Learning to Live in the Moment With California Cowboy

Photo courtesy of California Cowboy

“If you ask someone what the best day they’ve ever had was, it’s not going to be about them staring at their phone screen,” says Drew Clark, Marin resident, CEO and founder of California Cowboy. At first glance, this is a stylish apparel company rooted in the spirit of the Golden State, but look a little deeper, and you’ll see that the brand is selling a way of life as much as it is clothing.

First launched as a crowdfunded company in 2016, California Cowboy has since grown exponentially despite seeing its share of setbacks. From losing the inventory when a fire took down California Cowboy’s San Francisco brick-and-mortar spot to eventually shutting down that location and moving business to online and wholesale — Clark and the brand are clearly made of strong stuff. It also helps that as a California native, he understands what locals like to wear, especially when they’re athletic, extroverted types like he is.

“I grew up surfing and skiing and I always loved the camaraderie of getting together after the fact,” he says. “It’s a golden moment after the experience, when you get together and have a beer or coffee and actually talk to people in real life.”

This particular ritual is known colloquially as “après,” which translates to “after” in French. And when Clark was working in the apparel industry, he saw an empty space for apparel designed specifically for the hours spent socializing after sports. He created California Cowboy with that experience in mind. And it wasn’t only his love for those shared moments that helped spark the idea of centering a brand around togetherness; becoming very ill when he was 17 also made him appreciate human connection.

“I learned at a young age how important it was to be around other people when I had to spend a lot of time by myself because I had a suppressed immune system,” says Clark, who ultimately missed most of his senior year of high school. “When you realize how much time we spend looking at screens as a society right now, it made me want to create something that brings people together in real life.”

California Cowboy’s stock of après-appropriate clothing consists of shirts, joggers, hoodies and robes for both men and women (some of the items are unisex). The men’s and women’s lined High Water shirts (there’s an unlined version for men, too) are a reinvention of a classic surf shirt, a nod to 1950s-era cabana suits but designed for modern wear. The distinctive designs are enough to set them apart, but they’re also uniquely practical.

The lining consists of a water-absorbent fabric made from proprietary Better Cotton Initiative cotton-modal terry cloth, and the shirts are equipped with a beverage pocket, a bottle opener pocket and a loop to hold a pair of sunglasses. “We call it social technical apparel,” Clark says. “It’s like leisure wear with a lot of functionality.”

The shirts also come with a bottle opener, conversation cards and a koozie for your drink, but the zippered “Dry Pockets” are one of the most important features. They’re designed to store your technology safely and out of sight: you can stash your phone away, keeping it within convenient reach — which allows you to focus on the moment you’re in and the people you’re with.

Between the accessories and the eye-catching prints, all the clothes are conceived to help people thread the needle between fun and luxury. This is especially true of the robes, which are among the best-selling pieces. They’re a popular pick for bridal or bachelorette party gifts, partly because they’re statement pieces, but also because they have a pocket big enough for a bottle of wine or champagne (the men’s robes have a beer pocket). And of course, the robes also feature the Dry Pockets.

Apart from apparel, California Cowboy sells accessories like hats and a special Out of Pocket pouch, the latter a key component for helping people achieve what Clark refers to as “digital wellness.” Designed to fit inside the Dry Pockets, the Velcro-sealed pouches are made of technical ripstop, signal-blocking fabric that blocks Wi-Fi, cell signals and GPS tracking.

To further the spirit of fun, the pouches also come with three removable patches for customization. And speaking of spirit — the very name of the brand itself is a huge part of its ethos, a nod to the state’s trailblazing pioneers both new and old. From the intrepid settlers of the Gold Rush days to innovative filmmakers to the tech pioneers who populate the state now — these clothes are for a new kind of cowboy: the kind who holsters the technology and gets back to living in the moment.

group of people carrying a cooler on a hike
Photo courtesy of California Cowboy