by snap sales at Scovill Fasteners, the largest domestic supplier of snaps to western manufacturers. Sales have been fairly flat since the end of the Urban Cowboy boom, according to Jack Champagne, executive vice president at Scovill Fasteners. "It's not the same as it was when John Travolta was parading around in fancy cowboy shirts," he says. "It was a fashion thing back then; everybody had a couple of snap shirts."
Snap shirts, first worn by singing cowboys in movies 60 or 70 years ago, have been the unsung heros of the western shirt industry. They've provided a steady, solid sales base for western retailers who paid heed to the identities and need of their customers.
With a little nurturing, this stalwart fashion feature is helping western regain some of its unique character - it might also help western sales restore some of its lost glitter.
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by, Dan Deweese
"Who put the SNAP in western shirts?"
There are several claims as to who was first with snaps but, more than any other major shirt maker today, Rockmount Ranch Wear is identified with snaps. Jack A. Weil, founder and president of the Denver-based manufacturer, began using snaps on shirts at the conclusion of World War II when metal was no longer rationed. His grandson, Steve Weil, asserts that Rockmount was first to "commercially" produce snap shirts.
According to Weil, his grandfather put snaps on shirts "to distinguish western shirts from conventional shirts." The innovation helped secure Western as a distinct apparel category. Until the 1930's, "there was no Western shirt on the market to speak of." Weil says. Working cowboys and ranchers wore the same denim or twill work shirts worn by factory and construction workers. Western evolved with practical adaptations to ordinary work wear. New treatments like snaps, yolks, barrel cuffs, and a slimmer, more tailored fit distinguished western shirts from conventional shirts.
"The first western shirts were different because they were tailored and slim fitting with yokes and pocket flaps," Weil says. "Those features, along with the snaps, are what distinguished western shirts from conventional shirts. The snaps came after the other features. The snaps were probably the last innovation in the design that distinguished it fully from anything that was out there."
Rockmount is also known for its diamond-shaped snaps. Weil says the diamond shape is a virtual exclusive for Rockmount. "You have to have special equipment, which Rockmount has," Weil explains. "It's much easier to put a round snap on than a diamond. You need different equipment for each shape.
A different version of the origin of snaps has it that H Bar C introduced snaps to shirts, a claim strongly denied by Steve Weil. "Rockmount made H Bar C's first shirts," he claims. "They were in the pants business and came to us to make shirts for them, which we did in our Pennsylvania factory. They had never made western shirts prior to that. Apparently they had some kind of riding shirts that were made in England, but they were primarily a pant company until the '50s. We made the first shirts for them in the '40s...."
The true origins of snaps on western shirts may be apocryphal, but their importance to the development of an identifiably unique western shirt category cannot be denied.
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by, Scott Omellianuk
"The Cowboy Way" (Photo of our shirt) For city slickers, less of the West is more
I never really liked western wear. Ran from it like Colonel Wilton Parmenter and the rest of F troop ran from Cochise.
It's the memories from the last time it was popular - the '70s - that did it. Of Robert Conrad jumping, tumbling, slugging his way through reruns of The Wild, Wild West and looking, in his tight pants and short, keister-revealing jacket, like a matador who went derecho instead of izquierda at the bull fight and ended up in the pages of Blueboy magazine.
Of John Travolta in Urban Cowboy, gamboling through Houston like he'd spent a lifetime in the saddle but opening his mouth to say - not in a Texas twang but in a Jersey twung - things like "Shee~yit."
And one memory much closer to home. Like in my childhood living room. That recollection is of my not very western old man sitting on his very eastern couch late at night listening to Hank Williams do his thirty-three-rpm coyote howl about cheatin' hearts, while he - Dad - lazed there in his plaid, yoked, mother- of-pearl - buttoned shirt, tooled leather belt with the requisite big buckle, boot-cut jeans and pointy-toed cowboy boots (which, you know, he really didn't need to ride the '72 Eldorado that was his regular mount) and kept time on a beer bottle and muttered things like "Shee~yit."
I do not know how to explain the getup that Conrad wore in the TV show, though dollars to doughnuts it had something to do with a confused, possibly gender-conflicted guy in wardrobe. Travolta and the old man, well, that's easier. The way they dressed was all because of the Marlboro man.
Which isn't to say there's anything wrong with the Man, per se. His an icon for the most successful ad campaign in history. He convinced millions that his brand of smokes could offer you, me - anyone - his lifestyle: the great American lifestyle. The lanky saunter, the outdoor office and, unfortunately, the right to dress in head-to-toe cowboy kit of tough leather boots, indestructible jeans, those bronco-busting shirts, suede jackets and dusters and ten-gallon Stetsons.
