Hawkeye greats help kick off new Tailgate clothing store – Iowa City Press Citizen
Football and fashion have about as much in common as the Hawkeyes and Wolverines, or white pants and the day after Labor Day.
But when former University of Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding and New York clothing designer Todd Snyder sat down to talk business last year, they bonded over a mutual passion: their home state.
“It was a great connection,” said Snyder, who grew up in Huxley and went to Iowa State University. “He had the same passions I had. He flew out to New York, we had dinner, and for five hours all we did was talk about the idea of doing something. That’s where the idea came from.”
Today, the Iowa natives will open the doors to their new shop, Tailgate Clothing Company, in downtown Iowa City. It’s the first brick-and-mortar store for Tailgate, a vintage-inspired, collegiate clothing company that Snyder founded in 1997.
Tailgate has over the years supplied major retailers like Urban Outfitters, Bloomingdales and Gap, among others, but Snyder said he had always envisioned having a flagship store.
“This is a dream come true for me,” he said Thursday night at a crowded grand opening party, where he and Kaeding chatted with friends, local business leaders and Hawkeye legends like Chuck Long and Dan Gable.
The store, located in the newly renovated Grossix Building at 30 S. Clinton St., is packed with custom-designed Hawkeye gear with a vintage flair, along with T-shirts paying tribute to local landmarks like Prairie Lights, John’s Grocery and Pagliai’s Pizza.
Snyder — who launched his own Todd Snyder brand in 2011 after working for Polo Ralph Lauren, the Gap and J. Crew — said Tailgate began with the simple idea of creating clothes that he could wear to ballgames back in Iowa.
“The big reason I started it is because I would come back to football games and basketball games, but had nothing to wear,” Snyder said. “I worked at Ralph Lauren, so I wanted to make a product that was better designed.”
Kaeding, meanwhile, returned home to Iowa City last year to pursue his MBA after a nine-year professional football career. While playing in the NFL, he had helped open Short’s Burger & Shine restaurant in Iowa City, where he’s part owner.
Kaeding was researching future business possibilities last year, and knowing city leaders were pushing to attract more retail options downtown, he reached out to Snyder with the idea of collaborating.
“With Todd’s ties to Iowa, I thought, hey, I’ll give him a call,” said Kaeding, who had not previously met Snyder. “We had a lot of discussion, and this is how it ended up. I’m super excited about how it turned out. He’s an Iowa guy, and he totally understands what Iowa City’s all about.”
Kaeding is serving as a partner with Tailgate and will assist with the company’s marketing strategy.
Gable, UI’s famed former wrestling coach, stopped by the shop on the eve of its opening for the reception. Among the many racks of shirts was one featuring Gable’s likeness and the words, “The Legend.”
Gable said the company showed him several designs before the shirt went into production, and his family helped him pick out a favorite.
“They tell me what looks good and what doesn’t,” Gable said. “I keep up maybe with wrestling fashion but not normal fashion.”
The shop also is selling a shirt honoring Long, one of the greatest Hawkeyes to ever don the uniform. Long, who had served as an assistant coach at Iowa during Kaeding’s playing days, said he always enjoys seeing his former players succeed beyond football.
“What I like about Nate is he hasn’t forgot where he came from, and he came back home to do this instead of San Diego or somewhere else,” Long said. “It says a lot.”
Reach Josh O’Leary at 887-5415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tailgate Clothing Company
• Where: 30 S. Clinton St.
• Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
• Website: www.tailgateclothing.com.