This year’s PGA Merchandise Show marks the three-year anniversary of a brand of golf apparel that has seen a swift rise in the golf industy: Travis Mathew. It’s a line of clothing designed for golfers by a golfer, Travis Johnson.
Johnson, 29, has been around the game all his life, from growing up in a golfing family in Southern California (and playing a match when he was 5 against Tiger Woods) to a full-ride golf scholarship at UCLA to grinding for a spot on the PGA Tour after graduation.
Though his Tour-chasing days are over, Johnson manages to keep an element of golf in his life through his clothing business. His line includes pieces with unexpected details, like pants with an extra pocket in the back to hold a digital music player or a strip of Velcro sewn in to hold a golf glove.
I had the chance to talk with Johnson before this year’s PGA Show to find out more about his transition from the golf course to clothing design.
Why are you spending more time on golf shirts than with golf clubs these days?
Starting in June 2004, I traveled most of the world chasing that lovely white ball around. While pursuing this life-long dream, I became fascinated with all the variables that went into becoming great at golf. I relished any opportunity to shave a stroke here or there. Along this process, I found myself growing more interested with the aspect of “style” and how it related to a player’s performance. I realized that if I looked better I’d probably feel better, which might help me play a little better.
I needed to improve the quality of my apparel. Already knowing the limitations within golf, I searched outside of the game for my solution but could not find one company that captured the ingredients necessary to meet a player’s needs. Just like the beginning of any other niche company, Travis Mathew was born of demand. This new interest quickly turned into an obsession, and by the summer of 2007, I had built my brand, my first collection, and an infrastructure to support the business while I continued competing. However, this plan didn’t last too long.
By the summer of 2008, I had to go back into the office to help ensure the livelihood of the business. However, I soon found myself completely miserable – missing my travels, missing golf and in general missing being outdoors. So I turned to my investor and told him I needed someone else to come in and run the business. That turned out to be Chris Rosaasen, formerly of Rosaasen Golf Apparel.
Chris started in December 2008 and I began training again to get back into golf shape. I got back on the road but I wasn’t happy. Before Travis Mathew I lived for the road, loved the competition and thrived off of the process. But I realized that I missed being a part of the company that I helped to build.
The fact of the matter is that though waking up in the same bed every morning still freaks me out, I – for the first time in my life – am truly happy.
We know all about the Travis Mathew men’s line. When are you coming out with a ladies line?
I actually have a full women’s collection designed, however we’re just not ready to launch it yet. If I had a dollar for every woman that has asked me to do a women’s line, I’d already be retired and living on the beach somewhere down in Mexico.
I think our women’s line would trump our men’s business. It’s much more fun to design for women than men.
Why is the brand Travis Mathew, not Travis Johnson?
When we started, we had an entirely different company name that was a concept-based brand. But during the trademarking process, our lawyers found a discrepancy with the name in terms of likeness and we had to change the name. It may not sound like a big deal but I was right in the middle of having our first collection sampled and produced for the ’08 PGA Show. So I had two weeks to create a completely different company name and brand that still fit my vision and the design of the collection.
I was going nuts, batting around thousands of ideas for brand names. I actually bought a baby book and started putting different names together that fit within our brand ID – elegant, sexy and rock ’n’ roll. We use those words as our company’s litmus test for everything.
One night during the madness, I went to a bar with a couple of friends. When the bartender looked at my ID card and said, “Travis Matthew, that’s cute,” the girl that I was dating at the time looked at me and said, “That’s it, the name for your company!”
I quickly batted the idea down because I thought it sounded dumb, so she asked just about everyone in the bar that night what name they liked for a cool, hip, young, new golf apparel company. She’d throw in four or five different names that I was leaning toward, and virtually everyone picked Travis Matthew, even the people that didn’t know me. Within a couple days, the name sank in more and more, so I decided to go with it.
So to answer your question, the Mathew comes from my middle name, but just so that I wouldn’t be that guy that named his company after himself, I changed the Mathew to one “t” instead of two.