In the range of sportswear for men, brands such as Lacoste and Polo Ralph Lauren have reigned supreme. But a new company that will give the others a run for their money, Southern Tide, formally entered the retail market in January of 2006.
Southern Tide, created by Allen Stephenson, is a brand of polo shirts and ties that combine the quality and finesse of European tailoring with Southern ideals and symbols. Stephenson, a former USC student, was inspired to start the company after studying abroad in Italy. Although he appreciated Italian style, he longed for the laid-back Southern look that he was so used to. Stephenson brainstormed a way to meld the two qualities together.
The ball really started rolling when Stephenson was in a speech class giving a presentation on his Southern Tide idea. The presentation was a success, but the teacher had one question for Stephenson. Why was he sitting here in class talking about a legitimate business venture when he could be out there making things happen? Stephenson took this as a cue to go after his goals, and in lieu of finishing his semester he started doing the market research necessary to effectively lanuch Southern Tide. "Southern Tide is different in that I have the utmost commitment to the customer. I stress quality, comfort, and the theme is unique," Stephenson said.
Southern Tide’s logo is a blue and white Skipjack fish. Southerners are more likely to identify with the Skipjack than the iconic horse or crocodile. When he talks quality he means it. Stephenson did his research and used other polo shirt brands to compare and contrast their advantages and disadvantages. None of the shirts that he owned met his standards, and he used the information that he gathered to create his perfect polo. Stephenson hopes to target men who "appreciate quality and comfort" and an easy–going lifestyle. He also wants potential customers to know Southern Tide is not the traditional sportswear company. He has no office, no employees, and almost no overhead.
Stephenson has high hopes for the future of his company. He plans on expanding the mens line to include pants, belts, blazers, and shorts. He also plans to launch a women's line. Brittons, a shop in Devine Street, is the only store in Columbia that sells Southern Tide. "We specialize in game day attire, suits, and casual wear. Southern Tide is local, from Greenville, and seemed like the perfect additon to Brittons," said Perry Lancaster, a manager at Brittons. Lancaster also mentioned the Skipjack shirts are selling well. They retail for $65 and Brittons carries them in eight colors. The store also expects to sell the Southern Tide tie and pants collection soon.