Rooted in Western principles, fourth generation-run Rockmount is a classic American outfit.
Written by Jenn Thornton
Like many Westerners before him, Jack A. Weil, affectionately known as “Papa Jack,” was cut from a different cloth. A man of singular vision with a talent for invention, he founded Rockmount Ranch Wear Manufacturing Company in 1946 and served as its CEO until the tender age of 107. He had absolutely no quit. Neither, it seems, does the enterprise he created from foundational knowledge he gleaned as a teenager while working in an overall factory during the First World War. He brought that know-how to Colorado, where he went to start a family and built a now iconic born-in-the-West business.
Headquartered in a historic 1909 flagship in Lower Downtown Denver, the house that Papa Jack built is in good hands, and familiar company. Today his grandson, Steve Weil, is president of Rockmount and its creative engine, driving design for the company, which he joined in 1981 and expanded internationally. “If you love what you do, it’s a passion,” says Steve, who, in addition to his CV as testament, produced another in his book Western Shirts: A Classic American Fashion. “In my case, I had great admiration for my grandfather and father”—“Jack B.,” another Rockmount original, retired at 79—“both as entrepreneurs and creative business people. We think of what we do as an art form and creating something has profound satisfaction. Why stop?”
Why even pose the question, really—the longevity of Rockmount says it all. The brand’s apparel, hats and accessories represent what it calls the “American Western Way of Life,” which is to say genuine and individual. “People seek authenticity,” Steve says. “That defines Rockmount. We don’t just make shirts, we create a feeling steeped in romance, and who does not love the West? It’s more than a place. It offers people a hope to live life on their own terms.” That the West gives no quarter for phonies, never has, Rockmount rolls on—impressively, with a presence at 1,000 retailers worldwide. Papa Jack set the pace early on, having famously said the West is a state of mind. “Everything we do today is steeped in his inspiration,” Steve says. “He created our bedrock design, the ‘Sawtooth’ pockets and ‘Diamond’ snaps, which today is the longest running shirt made in America.”
Rockmount continues to make the rounds. One finds it in museum collections at the Smithsonian and the Autry; and in numerous movies like “The “Misfits” with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe and “The Horse Whisperer” starring Rockmount customer Robert Redford. Why so resonant? Steve says: “Look at the amazing range of who wears Rockmount—the guy on the street, skateboarders, rodeo cowboys, bus drivers, and rock stars.” (Guys like Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie.) Add to this former president (and John Wayne pal) Ronald Reagan to this round-up “At Rockmount, we have stuck to our roots and think every waking moment about classic fashion that stands the test of time. This is not a costume or a trendy look that blows away with every change of the wind. We stand for Americana.”
Photos courtesy of Rockmount