When David Letterman tapes the final episode of his venerable late-night talk show on May 20, it's not just viewers who will miss him; a San Francisco sportswear company is losing one of its best customers.
Golden Bear Sportswear has been making Letterman's "Late Show" staff jackets for more than 15 years. "He designs them himself," said the company's president, Schirley Zisman, of the varsity letterman-style jackets. "He gives them away as gifts every single year."
Golden Bear produces classic American sportswear, and they've been doing it for nearly a century right here in the United States. And although you might not recognize the name, you've probably seen their products.
Letterman isn't the only celebrity fan. Over the years, many famous celebrities have donned their iconic bomber jackets—from Paul Newman and Justin Bieber to Kate Upton and the Grateful Dead.
Maybe the most famous jacket they ever made was called the "Billy Bomber," named for President Bill Clinton. When Clinton was elected in 1992, Zisman sent him a Golden Bear bomber jacket as a gift. Not only did Clinton wear it all the time, he also ordered hundreds of similar jackets for the U.S. Secret Service and to give as gifts to other world leaders.
"We're not aware of a lot of competitors who do exactly what we do," said Matt Ehlen, Golden Bear's general manager. "There really aren't a lot. And I think that's one of the things that make us unique, because we are made in America. "If you are an aficionado of classic outerwear, you may have noticed the jackets made by Golden Bear Sportswear, which outfits the" Late Show with David Letterman" and other celebrities. Of late, the brand has been popping up in department stores and menswear boutiques.
The appeal is the Americana-inspired look: The San Francisco-based company has been making the bomber jacket since the 1920s. The company got its start when it first made specialized, durable jackets for the local Teamster's Union Bay's dock workers and longshoremen. Golden Bear eventually started making the staples of American outerwear: motorcycle jackets, bomber jackets and pea coats.