Hockey players typically are not built the same as the average man. 'Slim fit' shirts are basically a no-go and the frustration of finding dress shirts that actually fit properly spurned South Carolina Stingrays defenseman Lee Moffie and fellow University of Michigan alum Steve Fischer to do something about it.
That idea became State and Liberty Clothing Co. and with another former Wolverine in Montreal Canadiens prospect Mac Bennett on board, the company has quickly become a favorite throughout the hockey world.
Started last fall by Moffie and Fischer, the co-founders and co-CEOs of the company saw a need and decided to fill it.
"We were always infatuated with dress shirts," Moffie said. "Big companies don't really design with athletes in mind."
Cotton was the biggest barrier. Though the material is breathable, it doesn't have a lot of give, so custom alterations for the hockey player frame were almost always necessary. Moffie had already begun to wear clothing made of stretch fabric from the yoga-wear company Lululemon – and took boatloads of grief and ribbing from teammates because of it – so that's where State and Liberty looked for inspiration.
The result is a line of dress shirts made of Athletic Performance Fabric (APF), which stretches and provides cooling tech for the wearer.
What is most interesting about the fledgling company (which also includes former Boston College forward and current ECHLer Pat Mullane as VP of sales) is how quickly the hockey world picked up on it. NHLers such as Ryan Kesler, James van Riemsdyk and Cory Schneider have apparently bought from the company, while Moffie, who spent this past season with ECHL South Carolina, says guys have even quizzed him on the ice about shirts.
"It's amazing how fast word travels," he said. "It's been really gratifying to see the support."
Though neither Moffie or Bennett took business courses at Michigan – their majors were history and music, respectively – the whole process has opened their eyes up in terms of preparing for the future.
"We both want long careers in hockey," said Bennett, the VP of marketing. "But the reality is, we're one hit away from being done."
Bennett, who played for the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs this season, offers a metaphor for the precarious life of a pro player: Imagine training for years to become a doctor and then one day being told you can't be a doctor anymore. Players have a limited amount of years to make money on the ice and having a Plan B is important. Both Moffie and Bennett noted that on practice days, players are usually free by 1 p.m. What they do with the rest of the day could set them up for the future.
State and Liberty has been such a hit, in fact, that Moffie finds himself at a crossroads. Though he just completed his second year of pro hockey, the 24-year-old defenseman could also picture himself going full-time on the company (which is named after an intersection in the heart of Ann Arbor, where Michigan is located).
With a growing network of support in the hockey community, State and Liberty will be a name to watch for in the future.