BROOKLYN, USA – Rugby is one of those sports that causes fanatics that blend into families; tight-knit-teams that grow close together due to the intensity, awesomeness, and mutual respect that comes from organized, and consensual roughness.
But what if you could take your rugby experiences, and expand them into a business? Well, that’s exactly what two women’s-rugby-players-turned-entrepreneurs are doing; taking the things they’ve learned through their collective 40 years playing the sport and turning that knowledge into wearable, comfortable, and smart athletic apparel.
Gear for the “everyday athlete,” Jaimee Nelsen, one of the founders of WhiptailAthletic, tells us about their budding brand.
Starting with tee ball, then into high school varsity sports and building through a rugby career that spans 8 clubs, a stint refereeing and time spent coaching the sport, Whiptail has their thumb on a particular niche of athlete… and it all stems from rugby club culture.
Nelsen expressed frustration in finding clothing specific to the sports she was pursuing – with literally no power-lifting apparel on the market for women at the time, she looked to her kit to find rugby shorts she could designate as squat-shorts.
“When I really started seriously working out, I couldn’t find anything to wear that wasn’t pink or bright or too tight – capped sleeves were just becoming popular in women’s fashion and really, only brands like Under Armor were supplying clothes I wanted to wear.”
Now it seems like all athletic brands fall under the category of mainstream athletic ideals, using giant logos and neon to gain fanship. And with that frustration, and the crossover of scrum-shorts to squat-shirts, Nelsen knew rugby could give her more answers.
As a tight-five player, Nelsen is close to her teammates, literally, and so she simply started to listening to them. The other forwards complained of short-shorts and flamboyant designs. Rugby apparel always seemed to be a little different – better quality clothes, longer inseams, reinforced in the right places, standard colors – this was truly thoughtful athletic gear.
But that’s not where the rugby influence starts and stops with this brand… Drink-up culture comes into play as well.
“Like most people when they first join a rugby club, I was so taken and intrigued by drink-ups – the post-match camaraderie, the laughter, the intellectual silliness of some of the songs. There is an element of rugby, of club culture, that’s intentionally fun.”
As Nelsen realized that laughter was a key component of her favorite sport and what got her coming back everyday, her next inspiration for Whiptail was born: Gear That Gets You.
“It’s stuff you can sweat in or throw on and go to the bar in, and that’s the point. No frills, no gimmicks, just fun clothes that fit all kinds of people.”
And the clothes are fun, with shirts in other languages that give folks around you a hidden message, or more literal interpretations of comedy – like a Viking in his off-season doing a quick round on his trusty erg. Whiptail inter-operates subtle, yet intellectual humor into their athletic wear.
“We saw the TRex hates push-ups meme one day – and thought – well, he can’t do push-ups, but his bench press is amazing!”
Making athletic attire for the more everyday athlete isn’t easy and the Whiptail Team definitely has their work cut out for them.
“There’s always been a divide in our society, you’re either smart or your sporty (brain or brawn), and we still sometimes have trouble blending the two, but that’s what Whiptail is, it’s for doers and thinkers.”
Right now, they sell super soft, quality made shirts but plan to venture into squat shorts and singlets as they expand their product line.
“At the end of my day, when I workout, I don’t always want to make a statement, I just want to sweat and feel good – maybe that’s statement enough,” says Nelsen, “and I think we truly hope Whiptail will be the brand to give other athletes that quite confidence as well.”