In Austin — a trendy city in one of the friendliest states in the U.S. to start a new business — two sons of the Northeast are trying to export a preppy sensibility around the United States.
Menswear startup Criquet Shirts was founded by Hobson Brown and Billy Nachman. The two native New Yorkers came of age together at the height of the 1980s prep-school fashion that included the likes of L.L. Bean sweaters, Docksiders and (of course) polo shirts. That era largely informs their approach to designing Criquet's wide and colorful array of leisure shirts and sweaters.
Criquet is taking advantage of a men's apparel market that's seen explosive growth in recent years. Research from IBISWorld shows online menswear grew at an average rate of more than 17 percent over a 5 year period, generating annual revenue of $20 billion.
Although Criquet has one brick-and-mortar location in Austin, its primary source of revenue and growth is online, which currently accounts for 80 percent of its total sales. Additionally, Criquet maintains retail locations at approximately 150 private stores, including pro-shops and country clubs in Palm Beach and Jackson Hole.
"We're well positioned for future growth, and we want to do it right," Brown told CNBC in a recent interview.
Criquet's apparel is designed to "be worn with jeans and cowboy boots, dress slacks, or even shorts," Brown added. "They're great for work, play, and relaxing…for your own '19th Hole,' he said, using a slang term that refers to a bar or restaurant near a golf course.
That 19th Hole is "a mythical place where, after a hard day's work, you go to relax and recharge. And that's deeply personal, so it means a lot of things for different people," Nachman said.
"In Austin, it could be golf, or it could be sitting around a fire pit with a cooler of beer, fishing on Lake Travis, or pub-crawling on 6th Street. It's not 'work hard, play hard.' It's 'work hard, then hit the 19th Hole…wherever that 19thHole is, for you."