Without question, the whackiest 40 minutes for GOLF RETAILING at the 2014 PGA Show was spent on the Loudmouth stand, in the company of founder and chief designer Scott ‘Woody’ Woodworth and chief executive Larry Jackson. The stand was buzzing with the sound of order writing, and with the bright Loudmouth colours flashing around us on posters, brochures and apparel, the experience verged on psychedelic.
We are still not sure what was in the coffee. If only Woody and Larry would have sat still for a moment we could have bagged an in-depth interview, but Loudmouth doesn’t do sitting still. That seems to go for its stock too. One minute we were talking about Loony Tunes fabric, the next minute the Golf Channel’s Win McMurry gate crashed. Then Larry compared the PGA Show to a Russian Gulag. We did have some questions to ask, but we never really got round to them. This is what came out of it… Words: Robin Barwick Pictures: Miles Bossom
Ed: Please note, for translation, that when Woody and Larry refer to ‘pants’, they mean ‘trousers’, not underwear)
Woody: When I started to play golf in the ‘90s, I remembered back in the day when Lee Trevino and Johnny Miller were wearing plaids, patchworks and stripes. I wanted to wear wilder clothes on the golf course, but the problem was there was only one colour for pants; khaki. I couldn’t even find white golf pants.
So I went into a fabric store with a whole bunch of grandmothers making quilts, and found some fabric I thought was cool, took it to a seamstress and she made me some pants. I was a little self-conscious at first, but then guys started coming up to me and saying: “Those pants are fantastic. Where did you get those?”
For a start they were powder blue, which some people found annoying when everyone else is wearing khaki and black and trying to look bitchin’ – no-one wore powder blue.
Larry: But wait for the big ‘reveal’, there’s more.
Woody: All over the fabric were Loony Tunes characters: Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil, Daffy Duck.
Larry: They were all tumbling out of a golf cart!
Woody: And waving clubs around. It was like a sign from God! Those were the first pair of pants and the ones that got all the comments. Sure, there were some guys who thought, “Oh my God, what an idiot”. So what?
When I started making the pants in 2000 I knew there was a possibility this could be a business. I had my antenna up.
Larry: I bet when you were making the pants you thought there was a tiny possibility, but then when you started hearing the comments, the possibility transformed into this great opportunity.
Woody: If I didn’t start getting those comments from other golfers we would not be standing here today.
Larry: I used to play a lot of golf in business, and it was easy to get golf shirts with floral patterns, but it was harder to get wild pants. I started going to a shop in Oakland, California that mainly catered for pimps, and so I would have pimp pants made and wear them in pro-ams. It was always fun and it worked for me in business too.
Then someone came up to me and recommended Loudmouthgolf.com. This was 2003. So I ordered some pants, and Woody came back saying, “I don’t have your size in that particular pattern, but I have it in this other pattern”. And this would become the sequence of events, three or four times a year.
Woody: You see, I had 60 pairs of pants on a shelf at home, not 60,000.
Larry: Then in 2006, I asked Woody how business was going, and he said: “It’s going well – I am shipping more packages than I used to.” How’s your inventory? “Well, I have seven boxes of pants.” Are you profitable? “I don’t know, I think so.”
Woody: I was running the business at home in the evenings, while working in graphic design during the day.
Larry: It was a cash-flow business, where Woody would pay his bills each month, and if he had any money left over, he would buy more fabric to make some pants.
So I suggested we play golf together at Lake Merced Golf Club in San Francisco.
Woody: I was just a ‘Muni’ player, I was really nervous, and I topped by first three drives in a row. It was a disaster.
Larry: On the front nine we talked about the problems with Woody’s business, and on the back nine we talked about some solutions. The key was putting in just a little bit of money, and we found a manufacturer and were able to bring out a full season of product.
The big difference was that Woody stopped buying fabric with patterns he liked, and started designing his own patterns. Woody did the patterns and we got the pants made. It wasn’t rocket science. This was 2007.
When we first came to the PGA Show, we had a tiny booth in ‘Little Crappy Shitville’, right across from ‘Schweaty Balls’ and next door to ‘Butt-head covers’.
Woody: And some scientist, selling a weird ointment.
Larry: It’s like the Gulag in Russia and you think you are going to die there. We had a table, two stools, hung a wire across the back of the booth and hung up four pairs of pants.
Woody: We did not write one piece of paper in two PGA Shows.
Larry: Not a single order, but camera crews kept coming by to film us.
Woody: But we were selling out through the website, still shipping out of my house. We had to do those first PGA Shows. It was part of the process.
Then we got one little picture into the Golfsmith catalogue in the US in 2008, which goes to 1.2 million people. Three months later, we appeared on their best-sellers list. We were out-selling all the big brands.
Then I saw Alice Cooper’s name come up in the orders, and it turned out in was THE Alice Cooper, in Glendale, Arizona. That was the first really cool thing to happen.
Larry: Alice Cooper became a friend of Loudmouth. Around this time was when the PGA Tour suspended John Daly for some behaviour issues; he got drunk in a Hooters; got wasted in a pro-am; every sponsor dropped him.
John Daly was playing golf with Jim McMahon one day, the former quarterback of the Chicago Bears. Jim’s a great golfer and a kook; he always plays golf bear-foot and he always wears Loudmouth pants. So they were playing golf, and John could not believe how people were asking McMahon about his pants, more than they were asking John about his PGA Tour screw-ups. McMahon told him to give us a call: “You’d may as well, you’ve lost all your sponsors, what have you got to lose?!”
Daly called me, I took some pants over, he tried them on, and we wrote a contract on a napkin. That was March 2009. Then he went to play on the European Tour and played in Madrid. He wore orange and pink argyle pants in the pro-am, with an orange shirt, and the picture became the third-most commented story on ‘Yahoo!’ of the year. We ran out of pants. The title of the article was: ‘The pants you can see from outer-space’.