Menswear designer scott barber killed in tragic car crash

by Karen Alberg Grossman
Scott Barber

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.

23 Replies to “MENSWEAR DESIGNER SCOTT BARBER KILLED IN TRAGIC CAR CRASH”

  1. Nicely written… we will miss him so much.. many of us thought of him as one of our best friends, as both Jim and I did.

    1. He was such a genuine guy—truly interested in getting to know people and so passionate about his work. Hope you and Jim are well Connie.

    2. Scott was one of a kind. A man of integrity and passion for quality. We will miss him greatly. Our prayers go out to Tonya, Amanda and Charlie. God’s speed, Scott.
      Rush And Jay Wilson
      Rush Wilson Limited
      Greenville, SC

      1. Scott was an amazing guy with a great smile , twice a year we always visited him in market , regardless if you bought or passed he always made you feel welcomed.
        God love ya sir
        Bob Rosenblum

  2. That was a solid tribute to a great guy. One of my favorite people on the planet. He has passed his large collection of jokes to Charlie and Amanda. My condolences to Tonya. RIP Scott, you’ll be missed.

    1. What can you say that that would sum up this tragic loss? Scott was a very good guy, with great taste, who was nice to everyone, and made beautiful products at fair prices. His retail relationships were incredibly strong as he was trusted to always do the right thing for his customers. We are so sad for his family. He will be sorely missed by his menswear family as well.

  3. Thoughts and prayers for Tanya, Charlie and Amanda as well as his great team at Scott Barber. We’re all just so saddened by the news of his accident and passing. Scott was a favorite of our stores and customers. People loved meeting the actual “Scott Barber” and he always seemed mystified by it. He was a true partner to specialty stores and was always there if you needed him. I enjoyed his dry humor and sardonic wit which would surface in any conversation. He would light up when talking about his family and he was so proud of Charlie and Amanda. He’ll be missed a great deal.

    1. I first met Scott many years ago at a Patrick James managers meeting in Fresno. We had just begun carrying his line. I really liked it & it was being well received by everyone. I also had a question I could barely wait to ask him. At some point during the meeting I raised my hand & asked “Scott, why don’t your shirts have buttons & button holes on their sleeve plackets? Virtually all other shirts have them.” I think the question surprised most everyone there as Scott answered “Well, good question. I don’t think they serve any real purpose & most guys don’t like them”. Later during a break, Scott & I got acquainted & at the end he told me I should do what he did & conduct a little survey of customers, friends & guys on the street about their feelings on sleeve buttons. After a quick survey I had to report to Scott that I was definitely in the minority liking sleeve buttons. Ever since then, whenever I put on one of the many Scott Barber shirts I have hanging in my closet, I thought of Scott & smiled. Now that simple act carries even more meaning for me.
      Rest in peace, Scott.

  4. How sad !!!!
    Was a great guy !!! Most wonderful personality . We had a very nice work relationship from back in the day . He will be missed .

  5. Hi Tom, I love what Ted Silver said about him but I didn’t fit it in: “He heard everyone but listened to only a few.” Please stay well!

    1. Very well done indeed, Karen. Scott was a great friend and confidant. I loved he and Tonya and know he loved me. Like Gary, so glad to I finally was able to meet Charlie and Amanda in Chicago. So hard to accept he is not with us. God bless thus wonderful family

  6. I met Scott in the early 90’s. We became instant Friends. We had similar backgrounds of growing up in a small town; he in Iowa, I grew up in Kansas. When he came to visit me in St.Louis he would spend the night with my wife and I. He would say “Mo you get the steaks I’ll get the wine and we’ll grill at your house”. He was more comfortable at our homes than an upscale restaurant. RIP my Dear Friend! I know you will look over your beautiful Family. Mo Erwin.

  7. Hi Pat, I love your comments about Scott, especially that he always seemed mystified by the fact that people loved meeting him. I think it’s that genuine humility that was his essence, that total lack of arrogance. We have lost a very special guy!

    1. My heart goes out to Tonya and the family, all the business associates and friends, like myself, that Scott touched. He was a wonderful light in all of our lives and will be missed dearly. I am truly sad about our collective loss.

      RIP Scott, we all love you.
      Rob

  8. This is a hard one to accept. I have worked with Scott for a few years but more specifically I have been friends with Scott for a few years because to work with Scott is to be friends with him. It’s hard to go 30 seconds without a joke you would have never expected or a story you have heard 30 times that day…I don’t know if this comment is to help me grieve or to hopefully be encouraging for others who are deeply saddened by this tragedy but my heart and prayers are with those who are so immediately impacted by this. I wish I could hug y’all right now and I wish I could hear him tell another joke. So thankful to have met such a wonderful guy who took me under his wing and showed me what a man with passion coupled with love can do in a short lifetime. Love you, Scott. Thanks for everything.

  9. I am not sure I deserve the right to post my condolences for Scott , as I met him only a few months ago at a fair.
    I am sorry I do not have expanse memories of time spent together .
    In the short time I spent with him I immediately felt a connection . A fine , gentle yet deep person . We corresponded on business topics and
    yet business was never the only focus .
    The world has lost a Great Person , I will always keep with me memory of his humanity and humble yet confident approach to Life .

  10. it’s about 2 days,couldn’t accept the sadden news of Scott passing. Knew him more than 10 years, he is such a nice and good person
    very much caring the family and his team. He loved so much his creative.
    present my deeply condolence to Scott’s wife, his children and the Scott great team !
    Scott is always the cherish of our memory !
    Love !
    philip chun – Hong Kong

    1. Tonya – my heart breaks for your loss of your husband and friend. My memories of Scott always include you as I have always admired you and feel lucky to have known you both. My favorite memory is when we were allbin Paris for PC and we ran into each other and had dinner together. I pray for you and your family for your healing and ability to remember Scott as a man who touched ao many lives in a positive manner.

  11. Scott and I had showrooms across from each other at the Denver Merchandise Mart, he had Gant shirts and I was in the down outerwear business as we manufactured in Denver, Cheyenne, Scotts Bluff and Seattle. This was back in 1983-85. We kept up at MAGIC and other shows till I went into the shoe business in 1985 they we ran into each other at markets. Scott was a true gentleman with an exquisite taste level and i always enjoyed catching up with him. He will be quite missed from this beloved industry.

  12. So long Old Friend. Thank you for 32 years of memories! So many to reflect on. I did Scott’s photography for over 20 years. Whether you knew Scott 32 minutes or 32 years he made you feel like you were friends forever. The wittiest person I have ever met. So lucky to have been a friend for so long. All the years….Tears of laughter, tears of joy but now so many tears of sorrow and sadness. Can’t be. You will be missed forever. But, do know that your family is surrounded by love and friends! Goodbye Buddy!

  13. My thoughts and prayers go out to Tonya and the children. Scott and I go back to the late eighties and his brand was and is still a big part of Carter’s. I will miss Scott and I know my customer will him also. God speed, Mike

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