A few years ago I discovered that Don Shelby, my favorite local news anchor back home in Minnesota, was famous for a tie knot. I called WCCO, the Twin Cities’ CBS affiliate, and set up an interview with Shelby. As a Minnesotan and a tie aficionado, it was a lot of fun.
The story was this: About 25 years ago, after a news broadcast, Shelby was accosted by a dapper 92-year-old man in the studio. Jerry Pratt, a retired Commerce Department employee, was irked that Shelby’s tie didn’t look right on the air (bad dimple) so he took it upon himself to teach him a proper knot. After Shelby’s longtime clothier Kingford Bavender printed up some instructions on the knot (which starts with the tie facing backwards) a few years later, it created a minor sensation in the press. The New York Times called it the first new tie knot in 50 years. It’s known as the Shelby-Pratt, sometimes the Shelby knot.
Last month I got a message about a new tie collection from a pair of twin brothers in Minnesota. It’s called The Shelby Knot, and it’s Danny and Kenny King’s first foray into the men’s clothing business.
Kenny King, a news anchor himself (then for a small regional station in Alexandria, Minn.), interviewed Shelby when he retired after more than 30 years on the air in 2010. During the interview, Shelby taught Kenny the famous Shelby knot. This got Kenny’s brother Danny thinking.
“I watched the interview and was intrigued by the details of Shelby knot story,” Danny told me. “It was called the first new tie knot in 50 years and 485 publications around the world, including the New York Times, picked up the story. I was surprised that the Shelbys didn’t capitalize on it more back then. So I put together a mock presentation for the Shelby Knot Collection and sent it to Kenny. I asked him to show Don—as long as it wouldn’t jeopardize their professional relationship. It turns out Don and his custom clothier, Kingford Bavender, had intended to make something of it back then.”
So when Shelby and Bavender saw Danny’s presentation, they were excited. Bavender, who has become a mentor to the King brothers, began teaching them the business and introduced them to some neckwear manufacturers.
“King took us to MRket in New York a couple years ago and told us, ‘you’ll either be completely overwhelmed but energized or completely overwhelmed and discouraged—that’s how you’ll know if you have what it takes to get into this business.’ And obviously, we were really energized by it all,” Danny recalled.
Their collection of neckwear has launched in two Twin Cities menswear stores: Heimie’s Haberdashery in St. Paul and Martinpatrick3 in Minneapolis (and online via Kingford Bavender’s business). There are 20 designs and each retailer has exclusives. The ties retail for $90.
The collection’s moderate width (3.25 inches) and traditional designs were carefully thought out. “Between the young professionals like me and my brother and older men like Don, we wanted the ties to appeal to a broad range,” Danny explained.
Shelby, who’s a shareholder in The Shelby Knot, is doing in-store appearances and showing customers how to tie his knot (as shown in the video below)
“It would have been easier and cheaper for us to just throw all of our ties online and gauge sales that way,” said Danny. “But we wanted to make something out of the experience of buying a tie. Another thing we wanted to be part of it was Don Shelby appearing at the stores for events, teaching men how to tie the Shelby Knot. It’s not just a tie, it’s a Minnesota souvenir.”
The King brothers want to expand the Shelby Knot collection. That means both more retail accounts and more collections. “We’d love to do another collection, and long-term, a higher-end Shelby Knot collection that would be made in Italy,” said Danny. “We’re also looking into doing a King Bros. ‘Y’ collection aimed at Generation Y: bolder designs that represent our own generation.”