Last week I golfed with 3 others in a fun best ball tournament, and it wasn’t our golf score that got the course fired up. It was the fact that all four of us wore ZUBAZ pants. As this was a “younger” crowd participating in the tourney, I was absolutely amazed at the interest shown in Zubaz.
Zubaz, for those who do not know, is a brand name of a company that made baggy knit shorts and pants out of wild color material. It was started in St. Paul back in 1988 by two bodybuilders, Dan Stock and Bob Truax. The story I heard about their creation was the two always did squats while weightlifting and continually “blew” out their pants. One of their mothers had some excess scrap material and created these wild baggy pants that were comfortable and the concept was born. The Zebra print Black and White design became their staple item. The story continues with the pants basically being sold in gyms around the Twin Cities until the “college crowd” picked up on them as a fashion statement around 1990. Zubaz was off and running.
At that time I was working at a large retail chain in Minneapolis and I have never seen a fashion trend explode like Zubaz. In 1991 alone Zubaz reportedly sold $100 million dollars in product. The company could not keep up with production and at one time had 5 contract plants around the U.S. cutting and sewing and shipping product everywhere. The product line expanded quickly, adding shorts, tee shirts, hats, flannel lined pants, and even kids sizes in virtually every wild imaginable pattern and color. The professional wrestling team “The Road Warriors” bought in as investors and soon were on national television promoting the line. The Arena Football League adopted Zubaz as their team pants which soon spilled over into the NFL with branded team color Zubaz zebra stripe merchandise. Soon Dan Marino, the popular Miami Dolphin quarterback was signed up to be a spokesman for the team. Billy Joel was wearing Zubaz on tour. Our store near Ridgedale would easily sell 600 pants a week and would have people waiting for them the days we’d get delivery. These 2 young men from St. Paul on a whim had discovered fame and fortune.
Unfortunately, this ride was out of control. 50,000 pair of Zubaz a week were being produced. Not being business entrepreneurs, Traux and Stock ran into cash flow problems and had to bring on new investors. New investors means the two of them had less say in the operations. They sold their share out in the mid 90’s. Quality control began to be compromised. Due to shortages, other manufacturers started up “knock off’s” of the original product. The company declared bankruptcy in 1996. The two original investors decided to buy back the trademark rights. Since that time they have been resisting getting back into the business until just recently. With a new generation finding out about the product, and now online selling capabilities, the two have recreated a limited best of the best selection available from their website only. Recently there have been articles about their rebirth in Mpls-St. Paul magazine and in the Star Tribune.
My son, always on the cutting edge bought me a new black/white zebra pair of pants last Christmas. I added this to the other 3 original Zubaz pants I still owned from the 90’s. (The three pair my wife about twice a year tries to throw away and I drag them out of the trash). Two members of my golf team who wore the Zubaz stated their husbands had old Zubaz’s still in their wardrobe, which helped vindicate my situation with my wife. Zubaz’s was always a male dominated fashion trend. In fact the article from the Star Tribune states a backlash developed over the look as being a sign of male laziness and that women considered them “hideous”. I agree. That’s why today (Sunday) I am going to go find my ugliest pair of Zubaz pants and relax on my deck and see just how lazy I can be!