Cross posted from the new …On Being a Sports Girl
Ryan Gentry is a devoted Boston sports fan, despite relocating several years ago to Southern California. The co-founder of up-and-coming sports fan wear company CPR Gear, Gentry saw a need for fan wear that was hip and spoke to the intense nature of New England sports fans. He founded CPR Gear – “The Heartbeat of New England” – in 2008, and his line has attracted all sorts of attention from several teams and many fans. CPR Gear may stand for “Celtics, Patriots, Red Sox,” but Gentry is quick to point out that the Bruins and all other teams are included as well – his line represents more of the devotion and dedication of New England fans as a whole, rather than individual teams.
I had a great phone conversation with Gentry a few weeks back, and he agreed to be one of my first “Five questions with…” subjects. Here’s the interview!
Kat: Why did you found CPR Gear?
Ryan: I always wanted to have something to do with sports in New England. I’ve been a personal trainer for fourteen years, but haven’t had the chance to work with any of the professional sports teams. A friend and I had been toying with the idea (for the line) for a few months, and my son’s birth was the impetus for the creation of the company.
I wanted to pass onto him that being a New England sports fan is more than loving a team – it’s like a religion or family. Players always change, but the one thing that always stays the same are the fans. They are always there. Being a Boston sports fan is a real uniting factor – I have been in Machu Picchu and have met people with Red Sox gear on, and have been able to spark a conversation with them because they were wearing their Sox gear. I have been in a bar in the Caribbean and made a connection with the owner because he too was a Boston sports fan from my hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. You can make a lot of connections with complete strangers because of the devotion of Boston sports fans all over.
I started to type a creed of what it means to be a Boston sports fan taking all of that into account, and that is what appears on the inside tag of all of our shirts. The acronym “CPR” is just the acronym – there’s no slight intended to anyone, because at the end of the day, it’s about all New England sports, including Olympic and college athletes.
Kat: Like you, I am a fan of my hometown teams away from home. Living in California, how do you stay connected? Do you take pride in keeping up your devotion living so far away?
Ryan: I absolutely have more pride (living away from New England.) I can’t stand not being at home when big events go on in Boston sports. I rarely get to see any of the Boston sports teams live – I will go down to Anaheim to see the Sox, LA to see the Celtics, and sometimes I get to see the Patriots. I rarely get to see the Bruins here in California. When one of my hometown teams are playing here in California and I get to see them, it feels like one of those nice early spring days – you get all excited.
When New England teams are playing outside of California, I’ll go down to Sonny McLean’s to connect, which is a big sports bar for all Boston fans. At one point, I definitely went there once a week for four years.
Kat: You talk about a “go to” shirt on your web site – your favorite shirt, the one you must wear to watch any of your favorite teams. What is your “go to” shirt now? What was it growing up?
Ryan: Right now, it is a Patriots Vince Wilfolk jersey. You do not see a lot of Wilfork jerseys in New England, let alone in California. I really like him as a player. I also have a green Red Sox jersey that I wore during every important game in 2004. Growing up, I had a green Celtics shirt with all the 1980s players and numbers on it that I wore all the time. And then, I had these solid white Celtics warm up pants – 1980s style. They probably would be considered atrocious now!
Kat: CPR Gear has some awesome women’s fan wear, both in traditional team colors and in pink. What has been the response? With all the criticism around the “pink hat” fans, why did you choose to design some pink shirts?
Ryan: Fan wear for women needs to be less cheesy. For the longest time, women were regulated to too oversized crusty jerseys that just didn’t fit their shape and were not flattering. CPR Gear is making shirts that are more refined and stylish, and that fit people, particularly women, well.
As for the pink question, before we designed the line, we polled women in Boston about what they were looking for in this line. Many voted for pink, so we included pink shirts in our line. But we have traditional team colored items for women as well.
The entire line is higher quality than normal fan gear. The t-shirt fabric of is a very high quality, very vintage and soft. The design isn’t loud. You can wear the shirts to dinner before or after the game without looking out of place. We are looking to make more of a lifestyle brand – fan wear that could go anywhere. I think women will appreciate that.
Kat: Where will you be taking the company in 2009?
Ryan: We will continue to sell CPR Gear online. I like the online aspect – it is like you got a shirt custom made just for you. You know you can’t just get these shirts anywhere. We may expand into boutique stores, because of the lifestyle nature of the brand. This will help reach out to local Boston die-hard fans. I recently had a chance encounter with Jonathan Kraft (son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft) and gave him some shirts, and hopefully something may come of that. I hope to keep getting the word out and spreading the fan base, and uniting the Boston sports community.
Thanks, Ryan, for the fun interview! I definitely enjoyed our phone conversation. CPR Gear has graciously provided me with three of their shirts from their women’s line to give away to my readers. I’ll give them away to those of you with the best comments surrounding the following question – What is/was your go-to sports fan wear item? You must comment on this post at www.sportsgirlkat.com in order to be eligible. Comment before Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at noon Eastern time to have your answer considered to win!