Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Prep Behind Boast's Re-launch

I stumbled across this cool interview in Princeton Alumni Weekly with Alex Tiger '94, whose skills on the tennis court earned him the right to re-launch Boast USA.

Anyone who played tennis in the 1970s and ’80s might remember — or even have deep in their drawer – a polo shirt with a Japanese maple leaf logo. That preppy Boast brand shirt was worn by the likes of tennis great Jimmy Connors and many others but disappeared in the 1990s. This fall Alex Tiger ’94 and his friend and business partner John Dowling re-launched the brand that was started in 1973 by Greenwich, Conn. tennis pro Bill St. John out of his station wagon. Currently available only online (at boastusa.com), the vintage polo with the maple leaf is staking a comeback. Tiger spoke with PAW’s Katherine Federici Greenwood.

Why did you want to re-launch the Boast brand?
I am avid racket sports [player] – tennis and squash. I grew up with this brand really in the mid ’80s. It was the shirt that we all wore on tennis and squash courts and just walking around. I was wondering what happened with that brand a couple years back. I had shirts that were 10 or 15 years old that I wore in high school and I am still wearing them. … I looked on the Internet, and I couldn’t find [the brand]. Eventually I was able to track it down and found out that [the company] was still in business, but not really putting out the type of product it was putting out before. It was somewhat dormant. It was selling polo shirts without the maple leap logo to high-end racket and country clubs, which would sew their own logos onto the shirts. So we tracked down the founder, [Bill St. John].

How did you come to partner with St. John?
When I found out he was in Palm Beach, I said, “I would love to meet with you.” It took about six months of pestering him to finally agree to meet with me. … He said, “A couple of you guys from New York come down every year and try to buy my brand. And I’m not really interested.” It took a couple years but we were able to hammer out a deal for the intellectual property. Bill is a partner with us, so he still continues his country club business. We own the intellectual property — the trademark, the logo.

I read that what convinced him to partner with you was that he asked you to play tennis and you were good – true?
It was a bit of test for him to take me on the tennis court. Because I think a lot of people had come to him pretending to be big racket sports fans to try to buy the brand from him, but they didn’t really want to maintain the integrity of the brand. …  So he saw I was legitimate. I still play lot of tennis and squash. I was able to hold my own.

Can you give me some background on why and how Bill St. John started Boast?
Back in the early 1970s, he was a huge tennis and squash player from Franklin Lakes, N.J. He went to Cornell and was All-American there. He was the pro at the Greenwich Field Club in Greenwich, Conn. When he was a pro there he saw everyone wearing Fred Perry and Lacoste and there was no American counterpart brand. At that time you had Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Roscoe Tanner, all these great players. Bill thought it was time for an iconic American brand to come out. He had been in Asia. He saw this Japanese maple leaf as he was walked around in Japan. And he fell in love with [that leaf]. He [decided] to use that as a logo. He came back and trademarked it. And the brand caught on here.

He started it as a side business and it exploded. … We have pictures of George [W.] Bush wearing it, John Updike, famous tennis players, one of the best squash players in history. It was in the movie Risky Business. It was part of the culture.

How many old Boast shirts do you have hanging in your closet?
I have a good 4 or 5 that are still around. We looked at those in coming out with our first line.

What’s in the line?
We brought back the classic men’s polo collection in 20 different colors, 3 different styles. We also have a blazer. Each blazer is custom made by the New York City tailor Mr. Ned. We’re going into stores in the near future. And we also are in the process of expanding the line.  So there’s going to be other parts of the men’s line, and a women’s line. … We’re trying to outfit the Boast man or woman on and off the court.

So you think people are interested in going back to this preppy, traditional look?
I don’t think it ever went away.


  1. So funny, I was helping my friend who is re-doing a tennis shop at a private old-timey Mass. country club today and she was stocking boast. I was like, "Oh, how long have you carried boast?" "Forever".