Well, we’re doin’ mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin’ cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought to be a man in black.
Johnny Cash, the original “Man in Black,” sang these words on his track of the same name in 1971. It was a battle cry for the renegades spurning convention, the degenerates of the established society, the rebel culture.
Similarly, Tomahawk International, the lifestyle and clothing brand conceptualized in 2006 by snow sports industry veteran Jimbo Morgan, lives by the insurgent mantra, “Bleed Black.”
In keeping with that underground flavor, Tomahawk entered the industry rather quietly. Following a prominent career as a professional skier, snowboarder and snow sports marketer for Electric and Skullcandy, Morgan decided to launch his own brand.
In 2007, Morgan enlisted a young Parker White, who was just beginning his rise up the freeskiing ranks, to join the Tomahawk tribe. Soon after, people began to discover Tomahawk through online forums and message boards and started inquiring as to where its products could be purchased.
While murmurs of the brand were becoming increasingly louder on the World Wide Web, Morgan made White a part owner and tasked him with assembling a team of skiers that would accurately represent the brand. As it turned out, P-White was the ideal person to join forces with (no surprise, given Morgan’s knack for spotting talent). A self- proclaimed “Slat Rat,” White was and still is young, wild and free spirited, with undeniable talent on a pair of skis that’s matched by his unbridled passion for his sport and knowledge of the industry.
According to White, the vote of confidence given to him by Morgan was integral to ensuring his commitment to the brand. “Being a partner in the company and in it for the long haul with these people I’m close to allows me to [put myself out there] and reinvest myself back into the sport,” explains White. “I know that no matter what, the brand and all of the people involved will always have my back.”
White took the ball and ran with it. From a team standpoint, he assembled a crew that’s unlike any other in the sport. Tomahawk’s stable of skiers can’t be defined by normal skiing categorization. They aren’t solely comp skiers. They’re not big-mountain specialists.
They’re not just film athletes. They’re not singularly street skiers. They are a group of unique individuals that came together to invest in and help build a brand they can stand behind.
“We are all down for the cause. None of the riders are making money through Tomahawk right now, but we are all willing to go out and bleed black,” says White. “We’re just building this team and carrying the flag on our backs—we’re bleeding for it. It’s all about supporting the homies.”
Today, the Tribe includes characters from all walks of life. There’s Ian Compton, a former member of the Line Traveling Circus who lives off the land in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom. His web series, The Weak, is among the most popular within the online skiing community, garnering a cult following up and down the eastern seaboard.
There’s the chain-smoking, leather- jacket-wearing, foul-mouthed Max Hill, also with a cult following, who stars in this year’s surreal, narrative ski film The Recruitment. And Lucas Stål-Madison also bleeds black. His 2012 Level 1 Superunknown edit initially earned an honorable mention, but upon further review from participating athletes, ended up taking home top prize—a tremendous honor. In addition, there are names like John Ware, Jon Hartman and Jeff Curry rounding out the team.
The trait that ties them together is pride in their sport and their own unique way of looking at and participating in it. “It’s important to me for Tomahawk to have an edge, and everyone we’ve brought on fits that vibe. We don’t have the stereotypical [comp jocks], and I don’t really see any other brand that’s doing that right now,” White declares.
White’s perspective reflects the brand’s insurgent attitude. In turn, Tomahawk’s quality products mirror the attitude of its team. Technical outerwear ranges from the tribal inspired prints of the P-White kit to the toweringly tall fit of the Totem Pole combo. Both kits sport 10K/10K waterproof/breathability ratings, vertical-venting systems, fully taped seams as well as a plethora of pockets in which to stash the goods. Lifestyle pieces include a hockey jersey—popular amongst the entire squad—and a unique coach’s jacket. Colorways stick to subtle earth tones and dark styles across the board.
The strategy, according to Morgan, is “moving back to what works—not a lot of bells, whistles or stupid colors, just good product, good pricing and a hope that people are buying into what we’re selling.”
Tomahawk’s design process is entirely athlete inspired. Riders send in ideas for color schemes and different apparel styles, then Morgan and White narrow down the collection to a select few designs that they believe will appeal to a large audience.
From the beginning, Tomahawk’s mission with its product line has been to provide its extended tribe of consumers with the best bang for their buck. After dabbling with various retailers and making product available via backcountry.com in 2013, Tomahawk has made the switch to selling directly to consumers via its website in order to provide the best value. “If I can go direct to the consumer, keep dealing with my manufacturer and keep production costs as low as possible, my only objective is to return that cost savings back to the customer,” explains Morgan.
In the eyes of the Morgan-White duo, the goal of Tomahawk has and always will be giving like-minded individuals, from the brand’s athletes to its loyal followers, something to stand behind and believe in.
“If you have passion, a flag to wave and want to lead a team down the field, that team has got to believe in something,” says Morgan. “I want people to know that when we say, ‘bleed black,’ we’re just saying, ‘Be you, be honest and don’t try to be something that you’re not.’ We want our customers to be 110 percent of this brand. That’s the way we live and survive, with these people passing on this message and wearing our product.”
Tomahawk is still young and surviving on a day-to-day basis, but the commitment of the people behind the brand and its loyal following will certainly keep it as a beacon of light for those in the underground, bleeding black for the rebels, the wanderers, the Tribe.