MR magazine is saddened to report the untimely passing of Scott Barber. He was in a car crash in Fort Collins, Colorado on Saturday, April 25th and died of his injuries on Monday, April 27th. He was 64.
Barber was widely admired in the menswear industry for his design talent, entrepreneurial spirit, humility, upbeat disposition, and wicked sense of humor. He launched his shirt business in 1994 with little training (he had worked in a men’s store through college and fell in love with clothing), and built it into a very successful brand. “I didn’t study textile design; I just have an eye,” he told MR magazine in a 2007 interview. “Ted Williams could hit fastballs; I understand fit, proportion, and color.” In fact, Barber personally designed his shirt collection from the fabrics to the stitching to the buttons; it was known to compete well against status brands costing twice as much and was famous for fitting American body types.
Scott’s relationships with specialty store owners were as much about friendships as they were business partnerships. Says good friend Fred Derring from DLS Buying Office, “He was Peter Millar before Peter Millar, selling every better specialty store in the country. He was the sport shirt guy.” Ironically, Barber accomplished this without a passion for sales. Or as he told MR magazine in the aforementioned interview, “I’m a really bad seller; there’s no way around it. I never assume someone actually wants to buy something from me, so when I’m in stores, store owners often ask me to please not talk customers out of buying. Even in a personality test I once took, I scored in the third percentile in sales ability. And that was probably on a good day.”
Beyond the apparel business, Barber was passionate about riding motorcycles, Formula One racing, boats, planes, and vintage cars. “My dad was a military pilot and a car guy, so I can’t help myself…” he told MR. He also loved the outdoors, especially skiing at Steamboat. But more than all else, Barber was a family man who absolutely adored his wife Tonya, daughter Amanda and son Charlie. His most recent Facebook post just a few days ago featured Amanda modeling a mask made by her grandma out of Scott Barber shirting fabric.
Designer Gary Wasserman met Scott in 1985. “We worked a few years together at Southwick, but we were friends for 35 years. I loved Scott…for his courage, his humor; we shared so many interests and passions together over all that time. But to see Scott when he met Tonya and they started their family, their wonderful kids…that was the best! How he would light up talking about them; he was so happy and proud of them. I am so thankful to have recently seen them all together in Chicago. I will miss my friend, and our family will pray for his loving family. Our industry was a better and more unique place because of Scott Barber.”
Mike Tell was Barber’s sales rep in Texas for 11 years. “I’m devastated by the loss of my good friend and former boss. Scott built a great sportswear company that was carried by some of the best specialty stores in the country. The Scott Barber updated classic check shirt was a mainstay in every fine store in my region. But beyond the business, Scott was a great and fun guy to work for. I’ll always remember trying to work with customers at a busy NYC trade show and trying to get the presentation done in 60 minutes (as the next customer would be waiting to see the collection). But Scott would so often interrupt my presentation (and slow me down) to tell a joke or story because that was always more important to him than getting the order! He’ll be forever missed by everyone he touched. I especially send my condolences to his wife Tonya and their two children, who Scott always talked about with tremendous pride.”
Says Jim Couch, “I met Scott in the mid-90s when PBM made sportcoats for his brand. I came to work for him when I became an independent rep five years ago. He was such a terrific guy and I will miss him terribly.”
Michelle Brown, former MR associate publisher, knew Barber from many years of selling advertising. “I loved Scott: he was interesting and interested in others and totally genuine, never playing games with us. Our industry has lost a true mensch.”
Retailer Britt Fulmer knew Barber from Scott’s early days as a neckwear rep. “We became instant friends,” Fulmer recalls. “Scott wasn’t in the business to continue a family legacy: he was in it because he loved it! He had a vision: to make tasty, salable woven shirts to retail under $200. Even my most upscale customers who buy Canali suits love Scott Barber shirts. Scott knew what customers wanted because he actually listened to them. He related personally to our clients and they really loved him!”
Retailer Ted Silver describes Barber as “a gentleman’s gentleman who knew so much about so many things. In shirt design, his attention to detail was uncanny: he’d talk about the cape, the drop, the single-needle tailoring, the sleeve head, the tweaks he’d make to improve the forward pitch… He knew more than most custom shirt makers! His Black Label collection was the closest thing to an Italian hand-made shirt; he had the knack. But more than that, he was a class act and a great conversationalist on so many topics from design to food to obscure political issues. He was so unpretentious: when he visited Alexandria, he much preferred to eat out at The Big Chicken (fried chicken, artichokes, shrimp, home-made bread pudding) than at five-star restaurants. But what was most special about Scott was his wit and dry sense of humor: he made laughter light up a room.”
Information on a memorial service will be posted as we receive it. Rest in Peace Scott Barber: you will be missed more than you could know.