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Boast Tennis Brand Relaunches With E-Commerce

The Eighties label Boast, popular with the country-club set, is making a comeback this fall.

Boast, the Eighties tennis brand popular with the country-club set, is making a comeback this fall.

The label, best known for its polo shirts bearing a Japanese maple-leaf logo, was acquired by partners John Dowling and Alexander Tiger, who launched an e-commerce site last month at BoastUSA.com. The duo tapped Partners & Spade to help revitalize the brand and its imagery, as well as develop the Web site.

Boast was founded in 1973 by Bill St. John, a Cornell graduate who was the tennis pro at the Greenwich, Conn., Field Club at the time. He started the company to offer an American alternative to European tennis brands like Lacoste and Fred Perry. Boast had its heyday in the Reagan era, when it was sold in specialty stores and pro shops and was favored in preppy pockets of New England; Washington, D.C.; South Carolina, and Texas. (George W. Bush was known to wear the label.)

In the late Eighties, St. John withdrew the brand from retail distribution and refocused the business as a private label supplier to about 1,500 country-club shops, with its headquarters and warehouse operations in Palm Beach, Fla.

“I came across the brand as a kid at tennis camp,” recalled Dowling. “My mom put me in Lacoste and the older kids were wearing Boast, so of course I wanted to wear Boast also.”

Dowling, an editor of television commercials, and Tiger, an attorney, are friends from high school and lifelong fans of the brand. Realizing that Boast was no longer available at retail, the duo tracked St. John down and offered to revive the label. A group of about 15 small investors is helping to finance the effort.

St. John remains a minority partner in the business and will continue to oversee the private label category while Dowling and Tiger head up the branded-apparel push.

This first season, the classic pique logo polo is available in 11 solid colors, a pinstripe style in four colors and a tipped version in five colors. Each retails for $68 on the Web site, along with a limited-edition navy blazer, which carries a $1,200 price tag. Shorts will be available in the spring.

The partners are aiming to expand distribution to pro shops and specialty retailers in coming months.

Andy Spade, a cofounder of Partners & Spade, is working with the Boast team on its rebranding. A look book and the Web site imagery was shot with a group of Spade’s friends at his Napa Valley property and a nearby winery, using props like his vintage 1973 3 series BMW.

“I knew the brand growing up in Kansas City. The spirit of the brand is a bit Seventies off-kilter country club—William Hurt in ‘The Big Chill’,” explained Spade. “It’s for people who grab a gin and tonic after a game of mixed doubles. There’s an element of nostalgia to it.”