DRESS CODE

By: SEBASTIAN PHILLIPS

Two entrepreneurial sport pros give pickleball the lifestyle brand its legacy deserves.

 

Although 2023 was certainly the year that pickleball found its groove as the fastest-growing sport in America, this hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong dates back to a lazy summer day in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. On that quiet afternoon, politician and businessman Joel Pritchard returned home from a game of golf to find his family complaining of boredom. A DIY type, he quickly gathered some balls, paddles, and rackets strewn about the house’s badminton court, and some two hours later, a new group pastime was born.

As the story goes, Pritchard’s wife, Joan, was the one who gave the sport its name, and friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum helped Pritchard define its rules. In 1968, the game was made official when Pritchard and others formed Pickle Ball, Inc.. Since then, its popularity has soared with the establishment of two pickleball associations, a major league, two global federations, and 36.5 million devoted players who have contributed to make it a lucrative $152.8 million market.

Like many tennis enthusiasts before and after them, brothers Darren and Steve Gable fell in love with pickleball’s sociable and open-play format after just one match. Days later, following a deep dive into the game’s history and heritage, the two former pro volleyball players and branding agents decided it was the type of activity they could build a label around.

“We fully immersed ourselves in pickleball culture, and it became apparent there was no meaningful brand authentically connected with this passionate community,” says Darren. “Our vision was to build the next Americana brand, and J. Pritchard was the magical opportunity we needed.”

After some meetings with the Pritchard family, the Gables got the green light to proceed forward, albeit with two stipulations: the brand had to be elevated, and the story of how the game was invented needed to be told correctly. Two years of product development later, J. Pritchard was launched in December 2023 as an apparel collection that, in Darren’s words, “addresses the lifestyle of fun and sophistication of pickleball.” Covering men and women, the label’s offerings include tees, tanks, leggings, shorts, crews, joggers, and headwear via its Athletic Club and Social Club collections. “The brand is meant to be enjoyed on and off the court,” says Darren. “Look your best and play your best with the Athletic Club garments, and then get into the Social Club line for the lifestyle after the game.” True to the Pritchard family’s request, the collection nods to quiet luxury with well-tailored, subtly logoed garments (made with high-quality, four-way stretch materials) and marketing inspired by the country club lifestyle.

“We are excited about the future of J. Pritchard and its long-term growth,” says Steve. “We are building this lifestyle brand to be the authentic voice of the growing pickleball community.” | jpritchard.com

Follow Us