Don't get me wrong. Such a uniform (a visual lexicon of our frontier history, really) is fine if you're out there punchin' dogies, riding the range and manifesting destiny. It is the only outfit to wear if you're eating hardtack and chuckwagon beans and growling things like "Let's whistle up the dogs and piss on the fire." And also, "Shee~yit."
But the Marlboro Man's costume is not fine if you're not the Marlboro Man, if, instead, you are Travolta or the old man or the thousands of others who have been similarly geographically and/or professionally challenged. If, that is, you are not a cowboy. Think about it. When a stylish but wholly civilian guy wears one of those currently popular military-cut shirts, he doesn't match it with a helmet, combat boots, cargo pants and flak vest. And when a homey shrugs on a Carhartt work jacket, he doesn't feel the need to do, like, the full Mr. Goodwrench.
The key - John, Dad - to wearing western wear, now that it's popular again, is to use that same restraint. To apply the anti-Roy Rogers corollary of the Marlboro Man philosophy. To wit, never - unless your best friend is named trigger - wear more than one (or perhaps two) pieces of western wear at any one time.
That means putting on a pair of Wrangler's original Cowboy Cut jeans (which celebrate a fiftieth anniversary this year and are a must-have for working ranch hands) with cowboy boots but not a cowboy shirt. Try a crewneck sweater instead. Or you could wear Rockmount Ranch Wear's Sawtooth diamond~snap~front shirt trousers, no boots, no Stetson. Or, if you prefer less than the real deal, there's plenty of cowboy-inspired designer gear from Diesel and Replay and Lucky, all of it honest enough for non-cowboys and something I'd be proud to see the old man wear.
Saddle up with one of those modified rigs and you're recognizing our frontier heritage without looking like Fess Parker. You're cloaking yourself in western mystique without looking like a mistake. Try it; pull on the sawtooth. Now take a look in the mirror. Go ahead. Say it "Shee~yit."
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The New York Times
by, Phil Patton
"The Dude Is Back In Town"
The new dude style is lead by a generation of younger designers, like Katy K, who have begun to flourish somewhere between the traditional Western suppliers, like Rockmount, and mainstream apparel houses. Western styles have shown up in lines from DKNY and Ellen Tracy. Hot Sox now offers designs with the patterns found on a spotted steer, a pinto horse and a red bandana....
"1946 Jack A. Weil founds Rockmount Western Wear in Denver, introduces the first commercially produced snaps on western shirts."
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Western & English Sales Assoc.
January 14, 1994
Is it Rockmount or Hollymount?
Rockmount may not have gone Hollywood, but Hollywood has definitely gone Rockmount.
Rockmount announced that several new movies have prominently featured shirts by the company, including the new HBO film Red Rock West starring Nicholas Cage and Dennis Quaid, also features a Rockmount classic gabardine shirt with diamond snaps.
Steve Weil, Rockmount vice president, says "this kind of exposure is good for Rockmount and the industry" since films tend to be harbingers of style for years to come.
The company was also featured in print. Lodestar Books in their recently released book Ranch Dressing: The Story of Western Wear included information about the company and the Weil family, which pioneered the western snap shirt. The author, Dr. Jean Greenlaw will be at Rockmount showrooms F51-53 on January 16 to sign copies.
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by Sally Ruth Bourrie
"Saluting Family Business" (Photo use photo from story w/ 3 gen)
ROCKMOUNT RANCH WEAR Mfg. Co. "The success of any long-lasting business is the Golden Rule," says Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Co.'s founder, 92-year-old Jack Weil, who still opens the office every day. "We'd like to be the kind of outfit that you'd like to do business with."
Founded in 1946, today Rockmount sells to 3,200 retailers in all 50 United States, along with merchants in Canada, Europe, and Asia. Those who wear Rockmount range from Loretta Lynn to Bruce Springsteen.
Weil began his Western wear career in 1935, a partner with Phil Miller (of what would become the Denver area's Miller Stockman Western-wear stores). At that time, what we know as Western wear essentially didn't exist, Weil explains: Cowboys wore overalls and work shirts. To get ideas for commercial products, Weil went to the movies, studying the custom-made garb of Tom Mix and Gene Autry.
Eleven years later, he'd grown increasingly frustrated with mainstream merchandisers: "Penny's, Wards and Sears wouldn't let you make a good product," Weil claims, "They'd always want something cheaper every year."
