Jewish World Review
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (KRT) CLEARWATER, Fla. Todd Goldman has made a fortune off the notion that boys are smelly.
Although his office is a mess, with stuff spilling off gray plastic shelves, clothes wadded on the floor, tack holes in the walls, and suspicious, dog-induced stains on the beige carpet, Goldman himself doesn't appear to have an odor problem.
But he admits that, like many guys, he isn't exactly fastidious.
"I mean, I wear the same ratty old T-shirt I've worn for 10 years," says the 35-year-old Clearwater, Fla., man. In his Lacoste polo shirt, worn Adidas running shoes and three-day stubble, Goldman resembles one of those handsomely disheveled models in Abercrombie & Fitch ads more than he does a millionaire entrepreneur.
"I don't care," he says of his look. "I don't think guys really care. Guys don't shop like girls shop."
And he must thank heaven for that because shopping girls have propelled Goldman and his Clearwater, Fla.-based David & Goliath apparel company into sales and licensing fees that Goldman says this year will top $90 million.
Four years ago he was a young man with some "wacky ideas" and a T-shirt press. Now he's a marketing phenomenon. "It's just cashing checks, is what we're doing," Goldman says.
"I'm just kidding," he adds. "It's just so much more than money ... When I die, I want to leave behind my work for people to have fun with. That's my whole thing, just to make people laugh."
The "Boys Are Smelly" line has generated the most sales - and controversy. This one has a stick-figure boy (named Todd, by the way, although this is not apparent) who is perpetually in peril above such slogans as "Boys are Goobers, Drop Anvils on Their Heads," and "Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them."
The "Boys Are Stupid" shirts drew the ire of a California talk-show host who recently persuaded some retailers to stop selling them.
How does it feel for a single, middle-aged male to be a standard bearer for grrrl power?
"I feel," Goldman says, "all warm and fuzzy inside."
Clearwater is the home of David & Goliath Inc. Or as Goldman likes to call it, the Stupid Factory.
Nestled in a modest brick professional park surrounded by oak trees and pink azaleas, the headquarters has grown like an overfed toddler, busting down walls and windows to overtake three suites.
Down the street sits a warehouse with at least 30,000 square feet. Inside, metal shelves are stacked with multicolor piles of pajama bottoms, T-shirts, trucker hats, wristbands, mousepads, underwear, watches, robes, notebooks and postcards.
"You should see our facility in L.A.," says Goldman. "That's where all the big orders go."
The company has about 40 employees in Florida involved in everything from designing and maintaining the Web site (Davidandgoliathtees.com) to sales and shipping. Another 100 sales reps sell the products around the world.
"In the beginning I would do every job here - take orders, do the pressing (of T-shirts), everything," Goldman says. "I'd sit by the fax machine and say, `Please be a big order, please be a big order.' "
Getting Goldman to explain precisely how he was able to accomplish this transformation is not easy. He is a man who talks in big ideas, not little steps.
"It's not like there's a formula. It's not like I had this diabolical plan as a kid. All this is timing, luck, and I'm good at what I do."
A native of Clearwater, Goldman was always artistic, but went the practical route and studied accounting at the University of Florida.
Goldman "always marched to his own drummer," says Cory Robins, 35, a Hollywood, Fla., attorney and former college roommate and Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother. "I remember one day I walked in and realized we had no floor to our dorm room because Todd had picked it up with a plunger."
After graduating from the University of Florida in 1992 with a master's degree in accounting, Goldman moved to California and worked several years in the clothing business. A divorce and family legal problems led him back home in late 1999, where he began doodling in earnest his T-shirt ideas.
"I remember my husband and I and Todd went to the movies to see Gladiator, and he had this briefcase in the back of his SUV filled with basically the stuff you see on the shirts today," says childhood friend Michelle Hickey, 34, a Clearwater schoolteacher. "He must have had 200 doodles. I was going through them page by page and thinking how funny they were."
Goldman started the business with a loan from his family, producing a retail catalog of 27 pages of T-shirts.
Looking back, the product that catapulted the business was the Ex-Boyfriend Shirt - a picture of a smiling couple with the man's face scribbled out. It still sells well today.
"Yeah, I'd have to say that put us on the map," Goldman says. "And then `Boys Are Smelly.' And then `Boys Have Cooties.' "
The latest catalog is 164 pages, and David & Goliath products are now sold in 3,500 department, chain and specialty stores in 18 countries. The company has three stores in Hawaii, two in London, and plans to open a dozen more worldwide by the end of the year.
Books, calendars and greeting cards bearing Goldman's designs are now out, and his agent, King Features, is in negotiations for a syndicated comic strip called "The Stupid Factory," as well as a TV show and animated movie.
"The ongoing male/female feud - I think the clothes just tap into that," says 19-year-old customer Elise Mucha of Orlando, Fla., who says she owns "pretty much everything" in the David & Goliath collections. "Everybody asks me where I got it. All my guys friends kind of laugh at it. They get the joke."
But not everyone does, and at the top of that list is California columnist and talk-show host Glenn Sacks.
Sacks campaigned to ban the "Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them" shirts after he says his 11-year-old son saw one and asked, "Dad, why are they always saying stuff like that about boys?"
His efforts resulted in several retailers announcing they would pull the product from shelves.
"I think it's damaging to our young men," Sacks says, "and serves to poison the relationship between young men and young women. How are we going to teach them to respect young women when girls are flagrantly disrespecting young men?"
"Oh, please," Goldman says of the criticism. "Gimme a break. ... Don't even tell me a cartoon T-shirt is hurting someone."
"What this is doing is getting us mass exposure," Goldman says. "So everyone in the industry knows who we are now."
Which leaves Goldman even busier. This day he is working on some more greeting cards and preparing to leave for New York to be photographed for a story in Brandweek magazine.
He pulls a piece of cardboard from the rubble that is his desk. It's the prototype for a new men's line called Homeless. A white, men's T-shirt will be sold in a box with the slogan "When all you've got is the shirt on your back."
He plans to put pictures of homeless men on it "and donate 10 percent back to homeless shelters, so I don't get" chewed out.
"I mean, come on," Goldman says with a grin. "How much controversy am I gonna get out of this?"
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.