As of Thursday, September 7, 2017
The competition is just beginning.
Professional leagues for computer games, called esports, are gaining momentum, and owners of major league sports teams are investing in them.
Sean Gailey and Tim Norris, cofounders of the San Diego–area J!nx clothing label, plan on being the first company to clothe esports athletes and lifestyle gamers. The 18-year-old company currently makes clothes for the gaming obsessive and makes licensed T-shirts, hoodies and caps for some of the most popular computer game titles. Gailey is banking on this subculture getting bigger and bigger.
“The speed of esports is moving quickly. The movement may not take in retail right now, but it may by 9 p.m. tonight,” Gailey said. “We can give meaningful offerings of the esports world to bricks-and-mortar retail.”
The nascent category passed some milestones recently. In July it was announced that Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, invested in the Boston team for the Overwatch League, a professional league that competes in the Blizzard Entertainment game Overwatch
Jeff Wilpon, chief operating officer of the New York Mets, ponied up money for a New York City team in the Overwatch league. Last year, Steve Aoki, a DJ and owner of the Dim Mak clothing line, invested in the Los Angeles esports team Rogue. Former Los Angeles Lakers star Rick Fox bought Los Angeles esports team Echo Fox in December 2015.
More proof that esports is becoming big business was announced in August. Nielsen Holdings, known best for TV ratings, introduced Nielsen Esports, a group that will measure ratings and the competitive market for esports.
According to Gaily, J!nx is the first brand to make a lifestyle collection for gamers. Interest has been developing with other groups. A brand named DRKN was introduced in August at the Capsule trade show in Las Vegas. DRKN was described as a streetwear brand inspired by gaming and digital culture, according to a brand statement.
On Aug. 17, J!nx delivered its fall line of lifestyle clothes to Hot Topic stores across the United States. Looks include T-shirts bearing the brand logo—a skull wearing glasses. There’s also a bomber jacket with the brand logo. Before August, Hot Topic carried J!nx’s licensed products, including shirts, caps and accessories for popular game titles such as “Minecraft” and “Overwatch.”
J!nx’s lifestyle categories feature looks for men and women. Women’s looks include leggings with a pixilated camo design and a red-sleeved bomber jacket as well as colorful T-shirts, some with special burn-out treatments.
Men’s looks include jogger pants and a zip-up hoodie with a pixilated camouflage hood liner. Men’s T-shirts include game-inspired art and styles that take cues from computer graphics of the past 20 years.
The label also recently introduced J!nx Pro. It’s a line in jinx-seangaileyheadshot_print_bw tended for the competitor. Styles include soccer jersey–style tops. Like the tops made for soccer stars, J!nx Pro jerseys are constructed from breathable fabric that can wick away sweat.
Just as Quiksilver and Billabong were made for people who love surfing and surf culture, Gailey said that J!nx was made for people fully immersed in the gaming lifestyle and may need a hot of geek pride.
“When I was growing up as a gamer, you were always made to feel ashamed and ostracized. There’s still a stigma attached to video games,” Gailey said. “My goal is to give gamers a flag to rally behind. Our brand stands for being proud of what you love.”
Before starting J!nx, Gailey made his own designs on blank T-shirts. He reported that people frequently wanted to buy the shirts off his back. After he and Norris started an Ohio-based website development company, they moved to San Diego and started J!nx in 1999, which they ran out of a bedroom in an apartment in San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood.
In 2003, they closed the Web-hosting company to focus on J!nx. Currently, J!nx runs a 65,000-square-foot compound in Poway, Calif., about 21 miles north of San Diego. In the past three years, the company hired more than 35 people, including Candace Brenner as vice president of marketing and Doug Treese as vice president of sales. Treese is an alum of Skullcandy and Hurley.
J!nx is looking for more growth. It recently started a round of investment to finance more staff, handle more inventory and finance more marketing initiatives.
Photos courtesy of J!nx.