At Rockmount, he decided, "We didn't have to be the biggest, we had to be the best." The former Paris Garter salesman from Indiana established his company on three principles: · Never let any customer account for more than 3 percent of the business. "I never wanted to lose a customer, but I never wanted to bleed if I did," Weil says. · Never dictate to a customer how many of an item to buy. "If they needed all big sizes, they could have them; if they wanted all red, that's what they got." Rockmount's shirts were among the first to be packaged in individual bags. · No matter how big the customer, no discounting -- one price to everybody, Weil explains, "so that the hometown merchants could make a reasonable mark-up on a top quality product without fear of being undersold."
Weil always has put his long-time, loyal Western-wear merchandisers first, rather than going for the quick buck whenever Western became flavor-of-the-month. Simply surviving the "Urban Cowboy" aftermath was an achievement; even the classic hat maker Stetson filed for bankruptcy.
Weil is best known for adding snaps to Western-style shirts, which previously had used only buttons. Though he initially met with resistance, the style took off -- and so did Rockmount. The Weils believe that, as an American fashion, Western wear should be made in the United States. "We may well be the only significant size company in our industry that's 100 percent American-made," says grandson Steve Weil.
Son Jack B. Weil entered Rockmount after his 1954 Army discharge and has done most of the firm's designing since 1960. Grandson Steve, who more recently began styling - introduced fabrics like denim, and relaxed fit cuts.
"In the past several years, Steven has come up with things I would never have done and they've worked out very well so it's important to have new blood and new ideas," says Jack B.
Another key to Rockmount's survival, says grandson Steve, who holds an MBA as well as a law degree, is fiscal conservatism. "We borrow very little, if anything," the grandson says. "We're self-financed and we don't bet the ranch - ever."
"We pay for everything we buy," says the founding Weil, Jack A. "As we felt we could pay for expansion, we did it. We grew on the basis of retained earnings."
Though the elder Weil "fell in love with the Western way of life" when he came to Denver in 1928, he's fond of saying that the West "isn't a place, it's a state of mind." Either way, it's been a great romance for all three generations of Weils.
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TACK 'N TOGS
"Rockmount earns trademark rights for shirt cuff tab"
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Rockmount Ranch Wear a trademark for the cuff tabs on its shirts.
Since 1975, Rockmount has been labeling all shirts with a half-inch square, navy blue tab featuring the company's corporate brand. Sewn into the seam where cuff joins sleeve, the tab was originally designed by Jack Weil Jr., national sales manager as a means of distinguishing his company's shirts from those of others.
In its October 1985 ruling, the patent office recognized Rockmount as being the first to use and develop this type of label. It determined that the Rockmount tag position was a distinguishing characteristic and worthy of being awarded a trademark.
According to Steve Weil, executive officer of Rockmount, the only other apparel industry trademark known to the company is the one Levi Strauss & Company holds for the back pocket label on its lines of pants. Levi's legal department assisted Rockmount since both companies had a common interest in fighting trademark infringements.
In a lengthy process, Rockmount first filed an application for trademark rights in June, 1982. Its lawyer submitted research demonstrating that the cuff tab had been recognized by consumers who could identify Rockmount's shirts being worn by actors on television shows and in movies and by entertainers on record albums. The company was notified of its new rights in November.
"Our trademark specifically states that we have the trademark right to any label position sewn into the cuff of a shirt, whether long-sleeved or short," said Steve Weil.
This gives Rockmount legal recourse when trademark infringements occur. Two companies have already stopped using similar labels upon learning of Rockmount's new rights to the position.
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TACK 'N TOGS
"Jack Weil honored by WERA"
|Jack A. Weil, president of Rockmount Ranch Wear holds the WERA "Pioneer Award" and a signed photograph of Ronald Reagan. The photo and accompanying letter from Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldridge were arranged and presented by Scovill, Apparel Fasteners Group. Baldridge was CEO of Scovill before joining the Reagan administration. The Reagan photograph was presented by Charles E. "Ed" Harris of Scovill.
DENVER - Justin Boot Co. and Jack A. Weil, founder and president of Rockmount Ranch Wear, Denver, were both honored during a breakfast meeting here during the Western/English Retailers of America (WERA) Conference, January 3-6.
John Justin was on hand to accept the WERA "Award for Leadership" on behalf of the Fort Worth-based boot manufacturing company. Justin is president of Justin Industries, of which Justin Boot is a division. Justin Boot is the third recipient of the "Al". The award consists of a bronze statue and is awarded to companies, groups of individuals who have worked for the betterment of the industry.
Jack A. Weil was also presented with a statue as the first recipient of the "Pioneer Award." Weil founded Rockmount Ranch Wear in 1946. He still heads the family-run clothing manufacturing business in Denver.
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