Rockmount Ranch Wear is a Denver institution. The shop is one of the most iconic and historic stores located in Downtown Denver. It is the birthplace of western snap shirts and has been a family-owned business for the past 72 years. The original owner and starter of the business is Jack A. Weil who worked in the store until he was 107 years old. His son, Jack B. Weil, joined the family business in the 1950s and started selling shirts nationwide. He also expanded product options by selling women and children’s clothing, bolo ties, neckties and jewelry. Jack then passed the store on to his son who is the current owner, Steve Weil. He introduced a new style to the store that was kind of the opposite of what it was originally known for. He designed a more relaxed fit shirt that appealed to the younger crowd, which was different than the slim fitting shirts they originally sold. Many celebrities such as Bob Dylan, Chuck Norris, Elvis and countless others have been seen and photographed wearing Rockmount Ranch Wear shirts. We caught up with Steve to get to know a little bit more about him, and the future of Rockmount Ranch Wear.
303 Magazine: Do you think snap shirts are going out of style or will ever go out of style?
Steve Weil: Snap shirts are an American classic, popular since they were first introduced in the 1940s and gaining momentum ever since. Originally when my grandfather Papa Jack first introduced snaps the shirts were regional. Then my father helped develop the market east of Mississippi beginning in the late ’50s. I joined the company in the ’80s taking the market internationally to most developed countries. So, western shirts are here to stay.
303: Who is your favorite celebrity that has worn your shirts?
SW: They are all my favorites. Honestly, who can choose between Elvis, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Paul McCartney? My favorites are the ones I have personally connected with — Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, Chris Issak, Ang Lee who directed Broke Back Mountain and put our shirts on Heath Ledger, Jake Gillengal and Anne Hathaway.
303: If you could style a shirt for anyone who would you style it for?
SW: My career with designing shirts began with my friends. I have always been motivated to design shirts my friends wear.
303: What is your favorite shirt so far
SW: We have been making shirts for 72 years. Styles come and go but what keeps my attention are the classics that remain relevant indefinitely. The prettiest shirt I have ever seen, by us or others, is an Art Deco Tulip embroidery design my father did in the ’50s. Someone sent me a photo of one when I was researching my book: Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion and I about fell out of the chair. We created a new colorway for the cover the book and reintroduced this design in commemoration of the book No. 6705. As for every day, I love our shadow plaids. The flannels are my favorite this time of year. In the summer I like nothing better than our #6940 solid white in Pima Cotton with Sawtooth Pockets and Diamond Snaps, the longest running production shirt in the USA. This is the shirt I can see myself wearing forever.
303: What is your best selling item?
SW: Our classic Sawtooth pocket & Diamond snap design which we make in 100s of fabrics and has been in production 72 years.
303: What do you hope to accomplish as being president for Rockmount Ranch Wear?
SW: My goal was, is and will always be to keep Rockmount fresh, innovative, edgy and fun. The world does not need another boring shirt.
303: What were some hard times/decisions as being president?
SW: Business is cyclical. It goes up, it goes down. Right now we are fortunate to have survived the disruption of the internet by remaining unique and not a widget. In the past, we survived cheap imports, the demise of the Urban Cowboy, a tornado that flattened our factory, countless challenges.
303: Being that this has been kept in your family from the very beginning till now. Do you plan to keep it that way?
SW: Yes, it would be nice to keep the continuum.
303: Do you plan on retiring soon?
SW: Retirement is not a word in my family’s lexicon. My grandfather worked until age 107. My father was asked on CBS Evening News “Would you like to retire?” His answer: “How can I retire if my father won’t?”.
303: Do you think your grandpa (Jack A. Weil) would be proud of everything you accomplished?
SW: Sure, he loved that we built a lasting business on the foundation he laid.
303: What is one of your favorite stories from working at Rockmount Ranch Wear?
SW: Eric Clapton inviting me to the Cream Reunion…My father meeting David Bowie and not knowing who he was…There are many.
Trends come and go, but it looks like snap shirts are definitely here to stay. New styles and new materials are always in the mix for Rockmount Ranch Wear, so you never know what they’re going to come up with next. After all, the company has been here for 72 years, and doesn’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon.
All photography by Meg O’Neill.