The other day Kathy commented on the fact that I am still wearing cargo shorts and suggested it was time for an upgrade. So, off we went in search of American-made shorts and we came across Old Bull Lee. This California-based firm produces a line of shorts, Oxford shirts and some pretty uniquely-patterned board shorts. I really liked what I saw and decided to give owner Lee Johnson a call to hear a little back story:For starters, I asked where the name Old Bull Lee came from. It’s a bit of a long story but Lee started his career as an architect and realized that he didn’t want to work in a place where somebody else’s name was “on the door”. Thinking about potential names for a business of his own, he wanted to use his first name, Lee, but also remembered that something had struck him about the character “Old Bull Lee” in the book On The Road by Jack Kerouac. The character was modeled on William F Burrows, which just spoke to him.
Lee grew up on the East Coast and was one of those guys who would pretty much wear shorts year-round. So, as he put it, he woke up one morning and said to himself, ‘I’m going to start a company making shorts. Easy right?”
Now, he admits it was a lot more difficult than he thought. Lee made the first pair of shorts himself, but they were a bit of a train wreck, so he started utilizing American contract manufacturers to produce his wares. The company is 6 years old and has three full time employees.By the way, if you’re like me and don’t know what board shorts are, think of them as swim trunks without the elastic waistband – the kind surfers wear.While Old Bull Lee products are produced in America, like many other makers, Lee’s search for fabrics took him overseas. There is a fairly detailed explanation of the process behind the printing and manufacturing of the clothing on the site if you’d like to know more.Lee feels that, American-Made is part of the appeal of a product, it is the uniqueness of the designs that draws people in. When I asked whether there is anything new on the horizon, he stated that changes will be organic and over time, more of an extension of the existing product offerings.
Finally, Lee spoke about his interaction with his customers. He said he enjoys making sure that each person gets just the right fit and is satisfied with their purchase because a “happy customer is the best advertisement”