Adjusting to a new position and the speed of the game wasn’t the only challenge for Malcolm Jenkins when he entered the NFL as a rookie in 2009.
He had to keep pace with elite style, too.
“In the lockerroom, it’s like a fashion show,” he said. “All the guys are trying to outdo each other. You’ve gotta step your game up pretty quickly.”
The best way for the former OSU All-American to do so was to switch to the trending bowtie. Unable to find them in the color, selection, and style that he preferred, he elected to start designing his own line, Rock Avenue, named after his hometown street in New Jersey, and powered (at least in the beginning) by his mother-in-law’s sewing machine.
“That lasted about a week,” he laughed. “Then, I was looking for a manufacturer.”
His custom-designed bowties are based in New Orleans, and are currently available locally through Mizzen+Main’s unique showroom in the Short North.
Jenkins, who inked a deal to move from the Saints to the Philadelphia Eagles just last month, had no idea that when he got into the bowtie business he would also be getting into the teaching-people-how-to-tie-a-bowtie business. It’s as much his mission to get people comfortable wearing them as it is to get them to buy them.
“More people wear more neckties than bowties,” he said. “It’s not the style, or the look, they just don’t know how to tie it. That’s the only reason. Once you learn how tie it, you’ll be replacing your whole closet.”
Jenkins, in preparation for Rock Avenue’s trunk show in town this month, talked to(614) about everything from ditching the over-sized white T’s to looking to a Motown star for inspiration.
Have you sent any items to OSU’s other famous bowtie advocate, E. Gordon Gee?
They’ll be getting to him very shortly. We’re trying to get him to come to our event this month.
Worst piece you used to be proud of?
Oh man, in my rookie year, I got a few jackets that were out there…
Like Steve Harvey out there?
(laughs) Yeah. I’ve got all of them in my closet. Every now and then I try one of them on, and they’re just so big and long and boxy. You can take my whole 2009 rack. I would not wear them now.
What about when you were a kid?
Back in New Jersey, in high school, all people wore where 4 – 5XL white t-shirts and big, baggy jeans. Oh my goodness (laughs). I remember, specifically, I would not wear a pair of jeans that were smaller than a size 38. Ideal was 40, but every now and then I would let a 38 go (laughs).
Man, that’s my size. A 15-year-old Jersey kid wearing Midwest Ohio sizes. That’s tragic. Is the price-point of bowties an appealing part of Rock Avenue? Not everyone can afford a custom suit, but a bowtie seems to include a wider economic demographic.
I could justify charging a lot more [for them]. They are high-quality, American-made. But I got into this business not to make a killing; I just wanted some cool bowties in my own closet, so I figured other people had the same problem. These can go to a wide range of stores and a wide range of people. It’s right where I want it to be. I don’t want to raise it up or bring it down.
I know it’s cliché for an athlete to create “something to fall back on,” but with injuries and early retirements becoming more common, is this something you think of that way?
Most of us have been playing this game since elementary school, and it’s something we’re passionate about. So it’s about trying to find something else that you have that same passion for. Most of us can’t fathom coming out of this game and getting a desk job. I’m excited that I’ve found something else I can hang my hat on once football is over, because one day it will be over.
Who are your fashion icons?
My disclaimer: I am not a fashion guy. I’m not a guru. I just wear what I like to wear. But I love Andre 3000’s style. You know what I was inspired by…I made a velvet bowtie after I saw him wear one…Stevie Wonder. How he’s been fly his whole life being blind, I don’t know. His style is awesome.
Jenkins will debut Rock Avenue’s spring collection from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. on April 4 at Mizzen+Main (772 N High St.). For more, visit www.rockavenuebowties.com.
Shot on location:
The Ohio Union
1739 N High St.